Don’t Forget the Dog
by Gary D. Palmer
“For a major emergency – like a blackout or severe storm – you need to be prepared. Ready for at least 72 hours while emergency workers help those in urgent need.” So reads the initial words of advice being offered on one government website (http://www.getprepared.gc.ca). Other organizations, when speaking of emergency preparedness, have much the same to say.
There is a reason for this. Experience with past disasters and the threats of disasters yet to come, have made it clear that being prepared for quick and unexpected evacuations should be given serious consideration in every home. It is commonly suggested that each family member should have close at hand and easily accessible a backpack filled with those commodities that would be necessary during a 72 hour absence. Most lists would include dried foods, small containers of water, flashlights, first aid supplies, prescription medications and other such necessities. That way there is no last minute packing and hunting for missing articles. Simply grab that backpack and load it and yourself into the awaiting vehicle, and off you go.
Yet, what about man’s best friend? Most people, if the possibility exists to do so, want to see their pets whisked to safety as well. Should they too not have access to some sort of a 72 hour emergency kit? In the case of dogs, they can, with a little help, even carry their own.
There are, in fact, commercially available backpacks that are made specifically for our canine friends, although it is certainly possible to produce your own. With a little bit of sewing skill, a basic design idea, and enough material to do the job, Fido can very soon have his very own backpack. For the less adventuresome but still skilled, patterns can be obtained.
One of the important things to remember when designing a backpack for our four-legged friend is that the weight needs to be placed over the animal’s shoulder blades rather than the middle of the back, for a dog’s shoulders are built to carry weight, not the spine. As well, the best idea for the backpack is a saddlebag type design. This will be much more comfortable for him. Ideally, the end result should also be something that will not restrict movement, while still remaining in place without the need of frequent adjustments. That requires attention to harnessing methods and placement of straps, and probably would be helped by a little on-line research.
Of course, a retail product would automatically eliminate many of these worries, as long as it was a quality product that was being considered for purchase.
A dog does not likely have need of a change of clothes, but dried dog food, water, collapsible bowl, pick-up bags, and a leash would be ideal candidates for items to be included amongst its contents.
Once you have the dog’s kit ready, it would be wise to make it an attractive piece of apparel for him. Have him wear it on walks, or as an even more healthful choice, on hikes. It won’t take the animal long to associate it with fun activities, and to look forward to those times when it can be worn. Thus, when it is really needed, there is not likely to be any balking at being so attired.
If you and your companion do go hiking together, consider water resistant material in the construction of the saddlebags. Vacuum sealing the dog food will seal in odors as well, and not draw the attention of wild animals. A brightly colored backpack will stand out in the woods, and help prevent some hunter from thinking your beloved pet is some sort of a game animal. Realize, too, that not all trails welcome dogs, so that needs to be taken into consideration. And one more note. If you think that your dog will be ideal protection if you suddenly chance upon some bear or other large form of wildlife, think again. An untrained dog is just as likely to cower behind you so that you can protect if from the beast, as to rush forward to protect you from it.
Finally, don’t forget the emergency preparedness aspect of the backpack. In other words, keep it stocked, and keep it handy.
*dog photographer unknown