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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


The real Leo
Today we welcome Janet MacPhail, fifty-something animal photographer and amateur sleuth protagonist of Sheila Webster Boneham’s Animals in Focus Mystery Series. With all the recent fires and weather-related disasters that have hit various parts of the country this past year, Janet is here to offer some tips on evacuating and protecting pets during a disaster. Learn more about Janet and Sheila at Sheila’s website. 

Are Your Pets Prepared for a Disaster?
(as told to Sheila Webster Boneham)

Hi! I’m Janet MacPhail, animal photographer and devoted pet owner. You might know me from the Animals in Focus Mystery series, which has been chronicling some of my misadventures of late (a little too many, if you ask me). Anyway, Anastasia asked me to drop by and talk about keeping pets safe when disaster strikes.

Disaster is something we’d all just as soon not deal with of course, but that’s no reason not to plan ahead. I know I wouldn’t evacuate without Jay, my Australian Shepherd, and Leo, my orange tabby. I live in northern Indiana, a mostly benign and lovely place that occasionally gets whacked by blizzards, tornados, and flooding. You may live with different possibilities. And of course we all hope never to deal with a house fire or other accidental or man-made hazard, but we also know they happen. So I thought I would tell you what I’ve done to increase the chances that my animals and I will all come through any of the above safe and sound. I mean, crafty killers are bad enough, right, Anastasia?
The real Jay
One thing that always worries me is what would happen to Jay and Leo if there were a disaster when I’m not home. Not that I leave them alone that much, but still…. So I have little signs posted by my front and back doors (and I made sure my boyfriend did the same). Stickers for that purpose are available from many vets, shelters, and other sources, or you can make one yourself. When Jay first joined my family, I crated him when I was out, so I included that information on my signs. I also note where Leo’s carrier is kept, where he likes to nap, and where their leashes hang. That way if someone had to get them quickly, they’d have everything they needed.

I also keep a list of names and phone numbers of a couple of people who would take them in a pinch. My neighbor, Goldie, for sure—if she’s home. My brother and his partner. I’ve even arranged with my vet to pay the bill if someone drops them off there. I signed a boarding and medical care authorization form, and I got a copy to keep in my evacuation kit (I’ll get to that in a minute).

My guys are used to being in the car and around strangers, but I still think a secure crate for each of them is essential. I mean, crates can keep them safely confined in a chaotic situation. They both wear tags for easy reference, and they have microchips implanted by my vet for more permanent identification. (I have those scanned whenever they go to the vet for something else, to be sure they’re still active.)

I have a waterproof box with Pet Evacuation Kit painted on the side, and I keep it on the storage shelf in my front closet. Here’s what’s in it:

∙ A list of phone numbers—mine, my two best friends’, my brother’s, my veterinarian’s.

∙ Copies of each animal’s rabies certificate and vaccination records.

∙ Proof of ownership so that if someone else rescues my boys, I can show that they are, in fact, mine–license registrations, microchip numbers, and photographs.

∙ If anything happened to me, I would want whoever took in my guys to know as much as possible, so I have a data sheet for each including his name, description, sex, age, feeding instructions, health-care needs, and a recent color photo.

∙ A week’s supply of dry food sealed in air-tight bags, and a couple of bottles of water. I rotate food and water once a month to keep everything fresh.

∙ Enough cash to pay for boarding the boys for at least three days. This wouldn’t be a problem with my vet, but who else will extend me credit if they don’t know me and I have no plastic on me? And cash can be hard to get at during a crisis.

So there you have it. I hope you never have to live through a disaster of any kind, but if you’re like me, you’ll feel better knowing you have a good chance of getting your pets to safety along with the rest of your family, come what may. Be safe!

The Money Bird
Animal photographer Janet MacPhail knows that trouble is in the air when Labrador Retriever Drake fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill during a photo shoot at Twisted Lake. One of Janet's photography students reports seeing a strange bird at the lake, but he turns up dead before Janet can talk to him. When she learns that the mysterious retreat center near the lake is housing large numbers of tropical birds, Janet is sure there's a connection and decides to investigate between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and visits to her mom at Shadetree Retirement. With help from her Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky friend Goldie, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim's wings are clipped for good.

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Kathleen Kaska said...

Great advice, Janet and Sheila. I'm forwarding this to all the pet owners I know!

Morgan Mandel said...

I never thought of all those possibilities, especially the one about not being home during a disaster. I'll have to get more organized.

Morgan Mandel

Unknown said...

Thanks, Kathleen and Morgan. A little planning can make a big difference.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Great ideas for preparation, Janet--and Sheila!

Unknown said...

Thanks, everyone.! Be safe!

And thanks, Anastasia (and Lois) for having us!

Unknown said...

Your story sounds like a fun read, and a very creative plot line. Wishing you many sales, Sheila!