Last year, I ran into a nice woman who had been in the fire that wiped out Paradise, Calif., in 2018. She said that she came home from work and the fire was 50 miles away. After going to bed, there was a call from her ex-husband telling her to “get out!” She walked outside, and her house was on fire. That fast, that quick. She got out with just her beloved golden retriever, and not much else.
She decided to reinvent her life and bought a tiny home and moved here. Unfortunately, her dog later died, most likely from the toxicity created by the fire. Residue can be highly carcinogenic. She was dealing with a new puppy the day I met her. I could not help but think about her on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The blood-orange sky, the smoke, the insects thick in the air. No doubt she was scared. It was scary.
In the last two weeks, our memories are seared with pictures of burnt homes and lost and injured people, pets, livestock and wildlife. Lives lost. One of these is the story of the 13-year-old boy found clutching his beloved dog in his lap in a burned-out car. The mother told him to run, but instead he went back to save his grandmother. Both perished. His mother was burned so badly that her husband did not recognize her. And then there was the man that survived by staying in a river all night. So many stories, so much loss.
There are heroes, and there are people that stepped up, selflessly helping others. Some people were prepared and got out quickly with their pets and livestock. Others waited too long for the fast-moving fire. I noticed that many of the purebred breeders along the I-5 corridor were evacuating their pets at Level 1. They knew not to wait when there are a lot of animals. Unfortunately, once you get to Level 3, it can be too late. And in some instances, you will not be notified at all.
Mother Nature is letting everyone know who is in charge. You mess with her, and she comes back at you with not only massive fires, but wind events seen only once or twice in a century. She loves to cleanse the earth and plays no favorites. She has a lot of tools in her arsenal, such as flooding, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes and tsunamis.
A year ago, I interviewed Samantha Buckley, the assistant emergency manager, and Laura Braxling, the animal shelter director, both with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. They kept reiterating that people need to be prepared for smaller emergencies, not just the massive Cascadia event.
Here are some of the suggestions from that column because this is a good time to take inventory. There are some basic tenants to preparation. Something as simple as crate training your dogs and cats so that they are comfortable, and load easily is one tip. Have the crates on hand and ready.
Ensuring that your pets are socialized so that other people can handle them is another. If possible, find a temporary caregiver that can come into your home. Local fire departments and the shelter have stickers that can be placed on your house, identifying the number and types of pets in case entry is necessary.
Proper identification is the last of the key elements. Microchipping is the preferred method. These devices run on batteries, so even if the power is out, they will work. Although writing your name on the collar or purchasing name-embroidered collars is a good idea, pets often lose their collars. Thus, the suggestion is to keep a permanent marker and write the contact information on the pet’s belly.
The next steps are easy to accomplish. Have a bag packed with extra leashes, collars, muzzles (if need be), food bowls, cleaning supplies, toys, chews and a pet first aid kit. Print a copy of your pet’s medical records and place it in the bag. Keep bottled water on hand (gallons). If your pet is on medication, talk to your vet about keeping a 30-day supply stored in this bag. Have extra bedding, blankets and towels ready to go.
Food, of course, is the most important and a challenge for some. Food does go bad. The secret is to simply rotate out the backup so that you always have a fresher supply. For pet owners that do not use commercial food, it is still best to have it on hand. You can donate the food once it expires and restock.
I want to add that for any pet, make sure you have some type of calming agent such as CBD, or Bach Flower Rescue Remedy that is tried and effective. Even if your pet is not easily stressed, fires, evacuations and other emergencies can trigger anxious behavior.
Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]