The water rushed down the street and the sidewalk. The third round of thunderstorms rolled through town, overflowing the neighborhood’s draining system and clogging areas with debris. Sidewalks formed mud piles and car tires stopped rocks and branches. I observed all this from my front porch as hail cascaded from the sky and rain drenched the community.
Every year floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, snowstorms and other natural disasters hit towns and cities in the U.S. and around the world. Hurricane season officially begins June 1 yet over the Memorial Day weekend communities along the Gulf Coast prepared for a significant tropical storm – about the same time I watched a potential flash flood hit my community in Wyoming. As I stood on my front porch Sunday evening watching water rush like a raging river, I pondered if my family and I, with an entourage of four pets, could safely leave our home if needed.
We all need to be prepared to evacuate our homes in times of emergency. Here are five tips to handling a natural disaster situation:
Creating, and having on hand, a disaster preparedness kit can help a crisis run a bit smoother. Both the federal government’s Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the ASPCA offer more tips on caring for your pets during an emergency. Visit these websites for further information and to help you create a disaster plan and an emergency preparedness kit.
Here is a great infographic from www.poochingaround.co.uk. It's been created to make owners aware of what they should pack in a bag for their dogs just in case of an emergency situation like a natural disaster. Take a look at the list of items and let us know if you agree with what's on the list and if there is anything else you would include?
America’s Memorial Day arrives on Monday, May 28. This is a time to remember the sacrifice of the country’s military men and women, those who gave the ultimate – their very lives. Over the course of time, more than 600,000 service men and women have died during times of war, including more than 2,200 in Afghanistan, more than 58,000 in the Vietnam War, nearly 37,000 in Korea, and more than 530,000 during World Wars 1 and 2. In addition to military personnel, civilians were also killed during these conflicts.
Animals have been, and still are, used during wartime. Horses and dogs have primarily served, and plentiful numbers of them have lost their lives. Other animal species, including pigeons, dolphins, camels, and mules have also served during wartime. Some carried messages, some carried humans – all have worked, and continue to work, in service to their country’s forces. They are often the unsung heroes of war. The U.S. War Dog Memorial, located in New Jersey, was originally established in 2006 to honor dogs and their handlers of the Vietnam War. However, it’s become the symbol of dogs who have served, and continue to serve, the U.S. military in all conflicts. Some states, including Tennessee and Colorado, also have, or plan to have, a war dog memorial.
Times of war are not the only time that animals serve and are looked upon as heroes. There are plenty of incidents in which dogs, cats, and other animals have saved humans. For example, Kahn, a Doberman who had only been with his adopted family for a few days, saved a toddler from a snake, and Pudding, a rescued cat, who saved his owner experiencing a diabetic seizure. Animals save people from drowning, from intruders, and from illness and accidents. Many do these heroic acts at the cost of their own lives, including K9 police dogs and military service dogs.
As we take time during Memorial Day weekend, especially on the day itself, to remember the people who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms (and the freedoms of others), let us also remember the numerous animal who also have given their lives in service. Whether in the military, on police forces, or living in homes with human families, these animals showcase devotion, loyalty, love, and friendship – character traits of noble and beloved animal heroes.
The American Humane Association presents the Hero Dog Award later this year. Visit their website to learn more about the dogs up for the award in 2018; you can cast your vote before July 11, 2018: http://herodogawards.org/vote/.
Earlier this month, a day was dedicated to pets with special needs, also known as “specially-abled” pets. Once termed “disabled,” that label infused “not able,” and though pets that are blind, deaf, three-legged, diabetic, etc. may require additional care and patience, these animals are first and foremost dogs and cats, just like any other.
I lived with a blind dog for more than a decade. Her name was Sage, and she taught me many valuable life lessons. In fact, my authorship sprouted because of her. We visited schools, libraries, and bookstores, and she inspired many others with her abilities despite her disability. Other specially-abled pets do the same – they are amazing in how they adapt to their limitations. For example, given the opportunity to have a K-9 cart, pets with immobile back legs race around in play and fun just like an animal with all four functioning legs. I’ve even seen dogs with short front legs adapt to using their hind legs for propulsion, much like a kangaroo.
Their courage, perseverance, joy, and adaptability are inspiring. Sadly, many blind, deaf, two-legged and other specially-abled pets are euthanized because they are perceived as less adoptable; many consider it “more humane” to kill them. Do we perceive the same of people who are blind, deaf, or in wheelchairs?
A wonderful blog post at Pets for Patriots discusses the beauty and joy, as well as some of the challenges, of having a special needs pet. Here’s a link to the post – I hope you’ll take time to read the encouraging words and view photos of some veterans who have specially-abled pets sharing their lives. https://petsforpatriots.org/understanding-the-special-in-special-needs-pets/
Don’t be afraid to adopt a dog or cat with special needs. Not only will you likely be saving a life, but your own life will be enriched by the presence of these loving, fun animals who know no difference between themselves and other pets. Watch this delightful video of a blind and deaf puppy named Piglet, who has learned commands through touch and plays energetically with his canine siblings:
Below is a photo of Sage, my blind dog, navigating stairs. Blind, yes, capable, yes, inspiring, yes!
After a full day of school, the ten-year-old, brown-haired girl filled the two dog dishes with kibble and sprinkled water to coat and soften the food and gave a head scratch to each pup as they began to eat. Next, she went to the three rabbit hutches, and refilled food pans and water bottles as needed. She also scooped the cat box every other day and refilled her calico furry friend’s dishes. This was her job – caring for the small animals on the 14-acre Iowa farm.
That girl was me. From age seven, when the cat followed me home and I begged my parents to keep her, the care for the family pets became mine (overseen by the adults, of course). At a young age, I learned pet ownership responsibility – and kindness toward animals. Dogs were part of my growing up years, but, like many young children, I also had turtles and goldfish. Although my parents took care of the dogs at first, my mother modeled caring for the turtles and goldfish until I learned to feed them by myself. As I grew older, and especially after the blessing of the calico cat whom I named Precious, the pet care shifted to me.
The is Be Kind to Animals Week. Kindness is a learned, modeled trait. There are numerous people, including children, who are NOT kind to animals and NOT kind toward other human beings. Animal cruelty exists in many forms, from neglect and abuse to dog fighting and torture. The national organization, American Humane, began during the early 1900s; they started Be Kind to Animals Week, geared toward children and families. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started even before American Humane in response to horses used to pull carriages almost to the point of death. Together, these organizations, along with the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society International, promote kindness toward animals, putting a stop to animal cruelty, and pet ownership responsibility.
We can all show greater kindness, and we can all do something to educate others about kindness, not only toward animals but toward one another. Education is the key. If you’re an animal lover, speak out about cruelty and abuse. If you’re a parent or grandparent, model kindness to your kids and grandkids and teach them pet ownership responsibility. Kids mimic what they see and hear – show them that kindness makes a difference in the lives of pets and other animals, as well as in the lives of people.
The late Glen Campbell had a music hit called “Try a Little Kindness.” This world needs more kindness. Let’s start together, in light of this special week. Volunteer or donate at your local rescue mission, animal shelter, women’s shelter, daycare center, or pet rescue organization. Take the kids with you and make it a family endeavor. Ask the kids to help care for your pets at home, take Fido for a walk or to the dog park, spend time petting and playing with the cat. There are many ways to show and model kindness – let’s all be a little kinder this week, even more the week after that and the week after that. Kindness shown is kindness appreciated – and often kindness shared. Animals and people are the same this way – they need kindness in their lives. Let’s be the ones to give it, teach it, and pass it on.
This is a great week to celebrate -- I recently wrote and published a new children's book, and the timing couldn't be better. It’s Children’s Book Week, and next week is Be Kind to Animals Week. (Additionally, Monday, April 30 was Adopt a Shelter Pet Day).
From Lassie and Max the dogs, to Dewey and Skippyjon Jones the cats, animals have played a role in books, TV, and movies for generations. Do you remember your favorite animal book, TV or movie from childhood?
Mine was “Follow My Leader,” written during the 1950s but still a part of school libraries during the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up. The primary human character, Jimmy, becomes blind after a firecracker incident. He learns to rely upon a German Shepherd guide dog named Leader, who breaks down Jimmy’s emotional walls as well as helps escort him in this new reality of blindness.
For eons, animals have helped people, being used for hauling, protection, hunting, and rodent control, among so many other situations. These days, animals are used for therapy, in military service, as guide animals, and search and rescue animals, as well as companionship. Children especially respond well to dogs, cats, and other animals. Reading about animals is also a joy for many children, and so this week we celebrate kids, books, kindness and pets in honor of Children's Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week.
As a writer of inspirational pet stories for children and adults, it’s my joy to share the wonder of animals, especially companions like dogs and cats. And, it’s my special pleasure to announce the publication of my newest children’s book “Jeremiah Finds a Home,” the story of my rescued, adopted Shih Tzu, Jeremiah. He lived in a puppy mill for three years, was rescued by Hearts United for Animals in 2016, and was adopted by me and my husband in late 2017. Although it took time for him to adjust to his new home and very own family, Jeremiah is a joyful dog who makes us all smile. My goal is to teach children and families about puppy mills, the importance of rescue, and the joy of pet adoption. The book is available on Amazon, and you can learn more about the story (told non-graphically) on my website.
There is much cruelty in the world, toward people, including children, and to pets. Kindness must be taught and modeled to kids. We as adults can, and should, do it. Pets do showcase kindness, and exposing children to therapy pets and read-to-the-dog programs at schools and libraries will help instill kindness as well. Books can also be a catalyst of kindness through subtle messages woven into the story. Just as Leader the dog in “Follow My Leader” showcases kindness toward the blind boy, Jimmy, or Lassie to Timmy, children learn compassion, kindness, friendship and other great lessons from pet books (and movies – think of how the animals helped each other in the “Homeward Bound” story).
As we celebrate children, books, pets, and kindness these next few weeks, model positive traits to your kids and read to them stories that showcase those characteristics, too. We can all impact the lives of children and the lives of animals in positive, caring ways.
What was your favorite animal book, movie or TV show and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
My pets are characters in many of my stories. In the new book about Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu, the story is told from the dog's point-of-view. Mary, my cocker/ springer mix, has two books about her, including visiting a ranch and encountering different animals there.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.