First off, let me say that there is no way in hell I would ever abandon my animals.
MONTEVERDE, Lebanon -- The howls of 133 canine refugees echoed Tuesday through the pine-and-oak-covered hills above the Lebanese capital - crowded into cages but safely away from airstrikes against Hezbollah strongholds in the south.
The dogs were moved by volunteers from a shelter in Beirut's southern suburbs to an abandoned pig farm east of the capital - and might be considered lucky compared to pets left to fend for themselves by foreign and Lebanese owners fleeing the Israeli bombardment.
The U.S. Embassy and others told evacuees that pets would not be allowed on the ships and helicopters carrying them to safety.
"The embassies that evacuated their citizens from Lebanon made a mistake when they made no provisions for pets," activist Hania Jurdak said.
The group spearheading efforts to save the animals is BETA, Lebanon's first animal welfare and rescue organization, established two years ago. The group rescues stray and abused animals and tries to find them homes.
On Saturday, BETA - which stands for Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - made an appeal for donations on its Web site "to get the animals through this period."
In Israel, volunteers were also trying to save animals abandoned by owners fleeing their homes in the north to escape Hezbollah rocket attacks.
"We took in about 200 animals, mainly dogs and cats," said Tamara More, general manager of the rescue organization Ahava.
She said volunteers were going into northern towns and cities to feed abandoned animals. There "are thousands of dogs and cats roaming the streets without anyone to care for them," More said.
This later part is kind of weird.
More, the Israeli animal rescuer, said her group had contacted BETA to offer assistance in evacuating animals, "but they are not interested in being in touch with us."
"We don't understand why people are willing to sacrifice the lives of the dogs and the cats just not to speak with the people of Israel," More said.
She said Ahava has proposed meeting fleeing Lebanese in boats in international waters to collect their pets. [Very cool -- ed.]
The "embassies quite frankly told us they are not going to bother themselves with the plight of animals, they are only concerned with people," More said. "Believe me, dogs and cats in Lebanon don't see themselves as political animals. They just want to leave."
El-Massih said BETA was never contacted by the Israeli animal rights group, although it did receive a sympathy e-mail from a former member of Ahava who now lives in the United States.
Hmm ... in all the chaos, it's probably easy to get signals crossed.