BY HEATHER DOWDY
FOR PAWSITIVE STEPS PDX
As July 4th quickly approaches, many pet parents are preparing to hunker down to ride out The Annual Apocalypse. (Or, what regular people call Independence Day.)
It’s not that I hate the 4th of July. I can recall, before having dogs, oohing and ahhing at the magical splendor of Roman Candles and heart-shaped firework art exploding across the night sky.
After dogs, though. After dogs, the first onslaught of neighborhood pyrotechnic celebration sends our household into tremors. Our old rescued dog, Shelby, passed two years ago. He was half Australian Shepherd — a breed known for increased sensitivity to stimuli as well as for Epileptic seizures. He won out and got both. And the overbearing sensation of the house rocking as fireworks boom and clap and echo throughout the neighborhood leave him in such a panic that the ordeal, on more than one occasion, triggered a seizure.
Shelby's level of fear and anxiety during the 4th of July holiday meant that we were glued to the house every evening the first week of July, so that we are able to execute The Annual Apocalypse Protocol. And since our youngest dog, Briley, is now developing firework and storm phobia at the age of six... well, it's time we brush up on our protocol skills.
So, I present to you our own personal strategy for surviving the Firework Apocalypse.
1. Thundershirts. Except, we love them so much that we call them ThunderSnugs. In case you don’t know, these are some of the best things ever invented for dogs. The ThunderShirt is a snug doggie vest that wraps around the chest and abdomen, applying gentle and constant acupressure to help swaddle and calm your pup. It’s not hocus-pocus, either. In fact, it works based on science as studied by the famous Dr. Temple Gradin and others, and similar vests are used to calm children with Autism and more. These help during thunderstorms, fireworks and other high-anxiety situations. That said, using them alone was never quite enough for our overly anxious Shelboo. Thus, onward to Step #2…
2. Relaxing Music Cranked (Semi) Loud. Okay, that may seem like an oxymoron. But you’ve gotta turn the volume up enough to drown out the sound of Certain Impending Doom! happening right outside the windows. And not just any elevator music will do in our house. For serious Mayday situations, we pull out the iPod and put the RelaxMyDog.com playlist on repeat. These are some seriously soothing tunes with just the right amount of monotonous melody and calming sounds to sink your pooch pal into a semi-coma. It works on us, too! (It’s great for yin yoga!) You can play some clips on youtube, or download entire albums from the website. Trust me: the relief for our dogs has been well worth the $9.99. But, sometimes, when every house within a five-mile radius seems to be aiming bottle rockets directly at the sky above our house, we must add in Step #3…
3. Good ol’ Benadryl. While our senior dogs are on enough medications as is (seizures and thyroid and arthritis, oh my!) a dose of Benadryl is sometimes the final step we have to take to help take the edge off for our stressed-out furkiddos. (Please, please, be sure to consult with your own veterinarian first to see if this step might be okay for your pet, and in what dose. We are NOT medical professional, m' kay?)
We also have some other assorted secret weapons, which may or may not help but sure can’t hurt, such as spritzing Travel Calm around the dog beds and Apocalypse bunker area. (And it smells pretty! Air freshening bonus!)
It also helps to just sit with the pups, breathing deeply, exuding calm, quiet, happy energy. Dogs really do pick up on our vibes, so if we act nervous or stressed about them being nervous or stressed, they become — you got it — more nervous and stressed. So just chill out with your furpeeps. Do some yoga stretches next to them. Give them something to chew on or play with that may distract them.
And if you cannot be home during a time you know the terrifying fireworks will be popping, leave a few of your worn shirts and socks around your pet’s bed so your scent gives him some added comfort. Just sensing your presence may be another step toward relief for a high-anxiety pup.
Most importantly, whether your pet is truly terrified of fireworks or not — please keep your pets safely indoors during the holiday week! Even normally chill pets may become frightened and escape fences or doors during loud noises and holiday commotion, which is why shelters see an increase of an estimated 30% more lost pets after the 4th of July holiday. It’s not worth taking the chance.
In a city where many people cannot afford to buy a home, renting is a must for many of us. But renting with a pooch pal is not always easy. And if you happen to have a dog on incredibly inaccurate "dangerous breed list"--ranging from pit bulls and shepherds to chow chows and dobermans--it may seem there is no hope when it comes to finding a rental place to call home.
The good news is, there is hope. Follow these tips for your best chance at scoring a home for you AND your pup!
1. Change your mindset from "my dog is not allowed" to "how can I convince this landlord to welcome my dog?"
Just because a rental is not listed as dog friendly or only accepts "dogs under 20 pounds" doesn't mean a landlord won't consider an exception to their rule. I am proof that minds can and sometimes are changed by making a strong case. Be prepared to do your homework and to pitch to landlords why having you and your pet will be an awesome decision. Worst they can say is no... but they might just say yes!
2. Give yourself plenty of time.
Moving is hard enough. If you have a large dog or a misunderstood breed, it is simply going to take you longer to find a rental that is willing to work with you. Making sure you are not in an urgent time crunch will help give you the time needed to prepare our pitch to landlords and to truly search and find the right home for your and your dog. Of course, life happens and sometimes we are forced to make a quick decision. In that case, it may be best to stay with a family member, friend or pet-friendly motel while you give your rental search the time and attention it truly requires.
3. Understand why landlords create "no pet" policies.
Most landlords that are against allowing pets don't do it because they hate dogs--in fact, many of them have dogs of their own! They simply have been burned by irresponsible pet guardians in the past, who have allowed pets to destroy their property. Go into the conversation with this in mind, and explain that you can understand the frustration that some people and their pets can cause. Be empathetic and listen to their concerns. Your understanding can go a long way toward starting the conversation off right.
4. Create a resume for your dog!
Before you roll your eyes and laugh out loud, let me explain why this is so important--and why it works! As a rental applicant, you have to fill out a renter's application showing why you are a strong candidate to rent to. Likewise, you should provide documentation of why your pet is an excellent housemate--and why the landlord won't regret this decision.
Obtain letters of recommendation from your dog's obedience trainer and veterinarian. If your pet has a Canine Good Citizen certificate or training completion, show it off! If you have previously rented successfully with your pet, also obtain a letter of recommendation from that landlord.
Create a flyer that shows one or two happy, appealing photos of your dog. Outline your pet's best "features"--does he know how to sit and stay? Is he potty and crate trained? Is he neutered and gets along well with neighbors? List his manners, commands he knows and all of his best attributes. If your dog is on the "restricted breeds" list, bring along statistics, facts and educational materials to show why breed-specific bans are not effective, and why screening each dog as an individual makes the most sense.
Also describe how you are a responsible dog guardian: that you always pick up your pet waste in public, that you will provide enough exercise for your pet so he does not destroy out of boredom. Describe how you plan to take care of the property and reassure that your pet will not become a nuisance to the neighbors or cause any trouble.
As funny as it may sounds at first, a proper dog resume not only shows your pet in the best possible light, but it also shows that you took the time do really do your homework and to consider the landlord's concerns--which shows you to be a highly caring, responsible individual.
5. Offer to bring your dog to the landlord for a meet-and-greet.
If the landlord agrees to it, bring your well-trained dog with you to meet him or her. While it may be easy for a landlord to say "no" on a brief phone call, it's much harder to say no when face-to-face with a kind, responsible guardian and a happy, well-mannered pooch pal! Have your dog perform a "roll over", sit/stay or some other obedience trick for the landlord to show off your pup's great manners, skills and lovable personality! And if you aren't able to bring your dog to the interview (for out-of-state moves, for example) at least have an adorable video on your phone that you can share.
6. Offer to purchase renter's insurance that covers your dog and offer to pay a pet deposit.
Be proactive in letting potential landlords know that you are willing to purchase renter's insurance that will cover any situations that might arise due to your pet. Also offer to pay a pet deposit as a show of good faith that you intend on keeping the home in good condition. These steps go a long way in showing a landlord that you are a responsible individual and that you are a confident pet guardian. I personally love Farmer's Insurance, as they do not have any breed restrictions on their renter's and home owner's policies (with the unfortunate exception of California). In fact, you'll find an ad for the fabulous staff at the Patrick Brown Agency for Farmer's Insurance in each issue of our magazine. (Not only can they help you create a policy that is right for any breed of dog, but they also give back to animal rescue in big ways--including helping find homes for the pets at the Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter!) State Farm and Liberty Mutual also offer non-discriminatory policies.
7. Be respectful and polite at all times.
Even if a landlord has harsh things to say about your breed or past experiences with pets, remain calm, listen well and politely advocate for your pet. Your calm, kind demeanor will go a long way in showing what kind of renter you will be. Even if the landlord does not budge from her policy, be sure to thank her for taking the time to hear you out. You'll have left the landlord with a much better impression of pet parents, and who knows--they might change their mind and contact you if their property does not move quickly enough.
8. Always be honest.
As tempting as it may be in a stressful, time-crunched situation, never try to hide your dog or sign a lease that doesn’t allow dogs or your breed of dog. You never know when a neighbor may mention or report your pet to the landlord, or when the homeowner may want to stop by for repairs or another reason. Don't risk getting evicted and winding up in an even more stressful situation. If you do your due diligence on the front end and give your rental search the time it requires, you will find the landlord who will welcome you and your furry family member!