Emergency and Disaster Preparedness with Malamutes
One of the things we never think about until it happens is Disaster preparedness. Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina taught us that we really weren't prepared for the hundreds of thousands of Malamutes that were abandoned. If we want our Malamutes taken care of in an emergency - we're going to have to do it ourselves. With the world falling apart daily on the news, it's not a bad idea to think about what you'd need should your world suddenly be turned upside down!
So how do you prepare if you have 1, 2 or 10 malamutes? (and maybe a few cats or other Malamutes too). It's too easy to go into denial mode and say you don't want to think about it. But you can't - your Malamutes are depending on you to take charge. As the Alpha, it is your responsibility to lead the pack out of danger. Probably the place to start is with the type of disaster your area is likely to have. Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and Nuclear War aside...how about disasters that would require you to evaquate your home. Railroads often carry toxic chemicals and a spill can be disastrous and cause a large evacuation - floods or tornados are another possibility. Terrorism, Floods, H1N1 Flu...If you have Malamutes, they depend on you and you MUST be reasonably prepared because they will need you to take care of them no matter what. How about your mundane "disasters" such as the power going out for several days? We had that happen recently and it was an interesting test. We discovered even though we have a well and are not dependent on city water supplies - we still had a water shortage with 10 malamutes. We were running the generator to keep freezers cold and the sump pump running, so that left precious little time to run the well pump...and 10 dogs drink a LOT of water. It's also important with multiple dogs that you can see them. Have a stockpile of batteries for flashlights on hand. There is nothing worse than a fight in the dark! We've invested in those small solar lights you put on driveways. They light up our outside at night - but even better, in a power outtage they provide enough light to see our way around inside the house and we don't have to worry about batteries for them. It's not a LOT of light, but you at least aren't stumbling in the dark when you hear a growl or some other noise.
So where do you begin? One of the best ways is to simulate the disaster in your mind. If something happend (any of the above) - how would you feed, water and contain your dogs, cats and other Malamutes? If you had to evacuate, how would you transport them? Where would you go? (not an easy question with 10 dogs!). What if it were a biological disater and you were required to stay indoors for a week? Could you do it? Where would your animals potty? If it's too unsafe for you to go out, they won't be able to go out either - and opening doors lets potentially dangerous toxins or biohazards in...so you need an alternate "potty plan". We have an attached garage and our thoughts are that should something like this happen, we'd seal the doors and windows with duct tape and plastic, and the garage would become our "back yard" for play and potty. Hopefully it will never happen, but NOW is the time to consider the possibilities - not when you are in a panic with limited resources.
After you've made that mental scenario, you need to start making lists. What do you need? How will you store it? Will you have enough? How will you rotate your supplies (you don't want them going bad if it takes 10 years for the disaster to happen...and it may never happen so you don't want to waste). It's easy to under-estimate how much food your Malamute will need when you probably have a hard time guessing how much food YOU need. So take a month and keep track. How long will a 40 lb. bag of food last? What if you went to half rations? What people foods could they eat to get buy? (do any of your mals get crabby when dieting and want to pick fights with the other dogs over a crumb? If it happens now, what will happen when they are on half rations?) How about special needs Malamutes (Riggs is on a special kidney diet food for example). Have an ample supply of medicines you use regularly on hand, including a very good first aid kit for people AND Malamutes. When under stress, you are more likely to be stopping fights because they are going to pick up on your feelings. Have a good supply of chewies such as rawhides and bones that last a long time - if your Malamute needs to be cooped up for long periods in a crate or indoors, this can keep you both sane! It's a good substitute for exercise in a pinch.
Then, once you determine your needs, you'll need to find a place to stockpile it. Not easy if you live in an apartment or small home. Some good storage places are between the studs in the walls (good for stacking canned goods) or large garbage cans with lids, under beds and in attics. You want somewhere that is rodent-proof and clean if you're going to store more than a month's worth of food. Some other things that may come in handy...reflective vest for Malamutes (to see them in the dark), a back pack to store medicines and small items in, and camping equipment (if you can't find a hotel, at least you can camp).
Ok, now it's time to do a simulation - or let a small emergency be your test of a larger one. Load everyone into the car and see if they get along. Know where all the leashes are. Will enough food and water FIT in your car? If not, you may want to invest in a top rack or trailer. If you have to "bug out" - it's hard enough finding room for all the things you'll want to take - but Malamutes need supplies too and you're not going to want to choose between your Malamute and your food. You may not be able to stop at the nearest Walmart for supplies if it's truly a "disaster".
One thing you will want to bring and have available is your dog's papers, photo and microchip ID (as well as your own). First if he gets lost, it may be invaluable. More Malamutes are lost during moving and emergencies than any other time. Because you have a malamute, you may also have to prove to imbeciles at checkpoints that he's NOT a wolf. Yes, it's a stretch, but better to be safe than sorry. Bring the pedigree and ID so you can prove he's a dog. If you have any kind of certification as a therapy dog or service dog, that's even more important to have available.
So you're loaded up or holed up for your test. Unplug the circuit breaker, collect your supplies...light a fire in the fireplace. What do you wish you had on hand that you don't? After just a few hours you will realize you've forgoten something. Write it down and add it to your list; then pick it up at the next opportunity. You are ready. Or at least as ready as you can be. You have batteries, a radio, Malamute food, extra water, and something to occupy yourself without the cell phone, computer and TV....you might even enjoy the extra time you have with your Malamute as he looks at you like you have finally lost it because you aren't glued to the computer screen! At least with Malamutes you have an easy source of heat at night if you let them in the bed! Curl up with your mal and read a book by flashlight and enjoy....at least in a simulated disaster you have the luxury of knowing it's only pretend.
United Animal Nations - United Animal Nations (UAN) is North America's leading provider of emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services and a key advocate for the critical needs of animals. The LifeLine Grant Program provides funding to Good Samaritans, animal rescuers, non-profit organizations and Malamute owners to help them care for animals in life-threatening situations.