why Thundershirts are not being worn by every anxious shelter dog (I forgot to check whether the shirt is also offered for cats–if it isn’t, I’m sure it will be, at some point). Am I missing something, or is this a totally obvious solution to one of the most pressing problems in animal shelters? Why does it seem like shelters are unable or unwilling to move with the times and take advantage of new ideas?
Here’s an example. LuAnn, my dog-walking mentor at Sugarcoat Farm, was showing me how to take dogs out for exercise to one of the outdoor pens (which would be completely inadequate for a dog like Sawyere, by the way–he’d jump the fences they have there in about three seconds). We’d tossed the tennis ball around for the dog we had for about twenty minutes, and it was time to go. I asked LuAnn what we were supposed to do with the tennis ball we’d been using. She made a wry face. ‘You just put it back for the next dog,’ she said, ruefully.
Now, all I’d been hearing lately was that kennel cough was rampant at Sugarcoat Farm, and we needed to be very careful to disinfectant our leashes, hands, and shoes. Good idea. But the tennis balls being passed from mouth to mouth of the dogs were being reused. Oh, for goodness’ sakes, is that possible?
That afternoon, I called a tennis club. Of course they’d let us have a big box of used balls–no problem, and they could provide us with a steady supply, too. Can we put you on hold for a second? Sure. OK, our tennis pro would also like to donate a box of balls, from him personally. Wonderful!
Before I picked up the balls, I made sure that the idea had the approval of the director of Sugarcoat Farm. ‘That’s a very good idea,’ she said. I thought to myself, ‘Well, it may be a good idea, but it’s hardly rocket science. It’s a good idea that should have been thought of many years ago.’ Surely, it had been. Anyway, no use crying over spilt milk.
I picked up the balls and took them to Sugarcoat Farm. Someone found a place for them, although she hadn’t heard anything about them, or about a new policy of using a fresh ball for every dog. I used new balls for my dogs that day, and I think LuAnn was able to make use of some, but as far as I know, nothing ever changed in the shelter policy, and no one was told about the balls. They could still be sitting in their box in that office, for all I know. The shelter director did write thank you notes to the two people who’d given the balls, and I can only hope that she kept their contact information and worked on a long-term arrangement for getting fresh balls. But I’m not particularly optimistic.
So, back to the Thundershirts. Help me think about what excuses a shelter will be likely to make for why they can’t keep Thundershirts in various sizes on hand for traumatized and anxious dogs. Please write me your ideas about this. The first objection will be the cost. Thundershirts cost $36 each. I’m about to go and google the cost of euthanasia, by various methods. In the meantime, here’s a link to a program at Thundershirt. http://www.thundershirt.com/GivesBack.aspx
OK, since I’m finding euthanasia costs which vary between $10 and $115, I’ve got a call in to the office of MVDVM. At his office, it averages about $43, more than the cost of a Thundershirt, but what we need is the cost of the actual drugs used to kill by lethal injection, without factoring in the vet’s labor. They’ll call me back with that information. Of course, prices for killing with a heartstick or a gas chamber will be different, but I’m not up to researching those things, nor do I think my questions would be well received. I could call Chesterfield, South Carolina to ask what it cost them to take a dog over to that landfill and shoot it in the head, but they’ve shut down that shelter while it’s being investigated.
You’ve probably figured out that I’m of the opinion that the Thundershirts would be an excellent investment of a shelter’s resources, no matter how limited. That goes for the pheromone collars, too. Why was it that LuAnn had to spend her own money to provide a pheromone collar for a severely emotionally shut-down dog at Sugarcoat Farm? A shelter would probably–no, almost certainly–receive a quantity discount on these things. And the cost of valerian is so low that it’s almost negligible. It’s a perfectly safe calming herb, non-addictive and with no side effects, and dogs love the taste of it. Why not sprinkle some over the food of agitated shelter dogs? It’s another no-brainer, like the tennis balls.
It’s time to go to the note factory, where decisions may not always be perfect, but at least they’re on a totally different plane from what I’m writing about here. Thank God for the note factory.