Like many dogs, Toni will do her best to get as far away as possible from the sound of the rain and thunder, and hopefully block her line of sight to the lightening as well. Given that we have 12-foot windows and an open loft floor plan, this can be a bit of a challenge for her. Not long after Toni moved in with us, I was on the phone with a friend when I realized that Toni had disappeared. It’s nearly impossible to hide birthday presents around here given the lack of doors on closets. I couldn’t imagine how I might have lost an entire 75 pound pit bull. I looked under the couch on which I was sitting—nothing; under the bed—just a dust bunny. I even looked on the balcony, just in case I had accidentally locked her out hours earlier. Empty. I didn’t have to look in the closets—I could see right into them from across the condo. I hung up with my friend and started calling out to her, but heard not a peep in reply. Finally I went into the bathroom—not to look for Toni, but because nature was calling. While I was there, I heard a little rustle-rustle-clink. This became identified as the rustle of a brindle butt, the rustle of a wet nose on our shower curtain and the clink of a nail on the tub. I admit, if I couldn’t find her in the shower, there was a good chance the scary storm wouldn’t have found her either. It’s become her first line of defense when things get rough outside, maybe because it’s the only room with a door and because it provides no visual to the storm. We’ve even gotten into a routine: when rain is predicted, a thick towel goes down in the tub, the light is always left on, even at night, and if there is thunder the fan goes on to provide white noise. We also used to leave a trail of biscuits from the tub back to the couch to reward her willingness to venture forth, but Téa tends to snatch those up as a reward for not being afraid of the storm, so we had to stop.
Before we got the storm routine down, though, I was out once when a massive storm hit. It was a fairly unexpected and when the first thunder clap made most of the people I meeting with jump at the sound, I literally interrupted the speaker while simultaneously jamming my papers into my bag and pulling my keys out of my purse. “Sorry! I absolutely have to go now. Please send me the meeting notes.” And I ran out. When I opened the condo door about 10 minutes later I called out. No answer. I checked the tub, but it was empty. What the…? It was a whimper I heard this time, and a little scrabbling of nails on something. I finally found her—jammed under the bed. It didn’t take long to realize that whatever act of sheer terror managed to get her under there, there was no way she was going to be able to get herself out. And if you hear sometime when I am old and feeble that I am also suffering from some sort of debilitating back problem, know that it is probably the result of the this incident, which was only resolved when I lifted our (massive) bed up about 10 inches from the ground with one hand and then pulled Toni out by the scruff of her neck with the other. Two nights later when I realized she was attempting to get herself back under the bed at 3 AM, I made a mental note to pull several heavy boxes out from storage and relocate them under the bed to ensure there was no space left for a large, terrified dog under there.
So, when I read about a product that worked wonders with a storm-traumatized shelter dog at Best Friends Animal Shelter, I figured we might as well give it a try. (For those of you who don’t know Best Friends, you should. Among other amazing work, this is the group that lobbied to save the group now known as the Vicktory Dogs, survivors of Michael Vick’s Bad Newz house of terror. Best Friends has helped re-socialize, de-traumatize and otherwise ensure that they will never know a minute more of the nightmare that Vick funded and managed.) The product, called Drama-Trauma, is made by Black Wing Farms, and while it appears to be a homeopathic combination of flower extracts and the like, I am certain that it is some sort of canine martini—a really good, extra dry, nerve-calming canine martini.
I’m not even going to regale you with boring stories of how well this little bottle of calm works, I’m just going to direct you to the photo below (taken after three straight days of storms) and let you know that while there was indeed a towel in the tub all weekend, it remained dog hair free.
(Of note, in addition to Drama-Trauma, Black Wing Farms makes other formulas to deal with issues ranging from focus to integration to lack of courage. There’s even a shelter blend formula specific to separation anxiety, which is an incredibly common issue for rescues. Black Wings Farms is my hero. Seriously.)