PUNA, Hawaii (Circa)--Holding two chihuahuas, Sunray Rosin takes one last glance at what's forcing him to evacuate his home--a cascade of dancing lava.
"It's mindblowing. It's mindblowing. There's nothing else you could say. I mean, look at that. Look at that."
Kilauea's eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii has led many locals, including pets, to adjust a new normal, abandoning their familiar homes in search of another safe refuge.
"The Humane Society in the 21 years I've been here, they've been vital because we live in a rural community," Sunray said. "There's a lot of stray animals and these guys come out and catch strays."
Mt. Kilauea's sudden eruption in early May sent many residents who heeded mandatory evacuation orders into a frenzy. In the blink of an eye, people had to decide which of their personal belongings would be stuffed into their cars. And for whatever the reason--either residents couldn't accommodate space for them, or they didn't think they would be gone for so long--some pets were left behind.
But they weren't forgotten.
Animal control officers like Justin Crusat have responded to call after call from concerned pet owners who hoped that they could one day be reunited with their furry friends. As of early July, the local Humane Society chapter rescued more than 300 animals, including dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, sheep, and, even peacocks.
"It feels really good 'cause I own dogs and cats as well," Justin said. "It gives you a feeling of closure that you know where your animal is. It gives me actually relief that these people are not in [Leilani Estates] looking for something that is no longer there. They have it in their possession so it's a joyous moment."
Justin responds to a variety of calls, not just those made after people had already evacuated. That's the case of Sunray, who called the Humane Society after days of unsuccessfully rounding up his animals as he was attempting to evacuate the area.
"These guys over here, we needed to catch them. And we had some kittens over here that were fairly feral. Now we're getting 'em out of here and taking 'em to get 'em all checked and all fixed."
Besides dispatching to potentially dangerous situations, Justin also helps deliver donations to shelters where evacuees are waiting out the eruption with their pets. The donations are far too many to count, according to Donna Whitaker, executive director of the Hawaii Island Humane Society. But she did say that hundreds of bags of food, leashes, toys have been sent to those in need.
It's that community support that has made all the difference for people whose lives have been turned upside down in the wake of the eruption.
"It's absolutely surreal. It's such a mix of emotions," he continued. "There's absolutely zero certainty about anything over than the ability to handle and know that I'll meet whatever the situation comes up. I've seen some crazy things and I know what it is to lose and start over, but this is just absolutely beyond worlds and beyond measure. It's a very small part of the Big Island, but it's a huge part of the community, the island, the lifestyle."