CRASH, BANG, SHATTER & BLOW! So much chaos, sadness and worry in my house lately. First, the devastation in the Philippines – it’s all just so overwhelming to witness…now my own family is reeling too.
My family loves all three pup-personalities in our home, but I am glad to note we are also much loved Granddogs and have a small “Auntie dog” named Bailey who lives in Indiana. She is a tiny little thing who happens to be a year younger than me. She has the important role of helping my guardian’s parents navigate through their senior years (being so spoiled, she certainly does keep them on their toes!!). She takes them for walks each day, reminds them to feed her, love her and pet her. She isn’t a fan of car rides (in fact, she’s a lot like Sugar, only the Boston Terrier version). This weekend she had the scare of a lifetime! Terrible weather moved through the Midwest, and Bailey had to wait out frightening tornadoes while hiding in a bathroom shower (she is NOT a fan of baths, so getting and keeping her in the shower was no easy feat)! In our home, Sugar, who tries to find respite in guardian’s closet had to be picked up and carried down 3 flights of stairs because she was too frightened to walk on her own to get to the safe cover of our basement.
Thankfully, Bailey’s home is intact and not damaged, but some of the neighbors were not so lucky. In fact, many of them are not only trying to find a place to stay, but also looking for beloved pets that escaped or were taken away during those wild winds. It is all so frightening, devastating and hard to conceive of how to begin to reclaim a life (or a pet). Luckily, there are organizations prepared to help with this. Scared, scruffy and often injured pets are being found, cared for and hopefully reunited. Sadly, some may not have made it through.
Our pack is sending lots of prayers to those families and pets and we are all reeling from the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. What can we do now? What could we have done before? When Mother Nature hits, sometimes the devastation can be all-consuming.
I, Dino, do my best to be a fixer…the good kind. Not the kind that just makes a problem go away, but the kind that helps one heal and move forward. I have spent hours bringing joy to elderly in nursing homes, soaking up tears in my fur, being a calm presence for Sugar, and helping our giant puppy-brained new pack member work through his nervous/excited energy. It’s hard for me to accept that some things can’t be fixed. So, instead, we evaluate, we prepare, we begin to move forward.
The year I was born, there was a terrible hurricane – you may know it by the name, Katrina. An entire city was destroyed! Many perished…human and animal. 8 years later, the survivors are still reeling, rebuilding, rehoming and yes, some are still suffering. Some of the over 8,000 animals found years ago have been relocated and found new homes, others are still living in shelters and still more have become part of the always-growing stray population now seen as a nuisance and safety issue around the community. Some of whom were once beloved family pets. The one good thing that came from Hurricane Katrina was that the government recognized the need for stronger emergency animal assistance. Say what you want about the government, but FEMA has created a separate protocol for first responders to help pets and their families through disaster situations. In Illinois and Indiana right now, there are trained teams doing everything they can to make a bad situation a little bit better. It’s exhausting, heart wrenching, but rewarding work. They need cleaning supplies, food, blankets, water, crates, medical assistance, transport help – anything you can think of, but they know what they are doing and are making a difference in the world.
Not everyone is cut out for this kind of thing. Some people are really just too compassionate and have a difficult time even watching the news, but should know that something can still be done. We can learn from this. We can prepare for the next time. There may be no way to keep a house from being ripped from the foundation, but for those who can prepare in advance, life may be easier to deal with after-the fact. How does one prepare pets for something like this?
Here are a few tips:
- Crate train your pets (crate training)! Even if your dog or cat (or bunny or turtle) doesn’t need a crate, it is a good idea to start them off knowing that it isn’t a terrible thing in case you are in an emergency and need controlled transport.
- Create a file of important documents for emergency situations. This should include a current photo of your pet along with up-to-date vaccination records, licenses and a list of medications he/she may need.
- Be prepared! Store an easy-to-grab bag with extra leash, collar, water bottles and at least 2 days’ worth of food and medicine for each pet. Keep the emergency documents file in this bag!
- Scout out pet-friendly places to stay in the case that you need to evacuate and add this information to your emergency files. Emergency shelters will not be able to allow your pets to stay with you and will rely on the “best available shelter”. It is important to find something farther away – if your home is gone, chances are local hotels may be too. Look for something 50-100 miles away.
- Leash your pet, and bring it with you to the safest place you can find – letting them run outside is NOT safe…they cannot protect themselves against the elements. Crating and animal, putting them in a basement or tied to a tree only sets them up for being trapped with no chance of escape.
- If your pet is lost in a storm, don’t give up! Dogs and cats are resourceful and may be tougher than you think. As soon as you can, check for your county’s ART (Animal Response Team) coordinator – often found on Facebook and through local government.
- MOST importantly, make sure your pet is micro chipped and that the information is up-to-date (cell phone numbers can be crucial – if phone and power lines are down, this may be the only way to contact you)! Chips can help in any pet loss situation, but is crucial to the teams that are diligently trying to reunite pets with their families.
Rather than dote on the devastation and loss, why not take a few minutes to update and pull your files together and tuck them in a safe place to prepare for those unforeseen disasters? Then stop to think about the families and pets affected recently. If you believe…say a prayer (it’s free and it certainly can’t do any harm), if you can, consider a donation. Most importantly, go hug your pet – be thankful that they are safe, let them know how much they mean to you, and let them help you find comfort and peace in your life.
Peace in Paws, Dino