As I write this hurricane Irma is still a few hours away, and most of the preparations that we can make have been completed. Now we are enjoying a few moments of peace before the storm strikes. And except for a few mild showers and a dreary looking sky, at this moment it would be hard to tell that it was going to be anything more than a rainy day.
Now comes the hardest part, waiting. Waiting to see if the storm will strengthen or weaken. Waiting to see if it will move away or come closer. Waiting to see when and how long the electricity will go out. And waiting to know how much damage it will do.
While it is hard to wait and wonder, this time of delay has been useful in that it has turned my attention to something I had never thought of before, animal friendly shelters. For the past few months my family and I have been considering making a move to a place with a little bit more elbow room. We have been diligently searching for a place where we could have a small garden, a few chickens, and give Happy a couple of four legged friends.
During our search we have taken time to consider zoning, elevation, flood zone, and of course the all important price tag. Thanks to the miserable heat of summer, with real feel readings over 100 our mind was quickly drawn to the importance of weather. It only took a couple of minutes walking under the shade of the trees in an area that we were considering to realize that the intense heat would not only impact our ability to garden, but could adversely impact Happy’s health as after spending only a few minutes resting in the shade he was vigorously panting from the effects of the suffocating heat.
But for all our careful thoughts and planning, doing all in our power to consider every angle, there was one factor that had never entered our mind, pet shelters. The thought might never have crossed our minds if it were not for this monster storm barreling our way and triggering such mass evacuations. Having lived in Florida for years, the threat of hurricanes was nothing new. Our current home is high enough and dry enough that we have never had to worry about evacuating. For those who did have to evacuate, the news in our area would always mention this shelter or that shelter was pet friendly so it never crossed our mind to take pet shelters into account when considering where to move to.
But thanks to the sudden and unexpected shift of Irma that put it on a direct path very close to some of the areas we were considering, I decided it would be wise to take advantage of the lull before the storm and look up the emergency management of the areas that we were considering to see if any of the places we were considering were in one of the multitude of unprecedented evacuations zones.
I must admit that what I found out not only surprised me, but created a new wrinkle for us to consider in our search for a potential new home. While the area we now live in listed several pet friendly shelters, one of the areas we were looking at only gave the option of dropping off pets at the animal shelter because none of its shelters were pet friendly.
This would mean that if we had had to evacuate do to the storm we would have to make the painful choice to either ride out the storm at home or leave our precious Happy pup frightened and alone in a cage surrounded by other terrified animals with no way of knowing what type of care he was receiving. Since we got Happy he has never been away from us. When we all have had to go out out, Happy goes with us even though it means one of us must remain in the vehicle. Once or twice the poor pup has thought for a moment that he had been left in the car all alone eliciting from him a pitiful cry of despair. Knowing how attached to us he has become, and knowing how attached to him we have become, it would be a nearly impossible for us to make the bitter choice to leave him behind at the animal shelter.
But what was even more surprising was to discover that another top choice did not even provide us that option, poor as it was, but only stated under a list of items not allowed at the shelters was pets. No where was there any mention of option for where to go with or where to take your pets to keep them safe from the storm.
For our family we will not consider the idea of leaving our four footed family member behind to fend for himself. Not only is he dependent upon us for all his needs, but he is family and one does not abandon family. And I know that my family is not alone in feeling this way.
Sadly for the first time I understood why some people refused to evacuate even though they were near the shoreline and in clear danger. Lacking means to travel far or rent a hotel room, and living in an area devoid of pet friendly shelters, some are faced with the painful choice of leaving behind their four footed family members to fend for themselves or stay behind and risk the danger in hopes of being able to keep their family whole.
My family and I are so grateful that we learned this before we found our dream home. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to have the excitement of moving into our dream home destroyed not only by an approaching monster hurricane, but with the fearful realization that we must chose between taking shelter or leaving our precious pup to face the deteriorating elements by himself.
This is not a choice that we want to have to make. So from now on the availability of pet friendly shelters during a disaster will be high on our list when considering where we might move. And if you have pets and are thinking about moving, you might want to add it to your list of things to consider when considering if you have found your dream home.