There was a skidding sound, a long skidding sound. It skidded so long, so far, there was almost certainly going to be a...
And I was awakened, almost, partly up now. It was early. I'd been up rather late and felt the mental tar and taffy of dreams pulling me back into that unconscious goo of involuntary sensations and images.
The clock, if it hadn't broken, had only moved an hour since I'd cashed it all in last night.
I pulled my dirty, ivory, plastic blinds apart, scrambling to glimpse the accident. It was still dark outside, wet. Obviously hazardous, slippery conditions led to this terrible collision. I couldn't actually see any accident, but it had sounded awful.
I grabbed my camera, made sure the flash was working, ran outside in shorts and a bathrobe. And, in the drizzly morning darkness, I spied absolutely nothing.
Whatever had happened outside my apartment building, life had already moved on to insurance phone calls, body shops, tow trucks or whatever. It had probably taken me a half hour from the screech to the investigation. I'm not a Minute Man, nor was I ever a jump-up-and-go guy.
Even when I was an active volunteer firefighter, part of the volunteer fire department on Star Island, in the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1975. I was the guy who needed to be awakened a few times. If there had been a fire and not just a drill? They'd have nicknamed me Toasty.
Maybe this was a wake-up call to something I should be thinking about. Maybe this was a warning, something I should write about?
Just like the nuclear accident in Japan is teaching California to think through its emergency warning systems for earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear power plant accidents, this horrible sounding phantom accident that rocked my dreams apart led to my groggy thoughts about pets in accidents.
"What if there were a dog or cat in one of those cars?"
I immediately felt compelled to mention ten ways to keep pets safer, more comfortable, and more prepared for possible scenarios of all sorts.
1. Accidents happen: When one does, and a dog is in the car, I would hope the dogs were wearing doggy harnesses or dog seat belts. Unrestrained animals can fly right out open windows, easily tossing them into intersections or onto pavement or streets where they may break limbs or sustain other injuries.
They have been known to hit other cars and create a second accident.This happens too often from open bed trucks, in which dogs often ride in rural areas.
Animals have been known to be tossed from the rear of the car onto the driver in the front, causing a worse accident or additional injuries to passengers, drivers, and themselves.
Harnesses for cars and doggy seat belts are available at all of our marvelous pet stores in Studio City, and there are some subtle differences between products, but the main thing to do is get a solution of some sort. It's better than leaving it to chance and doing nothing at all.
2. Japan, like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island before it, remind us that accidents do happen. They won't necessarily happen, but we all buy insurance because they might. They might because they do happen daily to someone. And accidents happen to pets, too, which is why Pet Insurance is a good idea. Shop around. Most vets recommend VPI, but there are many companies from which to choose.
Pet insurance covers all sorts of conditions and possible problems, depending on the plan you choose, the coverage you pick, etc. It's simply the best way to afford life happening to you and your pet. Vet care is expensive, but emergency vet care is as prohibitive for pets as it is for us.
3. Crates. Cats and small dogs travel best in a crate. You can get a collapsing crate for under twenty dollars, fasten the handle to the seat belt. Voila! You can get a sturdy crate for air travel to use in car travel, too. They will be most stable, though it may take some effort to fasten them to the seats.
4. Barriers. You can buy a barrier to separate the back of a station wagon or SUV. If your big dog is already too excited and too old for you to train (though you can always hire me to do it), give him free reign of the back without the danger of his flying into the front in an accident--or climbing to the front in case of bad manners or seeing a squirrel.
5. Doggie Goggles. If your dog is going to stick his head out the window, and you aren't willing to listen to my warnings that this can lead to a number of unhappy scenarios, then at least protect his eyes with doggie goggles, known commercially as DOGGLES. They can be trained to keep them on during travel.
6. Head covering. Same thing: If you aren't willing to keep the dog inside the windows, please cover their precious ears from flying debris, rocks, cinders, etc., by using a doggie hood. Lots of makes are available, and many are cheap. They are fondly called SNOODS.
7. Doggy First Aid Kit. (And a Doggy Snake Kit.) What you need or want depends on how long you are traveling. A basic Pet First Aid kit is available at all our local pet stores. I made a video to accompany all this, showing you my suggestions for a Pet and Family First Aid Kit (and what the items all look like).
You should have a kit for Fido in your car. Make sure it has the basics: Knife, tweezers, blanket, muzzle, rectal thermometer, tweezers, Ziplock bags, national poison control numbers, vet clinic hours and telephone numbers, any regular meds, and many of these important items:
- Buffered aspirin
- Sterile stretch gauze bandage -- 3" by 4 yrds
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Gauze sponges
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Rubbing alcohol
- Sterile, non-adherent pads
- Ear syringe -- two ounce capacity
- Bandage scissors
- Kaopectate tablets maximum strength
- White petroleum jelly (Vaseline or similar)
- Ace self-adhering athletic bandage -- three-inch width
- Eye wash
- Vet bandage
- Hypoallergenic cloth tape one inch by 10 yards
- Pepto Bismol tablets
- Hydrocortisone cream (1%)
- Generic Benadryl capsules -- 25mg, for allergies
- Custom splints
Accidents do happen. It is far better to have some space blankets for you and your family, some regular blankets for the animals, some supplies, water, extra trail food in case of earthquake. So what if you don't end up using them? What we just saw in Japan was how important it was to have a flashlight and emergency water and foods, first aid kits, and pet food.
It's better to be prepared than just scared.
Let's count our blessings, hug our pets, and stock our cars with emergency supplies—just in case!