Oct 3, 2022 - News

The hero pets of Mobile Manor teach resilience through Hurricane Ian

Anthony Lehman poses in front of his mobile home while holding his tabby cat Rocky.

Anthony Lehman and Rocky. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Anthony Lehman is a big man, but when Hurricane Ian started to scream up the Caloosahatchee River and chomp bites off his roof, he turned to his most trusted friend. "Let's go, Rocky!" he said.

  • Lehman and the tabby cat he's raised from kittenhood jumped in his 2015 Mazda 6 β€” Rocky taking the passenger floorboard β€” and sped to the new Winn Dixie on Bayshore Road, where they talked quietly for hours as wind shook the car and fence panels blew by.

It wasn't just resolute Rocky who showed support and loyalty during the worst of Ian's deadly assault on Fort Myers.

  • A few trailers down Lantern Lane, an African grey parrot named Mr. Bojangles did not once try to bite Paulette Armstrong. He sometimes does when he's in a mood. "He was a good Mr. Bojangles that day," Armstrong said.
  • Everyone at the storm-sturdy American Legion knew Mike Henry's old mutt Taz would be chill, but it was Peanut, Theresa Cloud's 3-month-old bull terrier who surprised all with remarkable courage.

Why it matters: A hurricane can take a lot, but it can't take the stories we tell about the important things.

  • And the residents of Mobile Manor, a 55+ trailer park on the edge of Fort Myers that was overwhelmed by Ian's floodwaters, tell Axios their domesticated pets behaved exceptionally well during the chaos.
  • "Parts of trailers were literally floating away," said Chad Welcomer, whose brindle bull terrier was a port in the storm. "And … she's just calm."

Context: The storm came Wednesday, then ambulances Thursday and Friday β€” in and out, in and out. Lehman, 32, a plumber who inherited 100 Torch Terrace, counted them as he tossed pieces of his grandma Geraldine's home in a debris pile.

  • Nobody wanted to guess who was in the back, so they looked for other things to talk about. The animals, say.

State of play: The television news crews haven't been by Mobile Manor yet. Nor has the mobile laundry, folks here say. They've got no power or water, and only occasional cell service. Their old Harleys are swamped as their divorce decrees dry in the sun beside tube socks. Rent continues to be $1,300 a month.

  • Life is a slog, and will be for some time.

Yes, but: It's easier when you have a good friend.

  • "It didn't bother her one bit," said Cloud, giggling as Peanut tried to lick Ben to death. "She was like, 'What else you got, Ian?'"
Paulette Armstrong poses with her African grey, Mr. Bojangles.
Paulette Armstrong and Mr. Bojangles. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios
Mike Henry holds his dog, Taz.
Mike Henry and Taz. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios
Theresa Cloud poses in front of her home with her dog, Peanut.
Theresa Cloud and Peanut. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

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