Thursday, October 27, 2011

October is fire season in Southern California

None of us who lived through the fires will ever forget. The first fire in over 40 years to roar through Poway, and all of San Diego County, was in late October, 2003. I was just getting ready to move into my new house, and instead I evacuated my friends’ animals to it. My living room was filled with crates and birdcages, my corral with horses. And then the fire kept coming, and we had to move them all again.

The birds stayed in my car up in Rancho Bernardo for four days, where the air was safer for them to breathe. The horses ended up in a kind stranger’s back yard in north Poway. Many more horses ended up at the Del Mar Racetrack until their owners could claim them. If you’ve ever lived through a natural disaster–tornado, hurricane, fire, earthquake– you know how traumatic it can be.

The landscape and trails were decimated. Everything was covered in a thick coating of ashes for weeks. We rode out and discovered animals burned to a crisp, still in the pose they were in when the fire caught up with them…running. It is still hard to look at the photos.

Then it 2007 it happened again, this time coming in from the north and east. Thousands of homes burned. This time Rancho Bernardo and northern Poway got the worst of it. Several of my clients and friends lost their homes. Some of them lost their animals too.

The cross says "For the animals, 2003 Cedar Fire"
We all get a little leery of October now. We plan to stay in town. We clear the brush. We update our emergency kits and put air in the tires. Make sure the horses remember how to load in the trailer.

I occasionally walk a Kerry Blue Terrier near her home at the far east end of Garden Rd, an area that was burned in the 2003 fire. One day I ventured out of the neighborhood and onto the surrounding trails. I found a homemade memorial (above) to the animals that died in the 2003 fire. It is still there, and I find it very touching. I visit often while Wrigley and I walk. I want to remember.

One day I came out the front door with Wrigley, and there was a beautiful rainbow just across the street. I’m not especially religious, but I remember my bible studies. The rainbow was a sign of hope that God showed the survivors after it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. I like that.

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thundershirt for dogs

Desi is afraid of fireworks and thunder
At the recommendation of other dog daycare owners, I ordered the Thundershirt. In fact I ordered one in every size, since I have canine clients of every size. The folks at Thundershirt claim this product will relieve anxiety caused by storms, loud noises and other scary things. Several of my clients are also having trouble at home with their dogs, and I thought the shirts might help them. The gentle constant pressure around a dog’s body has a calming effect. For theory and examples, visit their website.

I told one of my friends about this miracle product and she laughed. “So your clients will show up at your house and all the dogs will all be running around in straight jackets!”

Oliver models his Thundershirt. Look! He's sitting still!
The experiment: Oliver
One little rascal who stays with me, Oliver, is in constant motion. I wrapped him up in his shirt, and the difference was immediate. Instead of zooming around, totally agitated, he settled down at my feet. As time went on, he was still active and busy, but the edge was off. Oliver was a much nicer dog to have around.

I asked his owner Lianne, if he was always hyper at home and she said no, but she’d like to try the shirt. So I sent it home with her. I have a feeling he’s more active than Lianne let on! She explained that he gets pretty wound up when people come over. The Thundershirt definitely has an effect on his behavior, and now she wants to get a second one for him.

Wally, a Dachshund/Lab mix, had a nasty habit of charging anyone who came into the house, and even bit a few people. The Thundershirt instantly calmed him, and he’s much easier to live with. I got a note from Wally’s owner, Claire:
Thanks so much for the Thunder jacket for Wally! He loves it. It’s amazing how it calms him down. Now he’ll wear it and watch movies in bed with me. Before, the sound made him upset and he’d run outside.
My helper Judy was skeptical. After all, it’s only a shirt. So one day when she was here, I put one on Sadie, an Aussie who constantly barks. She was instantly silent. Neither one of us could believe it.

It doesn’t work on every dog in every situation – nothing does. But I’ve had several successes and highly recommend one if you have an anxious dog.
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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.