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Raining Cats and Dogs

For all the things we do to become expert at storm preparation, we have never been able to satisfactorily resolve what to do about the pets of essential staff.  We have tried, and failed, several times.  From a practical standpoint, sometime the only thing keeping a critical member of the team from being immediately available is ensuring their beloved pet is safe, so we keep trying.

Buddy was a ten dollar dog that I bought from a farm in the Redlands.  Two neighbors had beautiful purebreds, one shepherd and one black lab.  A bad fence one day made these dogs good neighbors and a nice litter of mixed puppies arrived.  Driving home from the hospital one evening I saw a sign by the road, Puppies $10.  I stopped in to see them and asked the guy, why ten dollars instead of free?  He said he was afraid to give them away to people who might just want something for free, so he figured ten dollars was enough to weed them out.  I handed over the ten and took a pup home.  A better deal I never made.

One of our hospitals owned a soon to be demolished building that had been many things, a Dairy Queen, a money laundering bank (think Miami in the 80’s), and a diagnostic center. So why not make it a pet shelter for hurricane season?  The rules were that you had to bring your pet in a cage and provide sufficient water and food for the duration.  The building would be locked up and unattended during the storm and when it passed and you were relieved you would retrieve your pet and go home.  In retrospect, there were many reasons why this was an insane idea, not the least of which is that this building did not look structurally sound on a sunny day.  So what happened was that many pets were brought, dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters.  The definition of the word cage was not clear and by morning there were dogs and cats running around, birds flying, and rodents on the loose.  It was Noah’s Ark with a bad outcome.

The storm was headed our way and it looked like it might be bad.  We had no accommodation for pets so Buddy the dog was going to have to ride out the hurricane home alone.  I put him in the laundry room as it seemed safe, with his bed, food and water and I locked him in.  I was sure he would be fine.  I went back to the hospital, put him out of mind and attended to the business at hand.

Another one of the misguided concepts for pet care came from a CEO who shall remain nameless.  The idea was that we would allow people bring their pets into the hospital.  This was attacked immediately, but he interrupted us and said “wait a minute, you haven’t heard the whole idea”.  The full idea was that we would keep the dogs, cats and birds…in the stairwells of the hospitals.  Fortunately, we have a synchronized approach to disaster preparedness, so when someone has a super idea like this, we run it by the group.  It did not fly, no pun intended.

The night was chaotic and the storm was worse than anticipated.  I had not thought of Buddy until it was well over and I went outside to look at the situation.  I became worried for him.  As soon as I could, I went home, about half a mile from the hospital.  I opened the front door to the house and saw straight through to the back yard as the back of the house had blown off, which included the laundry room.  The house was a wet mess.  I saw bloody paw prints and my heart sank.  I called out for the dog.  Nothing.  I heard some whining and I called again.  He came running over looking wet and bedraggled but fine except for a couple of cuts on his pads.  I will never know how he did it.  Buddy was our very good dog for another ten years.

We are trying a new idea that involves pet sitters.  I am not so sure how that one is going to turn out, but I am glad we are the kind of organization that is always willing to try innovative things, from surgical robots to professional nurse advancement programs all the way to pet sitters.  And while we like to say there is no such thing as a bad idea, I still laugh when I think of those stairwells.

Rise up this morning’,
Smiled with the rising’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep- Three Little Birds  Bob Marley

This entry was posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 4:48 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.