Fire. Flood. Tornado. Hurricane. Earthquake. Car accident. Medical emergency.
Anything can happen, has happened and could well happen again. When we have responsibility for the lives of the dogs in our care, this makes planning ahead a vital consideration.
Out here on the West Coast, literally hundreds of thousands of acres are burning down around us. Meanwhile, other areas of the country are flooding, tornadoes are still breaking out and hurricane season is just around the corner.
With all this in mind, it seems an appropriate time to talk about what we can do to be ready at literally a moment’s notice to act decisively and rapidly in an emergency.
I have tremendous respect for fire, especially. Growing up in southern Oregon, I helped my dad fight grass fires on friends’ and neighbors’ properties. He’d worked as a fire lookout in Montana during college and was routinely called for help. I learned a lot from him. And I still found myself quite literally incapacitated when a neighbor, many years ago, blew up his acetylene tank and set our forest on fire.
I was home alone with 10 dogs and no vehicle large enough to carry them all, as my rig happened to be in for repairs. We all survived, but I was bitterly disappointed in my coping skills and learned a lot of very good lessons that night. First and foremost, no matter how trustworthy the dog, in an emergency, put it on a leash!
So, we’ll start there. Always have enough leashes on hand, easily accessible, for every single dog on the property or in the vehicle. Never assume even the best dog will be reliable in an emergency. I use slip leads mostly, and some flexileashes with slip collars always attached. If there are 10 dogs on the truck, there are 10 leashes. Period.
Never block ingress and egress routes, either in the truck or at the kennel. If you have to move fast, throwing suitcases out the door because they’re in the way will cost invaluable time.
Always have more fire extinguishers than you think you need. Keep them in the truck, in the house, in the kennel, in the RV. They aren’t expensive. And, they have an expiration date! Check to be sure they are fully functional.
Label crates. This not only helps insure the right dog gets back to the right crate at the show, but specifically makes it so strangers can identify the dogs in an emergency. While it is more work, it is a good policy to also include owner and contact info on tags on each crate and/or run, both in the truck and at home.
Carry a first aid kit at all times. This can be as basic or extravagant as you desire, but being prepared to deal with triage and treatment of at least minor injuries is imperative.
Insist that every dog on the property or on the truck be microchipped. Keep track of that information! This is an area in which I need to be more vigilant. This helps ensure that any dog who might escape in an emergency is able to be identified and reunited with its family.
Do everything within your power to minimize the potential for emergencies. Be sure vehicles and kennel facilities are well-maintained. You can’t control Mother Nature or crazy people, but you can do your part to make sure the front tire doesn’t fly off while going down a mountain at freeway speeds.
Have a plan. I admit to tending toward the paranoid, but I spend a lot of time on the road. I use, perhaps, an inordinate number of those hours rehearsing plans in my head for all contingencies. Most I have never needed to implement. For which I am eternally grateful.
Stay calm. Very easy to say. Much, much harder to do. And I say this from personal experience. Act quickly, keep thinking, don’t panic and always, always keep the dogs on leashes.
Anyone who would care to share personal emergency preparedness tips, by all means, join in the conversation.
As always, this is JMHO.