When I told Michelle that I got Chloe a Thundershirt, she said, “is that just a shirt with ‘thunder’ written on it?” Who would think otherwise? If you’ve ever had a dog that has storm anxiety, you know that there’s little cure outside the realm of pharmaceuticals.
At the mere hint of thunder, my smallest, Chloe, starts to tremble. If she had boots, believe me, she would be shaking in them. As the storm progresses, she increasingly begins to pant, scratch at me and tell me that the apocalypse has surely arrived and that we better say our goodbyes now. Paco also has storm anxiety but his takes the form of hiding in the bathroom or under Jerritt’s desk. This is more common behavior and not nearly as stressful at 3am when you’re trying to sleep through a storm with a dog on your head scratching at your eyeballs.
With 4th of July fast approaching and our close proximity to Tallahassee’s firework celebration, I decided to check this Thundershirt thing out. I had seen them in stores about a year before but poo-poohed the idea. Really? A velcro straight-jacket is going to cure Chloe’s phobia? Methinks not. But then a good client came in and said that her dog (who had previously been on herbal remedies for storm anxiety) seemed calmer in the shirt. Really? This flimsy thing? So I did some internet research, called Paws where I had seen them the year before and got one in Chloe’s size.
Thundershirt works on the theory that applying gentle pressure to the torso produces a calming effect. The company admits to not knowing why. The package claims, “Over 85% of dog owners that have tried Thundershirt are reporting significant improvement in anxiety symptoms.” Yeah right. Hey, I’ve wrapped Chloe in a blanket before and held her in my arms as she struggles to free herself and then get to the topmost part of my head. Isn’t this the same principle as the blanket? Only 2 things have gotten us this far: their money-back guarantee and my unwillingness to try drugs on little Chloe-o.
Despite my skepticism, I guiltily couldn’t wait for another storm to try the thing out. We had just come out of a week of afternoon storms. Every day like clockwork, it would rain from 3-5pm. This means that once I got the shirt, it refused to rain. Yes, Tallahassee, you can personally thank me for single-handedly giving you a reprieve from the storms that week 🙂 But a couple of days later, right before the 4th of July celebrations, I was home when it started to pitter-patter on our rooftop. Since Chloe knows that rain leads to thunder, she generally will start to shake at any sound of precipitation. Okay, so shirt’s on, now what? Well, it didn’t thunder, but Chloe also didn’t shake. Was that the lack of thunder or the addition of the Thundershirt?
4th of July: Jerritt and I are anticipating the burst of loud, end-of-the-world generating noises that are to mark our country’s birth. Chloe is donned in her finest celebratory outfit: the Thundershirt. A few perfunctory pops dispel the silence. There is no shaking. No panting. No scratching. The main event begins. There is much wrath raining down from the heavens. Chloe stays near but displays none of her usual anxious behaviors. Hmmm. Misha shakes and pants which is unusual because she has no storm anxiety whatsoever. Have we successfully cured Chloe? Well, we seemed pretty pleased with ourselves.
Over the next few days, I talk to clients living with storm anxious dogs at MoJo’s Backyard and ask how they fared over the weekend. I quickly discover that most of the dogs with storm anxiety had no problems while their siblings with no normal symptoms were the ones acting strangely. Well, that explains the Freaky Friday swap between Chloe and Misha. Frown.
Our next opportunity to try out the shirt was not far along, though. Soon the hot Florida skies opened up and rained and thundered and did what they do. Chloe was wrapped in her Thundershirt once more. She did not tremble, she did not scratch, she did not pant. She did need to be by my side, but not on my head. She even laid down, which would have been unthinkable pre-shirt! Scientific study prevails!
Since that day, it has thundered many times and though she’s not 100% happy when it rains, Chloe is now comforted by her shirt and its gentle message that the gods are not angry and there will be a tomorrow. That’s a happy ending in my book.