Rugby is not a dog with a lot of storm anxiety, thankfully. I see a little minor barking when we have thunder, and the only time that it really becomes an issue is when we have front after front after front that rolls through overnight. Rugby can hold it together for the first one or two, but he quickly gets over the rumbles and house shaking when it goes on and on for hours on end. I can’t say that I blame him. Generally his Thundershirt is perfect for calming him, and I distract and redirect him.
We have hit an unusual patch of noise stimuli since Independence Day, and poor Rugby has scarcely had a break! We expected a few days of fireworks, and that’s what we got. After three or four days, the fireworks stopped. Blessed relief for all of us!
The Storms Begin….
But then the storms started. Daily, afternoon/evening popup showers. In East Tennessee, these are pretty common. The day will start out sunny and warm, and then the clouds quickly build and open up. At times, it’s nothing more than a gentle summer rain. Other times, it can be severe weather with high winds and pelting rain and or hail. Generally, the storm can pass through our area in minutes or sometimes in an hour or two.
Last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we were on the receiving end of bad storms, which produced lots of rain and some pretty good thunder and lightning. Friday’s storm was by far the worst, and the wind gusts were up to 70 mph. It was serious enough that Rugby and I hid in an interior bathroom until it blew over. Seeing our 75-80 foot tall trees being whipped around like nothing in a high wind is a little unsettling to say the least!
While the worst of Friday’s storm was hitting us, my husband, Michael had just pulled into the driveway from work, and was waiting for things to let up before he came inside. While he was in his car, he watched three huge branches fall from trees and crush two sides of our backyard fence. Before a tree could fall on his car with him in it, he quickly came inside!
Without a secure fence in the backyard, Rugby has been relegated to life outside on a long line, which he’s not really crazy about. It’s impossible for him to chase a squirrel up a tree, or get after a chipmunk when he’s limited to where he can go. When it comes to varmint chasing, Rugby wants no limitations. Trust me on this one!
Saturday, Sunday and Monday were calm days….the calm before the very next storm! In checking the yard over on Saturday, Michael discovered that another large tree in the ravine next to our home had been snapped at its base, and was being held up essentially by two other trees. It was going to be a matter of time before that tree decided to fall, and it was in a direct line with our house!
Because of the weekend, there was really nothing that could be done to intercept the large Yellow Poplar tree before it decided to fall. We were just in the midst of getting it dealt with on Tuesday, when….you guessed it….a quick severe storm blew through, and…well…let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty.
The Tree Falls….
The largest part of the tree landed right on the back side and end of the house, and a couple of big branches broke off and fell right next to the house on the patio, narrowly missing our gas line and our A/C unit! It was simply crazy how this tree fell!
And just in case you wondered, when a big tree falls, it does so with a huge bang, and the ground and house will shake! Your heart will come up into your throat, and you will find yourself shaking for a good long while after you discover that you really are safe!
Rugby’s response was much like mine! I had a quick little scream on the tree’s impact, and Rugby barked a bunch! I think all of us were shocked and all of us were scared when it happened. The big difference is that Michael and I understood what had happened, and Rugby just didn’t!
The insurance adjuster was at our house about an hour after the tree fell, surveying the damage and advising on the cleanup process. Poor Rugby was beside himself having strangers in the house, tramping around and talking to his parents! He was safe in his crate, but barking like crazy, and I wondered if he was going to rub his nose raw with the stress. Fortunately, he was fine.
The Cleanup Begins…
The tree professionals showed up on Wednesday morning, and I knew it was going to be a lot of noise and stress for Rugby. I fitted him with his Thundershirt early in the day, and put him safely behind a tall gate to talk to the men who were going to cut the tree up and pull it off our house. They were also going to cut up the large branches in our back yard and haul those away. It was going to be a long day of noise and strange voices outside, creating stress for us both! I wasn’t sure how Rugby would fare, because this was a first time for both of us!
To be honest, I have to say that I was very proud of Rugby! He did a good amount of barking, even with the Thundershirt. I honestly don’t think it really helped to calm him in this situation, but I know that it didn’t hurt, and I would use it again in a similar situation. The worst part of things for Rugby was hearing the noise on the roof. The tromping around, and the big thuds when chunks of the tree hit the roof would send Rugby into a barking fit that was hard to calm. He got better over time listening to the strange voices, and those didn’t bother him much by the end of the day.
He didn’t potty well at lunch time, even though I asked everyone to stay in the front yard until he was finished. He seemed very nervous in the yard, looking around as if he expected something scary to happen to him. He looked around much like I did, wondering what had happened to our pretty, cozy, green and lush backyard. It looked a bit like a war zone, and I think both of us were trying to take it all in. He did eat well all day, so that was a big bonus! I worked a good part of the time re-directing him with piggies, which only worked part of the time.
One thing that impressed me, is that Rugby seems to really understand that I’m his safe person now. He didn’t want to be too far from me, and often when something scary happened, he looked at me…much like a toddler…checking my response, and making sure I would re-assure him and let him know that he was safe. Rugby typically barks if I speak to him in these situations, so I’ve learned to just stay calm and quiet, and often, I can calm him just by placing my hand on his shoulders and letting it rest there. That physical contact with him reassures him that I’m right there, and I don’t pet him or use any sort of soothing voice to make him think I’m praising his behavior. It only takes a minute or two for the moment to pass, and then he’s fine.
Overall, he did reasonably well for the day, but by nighttime, he was really exhausted after not getting his usual daily naps. I’ve noticed that he’s been a bit more clingy, and he worries more when I leave him, but I think that once we can settle back into our regular routine, he will do just fine with things.
The story will continue next week, when roof repairs begin!
After Cleanup Starts…Day One….