Natural disaster has become all too common in this day and age. From Hurricane Katrina to the recent tornadoes of Oklahoma, evacuations and fleeing from Mother Nature are a regular occurrence.
In a poll conducted by the Fritz Institute in April of 2006, it was revealed that 44 percent of people chose not to flee with warning of Hurricane Katrina because they would not leave their pets behind.
A natural disaster altered my life and that of my dog’s so deeply that two years ago I was forced to flee from my home due to the devastating nearly epic and tragic flood waters of the Susquehanna River. When my friend, June Myers, told me the Oklahoma tornadoes of recent days touched down 1/2 mile from her home, I was stunned.
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.
This is what I did when a weather emergency forced me to flee my home. I hope this advice will lend itself well to your own emergency planning.
Threat of Evacuation: My ever-faithful at-my-heels Cocker Spaniel followed me to and fro as I rummaged from closet to closet and room to room, determining what I wanted to take and could risk leaving. What exactly would fit in my car that I truly could not replace? My mood dictated his reaction. Dogs sense how we feel. His low-lying ears and tucked tail forced me to wise up and do as I’ve told others: DON’T PANIC. So what if The Weather Channel has Jim Cantore parked at the foot of the bridge threatening to overflow. Breathe, Carol, breathe. Your dog can do it; so can you.
What I Took: All those baggies full of items I wrote about to have ready to go for Fido? Indeed they were in place and came through with flying colors. What I packed for my dog that I told you to pack for your dog: (here come the educational bullet points)
-Food (and now that we have 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, pet-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.
Traveling: 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.
My town literally came within inches of its own well-being. Looking back on the past 30 days, it seems I followed suit. An earthquake, hurricane evacuation, and threat of flood along with some other life mishaps have shaken me a bit. Survived? Yes. Battered? A bit. Bewildered? For sure.
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 heck of a lot stronger than I realized.
The United Animal Nations (UAN) has provided emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services during dozens of natural disasters over the years. Items to take and have ready include:
-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.
-Toys and treats. These can help your dog remain calm during a stressful time.
Have you ever been affected by a natural disaster? Bark at me in the comments below.