Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Three Dog Nights – personal reflections of a natural disaster from a pet owner’s perspective

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They said it was going to be the “Storm of the Decade”. We had a half-gallon of milk, plenty of toilet paper, and a third of a bag of dog food. I know how Western Kentucky winters go; it would be warm again in three days. My raised-in-New England self scoffed, and I refused to join the long lines at Krogers.

When the power went off, we moved the eight whippets and ourselves to our front guest room, which has a gas fireplace. I put every dog bed in the house on the floor in a semicircle in front of the fireplace. I piled blankets on top of the beds. Very Old Dog, who will be fifteen in April, was nestled in with us. Our dear young friends, Heather and Jason, were in our other front guest bedroom, also conveniently outfitted with another gas fireplace. With them were their own two whippets and their most adorable toddler, Ben. Their whippets, Edgar and Emmett, consider this a second home, since Emmett was born here, and both are frequent guests. And you haven’t experienced cute until you hear Ben pronounce “Patience”.

At first, our dogs experienced an understandable confusion. Clearly the Big Bed was for them, and the Rags on the Floor were for humans. I explained their error to them as I chased them off the bed, gave them their bedtime biscuit, and covered each one in a toasty blanket. Their puzzled expressions made me wonder what were they thinking.

Even from my limited human perspective, with my laughably inferior senses, life was upside down. It was so dark. No streetlamps glaring behind the curtains. No moon or stars. No passing headlights casting shadow cartoons on the ceilings. And before we had blown them out, the warm light from our candles had softened our features. The constant heart stopping ‘crack!’ of huge limbs tearing off the tops of friendly old trees, followed by the whooshing shower of dislodged ice. We squeezed our eyes, put our fingers in our ears, buried our heads in our covers, but nothing dulled the BOOM as those limbs dropped sixty, eighty feet and landed on the ground or the roof or the lower branches.

The transformers all around the city were detonating, making the sky look like a lightening storm in blue. And then the huge pole at the corner fell. (Later we learned that this pole carried the main line that takes power from the 3rd St. power station to all points west.) The transformers on the shorter poles all along our street exploded, one after another. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. Huge showers of brilliant electric blue sparks filled our window view. And then the quiet of the storm. No traffic hum, no distant music from Fat Moe’s, no TV, just ice, sirens, crashing trees. I wondered what it smelled like to the dogs. All of that disaster.

Neighbors without gas logs hugged with their pets for warmth. Dogs who had never been allowed in bed snuggled under the covers and heated their grateful owners. People refused to go to shelters or even to neighbors’ houses, because they couldn’t leave their animals. Loving owners will willingly put themselves in harm's way, rather than abandon their pets.

My dogs applauded my silly decision to avoid the lines at the grocery store before the storm. They thoroughly enjoyed their meals of rice, veggies, and expired meat from our emptied freezers, when their dog food ran out.

They didn’t complain when we went the longest time in our little history without a walk: five days. All but two stayed on their spots on the floor in front of the fireplace. Young, foolish Swede William would periodically launch onto our bed, landing on a grumpy human stomach or head and get immediately launched right back onto the floor. Not unlike a pitch down the middle meeting Babe Ruth’s sweet spot. But Sam, our Registered Therapy Dog, was smarter. He would ease onto the bed, smooth as lava, and melt into the circle of my stomach. I would wake with a smile, hugging my personal canine hot water bottle. Except that the guest room bed is only a double, and poor Bill was clinging to the six inches of bed that remained for him. Reluctantly, I would encourage Sam back to his spot on the floor, covering him with a kiss, and then I would pull Bill back onto the mattress.

And now that the power is back, the sun is shining, and in typical Western Kentucky fashion, it is in the fifties out, I send out a prayer. I know the good people did - and are still doing - everything they possibly could for their families, their neighbors, their friends, and their animals during this disaster. I pray that they are all well. That they are seeing the daffodils pushing up under the broken trees, and are hearing the songbirds trying to find each other. That their Labradors are helping with the stick cleanup, by removing each branch tossed on the pile and trying to bring it back. That the lap dogs are licking the tears when their owners survey the mess. That the horses are whinnying warm welcomes as the barn doors creak open. That the cats are leading by example, saying, “Oh who cares? I have a sunny spot by the window. Life is good.”

hug your hounds


  1. OMD what a horrible storm! I'm so glad y'all are safe! The way you write makes me feel like I'm reading a story out of a book, your a fantastic writer! The cats would say, Oh who cares." They always say that!
    Hugs & Snugs
    Eduardo the Snuggle Puggle

  2. Great coverage! Enjoyed this post immensely.

  3. What a wonderful way to make the best of a possible howwific disastew..you know how to find balance in life auntie Patience..I love you
    smoochie kisses

  4. It seems that events like this bring out the best in us. Great job of surviving a horrific five days! We're glad and relieved to hear that you are all okay.

    Your pictures are fabulous!

    Take care.

    Love and Koobuss Kisses,
    Koobie and Family

  5. What a great post, Patience! You are one fabulous writer! We're so glad you're safe!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  6. You warned it was coming! And boy, did it. Power went off in Louisville Tuesday night. The Georgia Power Boys drove into our neighborhood on Saturday and we had power at 4:10p. Willie and I decided to stay put, huddled under all the covers in the house. The most frightening, as you say, was the cracking and crashing of trees and branches in the night and flashes from transformers. Thank goodness I had Willie for comfort. If you'd like to see a bit of the ice storm from our part of the state, check out my recent post.

    We all are survivors!

  7. I'm so glad everyone is ok and no one got hurt. And my ma ape says she can imagine a worse thing than being forced to snuggle with us for a few days.

    wally t.

  8. Oh we are so glad you are doing better. We do think you should rethink that guest bed. Even me and Teka have a hard time finding space for hoomans on anything smaller than a queen size.


  9. Oh my what an awfull awfull storm...but we are glad you are all safe and that the worst is over......We don;t know how we would have fit PL1+2 in the bed with us..Love and ksises A+A

  10. What a terrible storm. We are so glad that all of you are fine. It is amazing how people and animals can pull together when needed.

  11. You make it seem like we were right there with you, your writing is so great. We sure are glad things are returning to normal and that you guys are all safe and warm.

  12. Glad you are all okay! wow, you are a natural at writing!

  13. Beautiful post. I'm sitting here wiping my eyes. We had 5 nights of one dog, two cats, two humans by the fire and Daisy, the crazy Beagle, didn't leave my side. Love the post.

  14. You said it perfectly. And we love you, not just because you kept us warm last week.

    (Ben, Edgar, Em, Jason)

  15. we're glad you made it through the storm. those pictures are amazing. we're glad you got your power back. it must have been great, eating the contents of the freezer.


  16. Check my blog, you have been challenged!!


  17. Amen, amen, amen! So glad that most of the scary part is over......


  18. You have had quite the houseful! So glad things are improving and that the sun finally came out. You have such a wonderful life with those sweet dogs watching over you!

  19. We are very glad your power is back on! What an awful week! Five days with no walkies? Oh, my, doGness! We hope it warms up, for you, very soon and we hope you didn't sustain too much damage from all the ice! Stay warm and safe!

    Poppy, Penny & Patches

  20. Amazing story. It must have been terrifying at the time.

    I'm glad everyone is safe and with memories for a life time.

  21. The pictures are beautiful, but deceiving. I am sure it is no fun being without power!
    Hope things thaw out soon for you.


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