Furry Buddy Bugout with Ruffwear
Major Pandemic 03.13.14
Often we focus on the cool tools and accessories when it comes to bugging out. We usually forget about what our pets need to survive an extended separation from home. Unfortunately, we assume that because our domesticated pets are animals, that they could easily switch back into wild survival mode. Every recent natural disaster around the world has proven that this is certainly not the case. Domesticated animals have a hard time foraging for quality food long-term and end up usually dying from infection or intestinal parasites.
The last thing you should do is just cut Rover loose and wish him the best when a crisis arises. With a little planning, your pet could join you during evacuation or could be reunited even if separated. Here are several keys to ensuring you and your pet survive even the worst of crises.
As a general rule, dogs can carry 15-25 percent of their weight in a well-fitting, quality pack with training. You’ll want to work them up to that weight. We’re quite active with our two Dobermans and have tried three packs; most are junk, fall apart, chafe the dog, or are insecure. If you’re going to be doing serious hiking, you owe it to yourself and your dog to consider the top of the line Ruffwear line of dog packs. These are high-quality performance packs, equivalent to the best human packs on the market. I chose a Ruffwear Approach and Palisades pack for my XXL male and XL female.
The Approach is a great premium pack for day hikes and overnights that allows for all the basics from food and reserve water to medications, a couple toys, and basic first aid to be stuffed into the pack. The Palisades is an expanded-sized waterproof expedition level pack for dogs. It’s fuller featured with three pouches per side extra attachment points and includes two 1L water bladders and all waterproof zippers.
The Ruffwear Approach pack has an integrated and attached chassis, however the Palisades has a base chassis with removable packs which I found very handy. The Palisades delivers the ultimate pack fit and weight management for a dog while still maintaining 100% of their mobility. Due to that tiny little waist and giant chest, Dobermans are among the hardest dogs to fit with packs. After providing the dimensions to Ruffwear, their customer service provided me with the the sizes for the perfect fit.
Another feature of these packs is that they provide a secondary leash attachment point and handle. The handle is so handy I have considered having permanent handles glued onto both dogs.
It makes sense for the dog to carry his own burden of gear, and the packs also make the “wonder twins of destruction” far less menacing, which allows me to take them places without people recoiling in fear. If you travel, hike, or plan on bugging out with your furry buddy, this is one of the best investments you can make.
Considerations for Pet Preparedness
Always take your animal with you. This is a situational decision, but generally if don’t leave under your own control, rescue will not take pets, as we saw in New Orleans. Those who left prior to the storm were able to get family and pets to safety, but those who waited were left no other choice than to leave their pets behind.
Obtain a Service Animal ID. According to the Americans Disabilities Act, no one can ask what your disability is or deny you service based on your disability. A rapidly increasing service dog segment is Therapy Dogs. Therapy Dogs do not grant access like Service Dogs, but most people don’t know that. This creates a grey area where a person with a dog with an attached service dog ID and/or coat may supersede hotel or other lodging/transportation regulations.
The challenge is that airport security requires doctor-prescribed proof of a service animal requirement, but to my knowledge, no other transportation does. In some states it is illegal to masquerade a pet as a service animal to gain building, lodging, or transportation access, so you should check first. A $30 service animal ID may be the one thing standing between you and shelter when a crisis hits.
Compile necessary identification. ID for your pet goes beyond just having your pet microchipped and a collar with Rover’s name on it. Tips for pet recovery: have a custom pet tag made (Petco has a machine that does this) that says the name of the pet, the owner(s) names and phone numbers, and preferably the city and state you live in. A recovered pet with this info attached to the collar can usually be home the same day as it is lost. Without it, your dog is just an orphan until someone can make a determination to whom it belongs. In disaster situations, pet chip scanners are usually in short supply. Great ideas are high-visibility reflective colored colors to prevent them from being hit at night. My father used to spray paint an X on his yellow lab with safety orange paint during hunting season, but I’m sure you can come up with a better solution.
Maintain documentation on immunizations and training. It’s critical that you keep your pet up-to-date with all immunizations, including rabies and Bordatella, which are typically required for any pet who ends up in a shelter situation. If your pet does not have clear proof of these immunizations, they may be isolated or put in an pen/area with other pets who may have these issues.
Get copies of all current vaccinations now and maintain multiple copies. If there is ever an issue you’ll be glad you had them. Also keep copies of certificates of completion for all training classes your dog has completed. In some jurisdictions, fines will be issued to recovered pets who are not current on shots, and in most cases, animals without identifiable rabies are automatically quarantined. Make sure you have documentation of your pets vaccinations to avoid your little loved one from being taken, quarantined, or even put down.
Obtain necessary medication. Unfortunately, you cannot stockpile immunizations as they have a very short shelf life of a few days. However, you can have a couple extra heartworm and flea and tick treatments on hand. Bug out situations can be hard on humans and pets, which can include allergies and stress and new food-induced colitis (pet diarrhea). Some pet allergy meds and Metronidazole for colitis is highly recommended to have on hand to assure your pet is still in tip top health.
Keep control of your pet. A few leashes and collars are a must, but other items are critical as well. A small, single, bed-sized blanket or large beach towel is key to handling a wounded or an over-excited pet without getting bit yourself. It also makes a perfect dual-purpose bedding, and it’s handy if they need to be bathed. Consider also that your pet may be crammed into tight confines with odd people and other pets in a rescue situation. Even a calm, friendly pet may act irrationally and bite or nip someone–just enough to get you or your pet kicked off a rescue vehicle. Generally, animals showing aggression are either left by rescuers or are occasionally put down immediately to avoid potential safety issues (usually with far too little thought).
Leashes are key, but ensure you have both a long leash like a Flexi-Leash and a short standard sturdy leash. The Flexi-Leashes are great for allowing your dog to exercise, but I can attest firsthand that they’re not the strongest when your pet decides to go nuts.
The smarter thing to do is keep a pre-fitted muzzle and calming aids. I suggest a soft muzzle as it looks a lot less threatening that the cage style. The muzzle will calm the pet, provide you with significant more control, and also prevent any unforeseen issues that would otherwise get you or your pet kicked off a rescue vehicle.
Calming aids are all dependent on your pet. It’s a good idea to pick up a prescription of sedatives for your pet in case they are required, especially if your pet is a neurotic mess. I highly recommend against giving a pet sedatives in a situation where they need to function and walk/respond, as these generally just knock a pet out. The better alternative is to use some of the natural options such as Dr Foster Ultra-Calm bites, a blanket over the head, or a favorite toy that always settles them down.
If you have the ability to transport your pet(s) in a cage in a vehicle, do so to guarantee the safety and control of your pet. Many vets believe most physical trauma to pet during accidents could be prevented if people transported their pet in cages. Place a pet identification pouch with copies of the pet’s ID and vaccinations on the outside of the cage. Print “live animal” on the top of the cage.
Learn pet first aid and health care. All the basics still apply of gauze and tape, but skip the bandages and go with a roll of athletic tape and plenty of gauze, peroxide, saline solution, and Neosporin. Hydrocortisone spray and antiseptic Betagen spray are critical in my book if you have a pet; most scrapes, rashes, and lacerations can be treated with just these two topical sprays. Other, more odd items are also handy, such as a bulb syringe for ear, anal, and wound irrigation; a quick release tourniquet: a hemostat; tweezers to pull out hair, burrs, or splinters; and blunt tip surgical scissors to cut out hair, bandages, or others items caught in the pet’s hair. I also keep a few standard 1cc syringes and needles to drain fluids from infections or administer treatments or immunizations.
Have reliable sources of food and water. If you expect your pet to suddenly go wild and drink from lakes and eat wild game, also expect to take care of a sick pet. Outside farm cats are obviously better at this than dogs, but most will be riddled with parasites and disease in no time because their systems are not used to those food and water sources. Ruff Dawg has a great USA-made rubber water and food dish that can be smashed, folded and crushed into a dog pack. I highly recommend it. A set of simple water bladders and Ziplock bags of food can be placed on each side of the pack for equal weight distribution.
Familiarize pets with unique situations. If the only time your pet has been out of the house is to use the bathroom and for an occasional vet visit, then you will likely have a really tough time in a bug-out survival situation with your pet. Expose your dog now to lots of people, kids, other pets, situations, and experiences. This will also ease the stress of picking up and leaving during a disaster.
Don’t forget the toys. Keeping your dog entertained is essential to relieving stress for both your dog and you. A chewing toy and exercising toy are two must have items in a pack. Consider a Ruff Dawg AstroBone or Stick as light and simple options to keep your dog happy and the carpet clean. With two Dobermans in the house, we go through many toys and the Ruff Dawg line has been outstanding. I highly recommend their Peanut toy to stuff food into for a fun, incentivized game.
Do you have a bug out plan for your pets?