In the summer of 2013, an 18 month old Shepherd mix named Butler found himself in a Charlotte, NC shelter. When representatives from The Weather Channel (TWC) and the American Humane Association (AHA) visited the shelter, Butler had no way of knowing that this encounter would change his life and set him on a path to become a canine hero as The Weather Channel’s official therapy dog.
Natural disasters happen and your best defense is to have a plan, an emergency kit for your family and pets, and safe shelter for all. Recently, I talked with Butler’s owner/trainer/handler, Dr. Amy McCullough from the AHA, to learn more about the importance of therapy dogs in helping victims of natural disasters.
For the past few years, the AHA and TWC have provided tips for pet owners on disaster preparedness and related content online. In late 2013 they joined forces on a new initiative to help communities before and after a storm with lifesaving information, along with reaching out to help storm victims recover and heal. Butler’s role will be to provide animal-assisted therapy to those who need a comforting paw.
Amy was a member of the team that was searching shelters nationwide for just the right dog. “In addition to viewers submitting photos and videos of potential candidates online, I visited four shelters in four states in four days, meeting over 100 dogs. Butler was the second dog I met, and I knew he was the one.” The right dog needed to be at least a year old, in good health, able to get along well with other dogs, remain calm and enjoy meeting new people. “When I met Butler, he was playing with his friends in the shelter, but kept coming up to me seeking attention and affection,” Amy said. She adopted Butler, her third therapy dog, on January 22, 2014.
If your dog disappears during a natural disaster or an accident, or while you are away, it’s a good idea to have an easily accessible Dog Identification Kit. This will help you reunite with your pet if he wanders off in fear, gets lost, or is injured and found by someone else.
Your dog may be frightened and confused. In dire situations such as earthquakes or hurricanes, wandering animals might be brought to rescue sites or taken in by caring strangers until the dog’s family can be found.
Natural disasters can destroy homes and cut off regular communication, making contact with the dog’s family difficult or even impossible. Having proof of who your dog is will make it easier to alert people that you are looking for a specific animal and help you get your beloved pet back to his family again, wherever you are.
Obviously, identification tags with contact information may be important for a dog to wear, but not all owners opt to have their dogs wear these, and they can also fall off. Having an identification kit as a backup is a smart idea for a responsible pet owner who wants to make sure their dog is safe and easier to find if lost.
An Emergency Preparedness Bag, also known as a Bug-Out Bag, is a type of designated container that you have filled with whatever you’ll need to be able to survive for a 48 to72 hour period; what you’ll need if you have to “bug out” in a moment’s notice. It’s important to have a kit ready for each human member of your household, but if you find yourself facing a disaster like a flood, fire or tornado and you need to make a run for it, you’ll want to have a bag ready so your dog can escape with you as well.
Even if you don’t live an area that’s known for hurricanes or earthquakes, having an Emergency Preparedness Bag is a sensible idea in case evacuation becomes necessary for any reason. Here is a list of the most critical items to include in your dog’s Bug-Out Bag.
Water: In all cases, it’s a good idea to be well stocked with water. The amount of necessary water to carry for your dog varies according to his age, size, weight, breed and health. You also have to take the weather and terrain into consideration when calculating how much water to bring. To complicate things further, you have to figure how you’re going to tote your water. If you and your dog are evacuating on foot, consider the fact that water is heavy and takes up a lot of space. On average, you should have a half gallon of water per dog, per day. Include a collapsible bowl for your dog to eat and drink from.
This year, the National Dog Show will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The televised dog show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition along with the Macy’s parade. What better way to spend the holiday than surrounded by family and friends as you enjoy a fun filled afternoon of marching bands and floats, good food and lots of great dogs.
I was invited to attend a phone press conference last week that included David Frei and Mary Carillo. David is the Communications Director for the Westminster Dog Show, and Mary is a retired tennis pro turned sports broadcaster. David is hosting the National Dog Show this year, and Mary is the featured reporter and commentator.
The National Dog Show is one of only six dog shows where the public is invited to go behind the scenes to meet the dogs and talk with their handlers and groomers. The show draws the top ranked dogs and this year’s entries will be close to 2,000 dogs. Dog lovers can see firsthand how show dogs are prepped for the big stage. Around 20 million dog loving viewers tuned in to watch last year’s show.
Sometimes you have to look deeper inside a pet to see the real spirit lurking below the surface, waiting for the right person to set it free. Some people think shelter animals aren’t worthy of their attention and don’t consider adopting them. However, many great shelter dogs and cats turn out to be a pet that saves the life of their owner. National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit and non-government organization that provides firefighters, who are first responders, with rescued shelter dogs that have been trained for Search and Rescue (SAR) work. Even a scruffy shelter dog has the potential of becoming a hero who might one day save your life or someone you love.
Dogs end up in shelters for a number of reasons: their owner didn’t understand how to handle behavioral problems, picked the wrong dog for their lifestyle or grew tired of the dog, or the dog became lost or was dumped. Hollywood dog trainers have known for decades that animal shelters are a great place to find pets that are smart, loyal and eager to work. The pet just needed a person who saw their potential and was willing to make a commitment to work with the dog to develop his hidden abilities.
Organizations looking for Search and Rescue dogs have also discovered that animal shelters are full of untrained dogs that only need a steady and compassionate hand to teach them the art of locating people who become lost or buried under rubble after a natural disaster. Not every canine is up to the task of being a SAR dog, but many are and you only have to go as far as the local shelter to find them.
The wildfire season is really heating up. Wildfires wreak havoc on the land, on people’s homes and businesses, and their pets too. According to U.S. Fire Administration statistics, wildfires torch 4 to 9 million acres every year, forcing all living things in their path to flee for their lives. Residents must evacuate not knowing if they will have a home to come back to when the fire danger has passed.
Although our first thought might not be about the pets of wildfire evacuees, the devastation affects not only them but the area’s animal shelters, rescue groups and pet food stores. Shelters scramble to find enough space for the influx of newly homeless pets that need a safe place to stay until the evacuees can return to their homes. The shelters also scramble to find enough food to feed these pets, since many of their owners are facing loss of property or business income and are unable to help with the cost of caring for their pets during this difficult time.
Thankfully, compassionate pet food companies like CANIDAE exist, companies who quickly answer the call for help and get huge pallets of food delivered where it’s needed most. Last week, it was needed in northern New Mexico, where the Las Conchas Fire started on June 26 near Los Alamos. This wildfire is New Mexico’s largest to date; it’s scorched nearly 150,000 acres thus far, and is still burning today. So far, more than 400 homes were threatened by the fire, and 63 homes were destroyed.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.