What’s A Normal Hurricane Season?

What’s A Normal Hurricane Season?

Remembering Florence 

One thing I learned after 2018 Hurricane Florence is that we don’t always know what we are going to do until the last minute.  We were glued to weather reports that changed overnight.  At bedtime, the path of the storm was heading one way and by breakfast the next morning the path had shifted to another. My friends and I didn’t know if we should be hunkering down or packing to leave.  Hurricane Florence was baffling and unpredictable until she was on top of us.   And then she hit us so hard that many are still dealing with the aftermath.

Looking back, I was about as ready as I could be.  For my pets, Ginger, Davy, and Smokey, I prepared an emergency kit, packed water, food, can opener, cat carrier and dog crates, litter box and litter, puppy pads, plastic bags, pick up bags, medicine, medical records, leash, collar, harness, pet photo, ID tags.  For myself, I packed clothes, food, cell phone, charger, and my laptop.  For my house, I had put away yard art, bird feeders, outdoor tables and chairs, and had a pear tree cut down that wasn’t doing so well.

Go or No Go?

My car was gassed, serviced, and ready to go. I had checked off the items on my disaster preparedness list.  Short of boarding up my windows, I basically did all the things that were in my  control. Even so, I was anxious until an unexpected invitation came from a good friend in a safe area to ride out the storm at her house.  Once I backed my car out of the driveway with a destination and my precious cargo, I felt like everything would work out.  Ginger, Davy, Smokey and I were on our way to Wake Forest.

I followed the storm’s impact from the news on TV and kept an eye on my business from my laptop.  Crockett’s Critter Care was essentially closed for about two weeks.  I was in regular contact with any clients scheduled during this time and, I am happy to say, all their pets were safe.  However, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the other people who called me days before the hurricane started desperately looking for pet care while they left town.  I truly hope they were able to take their pets with them. 

You can’t just rely on Plan A.

Hurricane Florence has reminded us all to be aware of the perils of a disaster and to plan well for the safety of our family and our pets.   I also learned that one can’t just rely on Plan A.  Florence showed us that we might have to put Plan B or Plan C into action.  From one moment to the next flights were canceled, traffic bottlenecked or roads were impassable, and hotel rooms were scarce for a hundred miles around New Bern.  Disasters come with so many unknowns and the more prepared and organized we are, the better we can cope with them.

I was relieved that my pets were used to being crated, handled the drive well, have good house manners, and figured out that they had to be on their best behavior.  Ginger and Davy were quiet, walked nicely side by side around their new neighborhood and got along well with my friend’s puppy.  Smokey was content to explore, enjoyed meeting new people, and gladly settled into her new surroundings.  The Feliway pheromone spray that I applied to her bedding helped to alleviate some of her stress.

I don’t know how calm I would have been had I stayed behind and faced the storm on my own.  I waited about ten days until the power was restored and the flood waters receded before returning home.  When I asked my Facebook friends what they would do differently should our area be threatened again, I was impressed with their responses.   The changes they would make were mostly minor.  Some vowed to set aside more water for themselves and each of their pets, others said they will start to stock piling things earlier and one, in particular, is going to add another generator to help save the Koi in her outdoor pond in the event of a long power outage.

Now that the 2019 season has begun, I hope it is mild and uneventful.   No matter what happens I know that family, pets, and friends are at the top of the list.  Being organized and having a plan will help to cope with any storm.  Take care of the things that matter most and stay safe.

Do You Give Your Dog Choices?

Do You Give Your Dog Choices?

I’ve been involved in several discussions lately with “dog” people about the importance of giving dogs choices.  For example, Davy and I attend classes with a local trainer.  During a recent training session, each handler was asked to enter the ring alone, remove the dog’s leash, and walk away from their dog.  When it was our turn, Davy watched for a few seconds and then bounded to catch up.  I proceeded to change pace (normal, slow, fast) and make many quick changes of direction.  I was so proud of Davy as he showed great interest and enthusiasm to keep pace with me. He happily and eagerly did what I asked with each maneuver.  He read my “cues” and fell into place with ease.

This class consists of pet owners who are actively involved in showing their dogs in agility, rally, and obedience; performing in dog sports like barn hunts and dock diving; and training their dogs in scent work.  The dog participants ranged in age from puppies to seniors and include Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Aussies, Cattle Dogs, Cavaliers, and German Shepherds.  We all took our turn.  Some of the dogs were a little unsure at first and wandered off to sniff a bit – but once they figured it out, I could see their confidence rise, their energy level pick-up, and their tails wag.  I have to admit, it was a nice break from sit, stay, down, left, right, about, and heel.  Most importantly – it was fun!

So I began to think of other ways to give my dog choices and started to set up little problems for Davy to solve.  Instead of dictating the direction of our walks, I started to ask Davy, “Which way?”  As long as his choice was safe, I followed his lead.  What this is doing is letting it be his walk.  He gets to add his own input which makes him feel more in charge.  After all, who wants someone dictating their every move?              

At home, we play the “Find It” game – especially on rainy days.  I ask him to sit, show him a toy, hide it in a place where he can’t see it, and then ask him to Find It.  But now, I ask him to select the toy from a few toys that I bring out for the game.  It’s one more choice that he gets to make.  Then for a treat – he gets to choose the one from my right hand or my left.

Pick a ball… any ball

Davy loves to play fetch in the yard.  What started with one ball has increased to three – a sturdy Kong ball, a lightweight whiffle ball, and a bouncy La Crosse ball.  Davy gets to choose the ball he wants me to throw, and he gets to choose when I throw it.  He knows that he must be in a sit before I put the ball in play.  He’s good at making the right choice.

At night, Davy is able to select his sleeping spot.  He can choose from several dog beds, the couch or my bed. Interesting that his choice is not always the same.  He’ll come up on the bed when I am reading or watching TV, but leaves when I turn out the lights. Then his preference is his doggie bed on the floor.  During the day, he is more likely to be found resting on the couch.  I like to give Davy choices.  I think it enriches his world to be able to have a say.  It breaks up the routine, builds confidence, and instills in him a happy working attitude.  It also helps to create a better relationship between us.  Letting your dog make the right choices is the key to success.  Next time you are paying attention to your dog, give him a chance to make some of the decisions.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Dogs, Cats, and Copperheads

Dogs, Cats, and Copperheads

How to keep your pets safe from snakes.

The warm weather brings Copperheads out of hibernation.  They can be seen at our dog parks, in the middle of our yards, on wood piles and compost mounds, under bushes, in gardens, on porches, and just outside your front door. Are they dangerous to our pets? YES!

Take action:  If your pet is bitten, take it to your veterinarian ASAP.  Do not delay treatment.  Bites are painful and prone to infection.  Your pet needs to be evaluated and treated with pain medication, fluids and/or antibiotics.  Diagnostic tests may also be warranted to determine if there are any systemic effects from the venom.

The clinical signs associated with a snake bite are extensive and painful swelling that spreads rapidly.  You may see bleeding or a bloody discharge at the site of the bite.  Fang wounds are not always visible due to rapid swelling or the mouth size of the snake that did the biting. 

The prognosis of the snake bite depends on several factors:  the size of the snake; the location of the injection; the age, size and health of the pet; and the pet’s sensitivity to the venom.   Small and frail animals are the most susceptible to venom which makes them the most vulnerable. 

Prevention:  While dog walking use a short leash.  Keep dogs away from exploring holes in the ground, digging under logs, flat rocks or wood piles.  Don’t let your pups sniff around things you can’t see like wood piles, under bushes, or planks.  

Hiking:  If you are hiking, stay on the trail or open paths where snakes are easier to see.  If you pet seems curious about “something” that you can’t see – be cautious. 

Yard:  Keep compost or wood piles away from the house.  Maintain your garden so it is free of overgrown plants and debris.  Regularly mow the law. Install fences 8-12 inches deep. Don’t leave containers of water around. Keep sheds rodent-free. Remove fallen fruit from the ground.  Basically, provide an environment that is not attractive to snakes.  If you see a snake on your property, bring your pets inside the house.  

As a pet sitter, I worry about the dogs and cats that have access to the outdoors while their owners are away.  If a dog goes out the doggie door to spend time exploring in the yard, it may be bitten and not even discovered until the next scheduled visit which could be hours later. 

An extended leash used for dog walking may enable the dog to venture near a well-camouflaged snake that we don’t know is there until it has struck.  A curious cat is certainly no match for a snake bite.  Cats are natural hunters and will chase anything that moves without realizing the danger they are putting themselves in. 

So it is with good reason for us all to take precautions to protect our pets, keep our distance from snakes when we see them, and take our pet to the veterinarian if a snake strike occurs.  Let’s hope 2019 is a mild season for snake bite reports.

Bye-Bye, Back Soon!

Bye-Bye, Back Soon!

I’m curious. When you leave your home, what do you tell your pets? Do you linger over them, tell them you hate to leave and will return soon? Do you leave them with kisses, pats on the head, and kind words? Do you just say – “Gotta go!” and dash out the door?

I asked my pet sitter colleagues this question and received a vast range of responses. Some were short and to the point, others were quite elaborate. Here are some of my favorite responses:

“I love you guys. I’ll be back soon.” But when I am going away for a long trip, I find closing the door for the “last” time agonizing. I never want to leave them and drag it out until the last minute.

When I leave, I choose one to be in charge. This duty rotates. Today when I left, I said, “Rocky, you have the honor.”

I give my dogs treats and put them in their room, feed and love on my two cats and they go to their room. I tell them all “I’ll be back guys!” My husband tells them I’m cheating on all of them!

I have six dogs and four cats. I always tell them I love them and add, “No wild parties.”

“Be good puppers. Mommy will be back soon, I love you.”

“I’ve only got cats, but they get “Bye babies! I’ll see you later!” And kisses/pets for each kitty if I can find them.

“I’ll see you soon my handsome man… Mom has to go to work now, so that you can live like the little king that you are.”

I tell my little fuzzy nuggets that I love you and will see them soon. The scaly and shelled guys get the same thing. My dogs go to work with me, but when I leave in the morning, I say “Bye cats! Bye birdies! Bye rats! I love you all.”

I just tell mine I’ll be right back…and they tell me if they had a nickel for every time they heard that, they would be rich.

Mommy loves you, but I have to go to work now, I will be back soon. Doesn’t matter if I am gone an hour or 8 hours, they are excited when I return.

I have a puppy and we’re working on isolation distress, so I give Kongs (which also happens when I am not leaving so no association) and I head out without a fuss. I also don’t make a big deal about my return, even though I can’t wait to pick her up and snuggle.

I have five dogs. I usually tell them daddy is going to make some money to keep them in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to. I’ll be back soon.

What I discovered in my pet sitter science research is we pay attention. We talk to them, pet them, give them treats, assure them we will be back and tell them that we love them. We like to leave them on a positive note. And when we are caring for our clients’ pets we tell them when we will be back and wish them a nice day. Often we add, “Be good.”