Saturday, August 8, 2009

Are your pets afraid of storms?

You know, I think it varies as much as it does with children and adult humans, whether pets are afraid of thunderstorms. But our recent rash of severe weather got me to thinking about how different it is for special needs pets--especially those with physical disabilities--to cope with this common fear.

Winkie and Boo Kitty often cuddle on the deep sill of our stone farmhouse

As much of a weather weenie as I am, I'll admit that I'm often still frightened by really close or intense lightning, or especially by very loud thunder. I don't think it's at all silly that I see Winkie's one eye grow very large as he leaps down from the windowsill where he loves to lay and then skitters underneath the nearest piece of furniture. The same happens with Weaver, if things get really loud, and with Boo Kitty.

But they have something of an advantage over Idgie, who is completely blind. Not only can they see quick escape routes from the window, which must feel tremendously exposed to the horrors of the storm; they can also see the nearest point of refuge. On top of that, their hearing is average, so the thunder is simply loud and frightening. Whereas Idgie's hearing is so incredibly acute to begin with, that this sudden onslaught of booming decibels must be absolutely terrifying.
Idgie is a constant fixture at my open office windows. Here, she sits in the front.

I've learned to pay attention to the animal signs just as I do to the cloud signs when it comes to forecasting the weather. Ever since 1991, when the annoying clickety-clicking of our two black Labs' toenails on the kitchen linoleum ended up saving us by keeping me awake long enough to hear the tornado coming when we received no other warning, I've known that they can sense things before we do. The restlessness those dogs instinctively felt allowed us time to reach the basement before that damaging storm was upon us. And this summer, I've paid attention to Idgie's physical attitude on days when there's a severe weather threat.

For the past three weeks, when most of it has taken place, it's been so hot and sultry that we've had the air conditioning on constantly. That means no window-sitting for the kitties, and it really shows in their affect. By early this week, I really believe Winkie (who enjoys this the most) had actually become depressed. So I was thrilled when I woke yesterday to temps in the low 80s and reasonable humidity levels that allowed me to open up the house for a while.

Even when Weaver, our tuxedo boy, does manage to find a window spot,
he rarely gets the solace he prefers. Winkie loves his big bro and
will do what it takes to get as close as physically possible.

Within moments, every cat had found a place in an open window. Even Weaver, our older boy whose heavier weight usually keeps him pretty sedentary and less inclined to the kind of leaping it takes to make the window. Even he was glad for the respite from artificial air, and managed to heave himself up onto the hallway ledge.

But when the storms come during a time when we don't need the AC on, I notice a change in the kitty's behaviors. They become more alert, more restive, even as they relax in the windows. I notice that as I track the storms on radar and they move closer to our area, the kitties, one by one, abandon their posts in the windows. Since these are much-coveted spots, I know something's coming that may be dangerous. The only exception to this is if the coming storm spurs an unusual amount of activity at our bird feeders. Then, that show is simply too tempting to keep even storm-shy kitties away from a front-row view!

Probably because she's so much more my constant companion in the office, I particularly notice this with Idgie. I also note that as the surface winds shift, she's more likely to move from the front window to the side and back, since this is a sensory stimulus she can read. So I've come to be aware that when she spends more time in the side, or south, window, we're probably in for a more potent southerly storm, bringing heat and moisture up from the Gulf.

Idgie at the side window in my office. She knows something's on the way.

But all this gets me to thinking: What's it like for critters with impaired mobility when a storm strikes and they can't move away from windows by themselves? Not that they'd necessarily be IN the windows to begin with, but I think the standard anxiety response is to dive under the bed or other furniture. What if they can't do that? What do people do who can't be home with their special needs pets all day, the way I'm lucky enough to do? Do you pay attention to the forecast and anticipate this need?

I suppose this is the kind of musing only a truly weather-obsessed person would wonder about, but I'd love to hear from parents of special needs pets to hear what they have to say.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with this absolutely stunning "concert" depicting a thunderstorm. All done without any musical instruments or voice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fame Finds Frankie!

Frankie has an important new job!

Woot! Woot!

Guess what, folks? Everybody's favorite dachsie-on-wheels, Frankie the Walk n' Roll Dog, has been named the official mascot of National Disabled Pets Day, the newly minted observation by the Animal Miracle Network! Check out their website, where you'll see an absolutely ADORABLE photo of Frankie and her mom, Barbara Techel.

We covered Frankie a while back and have since come to be friends with Barb (who has also become a frequent commenter here at Almost Perfect Pets). You just knew then that it wouldn't be long till this furry little tube of cuteness with the sweetest face on earth would be recognized as the stunning creature she is.

We are so proud, and we know Frankie will do a great job in her new role as NDPD spokesdog. We know Barb will help Frankie with all her new responsibilities, and I'll let Frankie tell you the rest.

Congratulations, little wonderdog!

Here's Something Just A Little Different...

Here's one from the "curiouser and curiouser" file -- but lots of fun and a good example of how animals so enrich our lives. These particular pets aren't disabled, but many of those they help to heal are. From the Pet Tales column of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Therapy dogs 'wed,' with home residents as witnesses

Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

The groom, clad in black top hat and tails, stood solemnly at attention while the bridal party marched down the aisle to the strains of Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Wedding guests "oohed" and "ahhed" at the lovely dresses, but some chuckled and nudged each other as they noted that the four bridesmaids were dogs. No offense was taken, for the bridesmaids were literally dogs: a silver toy poodle named Lexi, a Maltese named Sadie, an Irish setter named Cherry and a golden retriever named Heidi. Read more...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great news from our neck of the woods

When I'm not writing or blogging or playing with my kitties, I am the volunteer weather coordinator for our township's Emergency Management Agency. Have been for about 6-7 years now. And in that capacity, I occasionally go to trainings at our county training center.

Last year, I learned about a new program called BCART, or Bucks County Animal Response Team. I was thrilled to learn that there was a group of trained people who were tasked with making sure that the awful situation that happened after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans never happened again anywhere else. This organization takes care of animals -- both domestic and sometimes wild -- in the event of an emergency. Sometimes during evacuations, when people don't know how long they'll be gone or can't take their pets with them, and sometimes when people can't get back to their homes and farms to take care of them during or after an emergency that has happened while they were away.

Maryann King-Hasbrouck

I learned about this from the BCART Coordinator, Maryann King-Hasbrouck. She gave the training presentation for this segment, and I got to meet her personally. Earlier this year, some of her colleagues exhibited for BCART at the Be Kind To Animals Week Celebration we held here in Upper Bucks. But right now, Maryann's in the spotlight, and I wanted to share that news with you.

Maryann is also the Pennsylvania State Coordinator with the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), and is the winner of the United Animal Nations' 2008 Heart and Soul Award. This award is given to an individual who shows outstanding commitment to UAN and a strong personal devotion to animals.

An EARS volunteer since 1998, Maryann is also coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team. In this capacity, she helps local organizations with their animal disaster plans and leads county animal response teams during disasters. With Bucks CART, Maryann participates in numerous disaster drills. Last October, she coordinated EARS volunteer involvement in a large, multi-county disaster drill.

When not in disaster mode, Maryann educates the public about disaster preparedness and provides useful resources, including low-cost pet micro-chipping events. She teaches pet first aid and CPR to disaster responders, and last year offered two free classes to EARS volunteers. She says, "In a disaster, many veterinary offices are closed and you may be the only one available to offer lifesaving first aid care to a pet until a vet can be reached."

In 2005, Maryann spent a week volunteering with UAN's Hurricane Katrina response. She currently volunteers for a local cat rescue group and is a member of the Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Task Force Animal Group. She has six cats and one dog of her own, is a trained vet tech and works full time as a registered nurse.

Let's hear it for this selfless animal lover who understands the value of "just doing it!"