by: Carol Bryant
Do you know what to do in the event of a weather emergency and/or natural disaster? Do you know how to protect pets? I never thought this would happen to me, and those are words many of us say to ourselves….until the time comes that we must evacuate asap.
I never thought I’d have to evacuate my residence in an emergency situation. Sure, I counseled others via the written word on how to do it and even had an “emergency plan” of my own in place. I just never thought I’d need to implement those best laid plans. Did you ever wonder what happens in a mandatory dog-friendly evacuation? We did, too. Then it happened.
On Thursday, September 8, 2011, as the Susquehanna River threatened to overflow her banks and surpass the levee system designed to keep the flood waters back, a sea of thoughts, unexpected emotions, and several doses of panic ran through my mind. With the spring season approaching and the recent horror of mudslides in Colorado, it is time to revisit the topic of how to protect pets in weather emergencies.
Those are the words I heard over and over: on television, on the radio, and from the blaring bullhorns that the county officials used to summon us out of our homes.
What I Took
All those baggies full of items I wrote for others to have ready in case of evacuation? Indeed they were in place and came through with flying colors. What I packed for my dog that I told others to pack for their dog: (here come the educational bullet points)
- Food (and now that I switched to dehydrated The Honest Kitchen food, much easier!)
- Water : Officials cautioned a week’s supply. We evacuated to a dog-friendly home located two hours away, so not an issue.
- Food and water bowls: Indeed. Bamboo collapsible bowls in the emergency bag rocked like a charm.
- Meds and vaccine records. I then stored these in plastic baggies. All of my dog’s items are centrally located in one closet of the house with the exception of food and vet records.
- Photographs and ID: For safety, security, comfort but also in case Fido goes missing. Please please please do not leave the dog behind. If you couldn’t escape flood waters, neither will Fido.
- A safe place of retreat that ALLOWS dogs: Having made several calls the night before the mandatory evacuation, dog-friendly hotels within 2-1/2 hours were booked. Be sure to have somewhere to go for backup, a place to crash temporarily, and one that allows dogs. I’d have slept in my car of a vacant parking lot if I had to; but I didn’t. Dog-welcoming friends made our emergency escape feel more like a needed retreat. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around “this is really happening to me/us.” Happily, the majority of local emergency makeshift shelters allowed pets – as long as you had a kennel and vaccine records. If you titer your dog, keep copies of those as well. Write phone numbers down of these locations; more than one, in fact.
- Pet first aid kit, extra leash, toys , treats, dog bed/kennel/comforts of home.
If your dog doesn’t like car travel, you can try to change this. Assess road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Slowly increase the amount of time Fido spends in the car, making the destination worthwhile (i.e., a favorite park). Praise “getting there” with a treat upon arrival. Never take a travel-fearful dog on a road trip. Desensitizing and gradually acclimating Fido takes time and patience. A vet or animal behaviorist can help. Dexter digs travel. So traveling in a car en route to the unknown was second nature for my boy.
During the Flood (of Emotions)
As water threatened to ravage my town and residence, being a few hours from home meant tuning in to live streams online and Cantore Stories. As Jim rode through the streets on a boat, an envelope of worry consumed me. What I took to keep me calm? D-O-G.
As the hours ticked, our friends diverted our worry and turned it to laughter. I even watched Bill Paxton tell me just exactly what sank the Titanic in a epic documentary. Truly, this had to indicate I lost my final marble. Doing so with friends and a few dogs by one’s side: One of those priceless moments to look back upon in amazement. I wish for anyone going through an evacuation to have friends who open their hearts, homes and emotions with such a wide net.
My town literally came within inches of its own well-being. Looking back on those days, it seems I followed suit. An earthquake, hurricane evacuation, and threat of flood along with some other life mishaps had shaken me a bit. Survived? Yes. Battered? A bit. Bewildered? For sure.
United Animal Nations (aka Red Rover) has provided emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services during dozens of natural disasters over the years. Here are things they recommend as the most important items in a disaster kit for pets:
- A one-week supply of fresh water. If officials declare your household water unfit to drink, it’s also unsafe for your pets.
- A one-week supply of food. Store it in a water-tight container and rotate it every three months to keep it fresh. If you use canned food, include a spare can opener.
- Collapsible food and water bowls.
- Medication. If your animal takes medication, a replacement supply may not be easily available following a disaster. Keep a two-week supply in your disaster kit.
- Copies of vaccination records, in case you need to board your dog or leave him or her at an emergency shelter.
- Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership.
- Photographs of your pets in case you need to make “lost pet” fliers.
- Pet first aid kit
- Temporary ID tag that you can write your temporary location on (hotel, friend/relative’s house) in case your dog is separated from you.
- A plastic airline crate or wire collapsible crate, which is helpful for transportation or if you will be staying in a hotel that requires pets to be confined while you are out.
- Extra leash.
In the end, it is a lesson learned from a few wigglebutts that brought me a sense of resilience. Following in the pawprints of a few happy-go-lucky Cockers, I learned that if you can’t take it with you, it doesn’t matter. Those monetary things that make the house look pretty are a lot of fun but ultimately, it was the photo albums (yes, real paper, not digital), my previous dog’s cremains, and some important papers I lugged with 14 squeaky balls and a vat of food.
What I Confirmed: My heart beats dog and I’m a he*l of a lot stronger than I thought.
Are you prepared in the event of an unexpected emergency? Ever had to go through an evacuation? Let us know below.