Watching the images of Hurricane Irma as it approaches both Florida and the Caribbean islands that we wrote about for so many years, we’re so sad to see yet another region undergoing the devastation that Texas experienced last month. As many Floridians plan to get out of the storm’s path, we wanted to share a few tips that we learned in evacuating with our pets from Hurricane Harvey.
Find a Dog-friendly Hotel. We stayed at La Quinta, and we can’t say enough about how cheerfully and professionally the hotel staff was throughout our stay. The hotel was literally packed with pets, far more than we’ve ever seen on any trip with Irie and Tiki, yet the hotel couldn’t have been nicer. They’re not a sponsor and never have been; we are customers who give this hotel chain a big paws up for their pet-friendliness during a disastrous time.
Arrive Early. If you can, arrive at the hotel early to scope out the grounds and give your dog a long, long walk before the weather worsens. Our storm winds blew from the east and southeast so I found some quiet areas on the west side of the hotel for future potty breaks. I walked the dogs for 45 minutes while our room was readied and I’m so glad we did; we weren’t able to enjoy a good outdoor walk the rest of our stay.
Pack for Potty Breaks. Pack far more poop bags than you think you’ll need. Not only will the hotel mutt mitt dispenser be empty due to the high number of pets on property but the wind will whip out any remaining bags. The winds, even during quiet times, will whip poop bags from your hands as well. During the worst of the storm, you will not be able to take your dog outside; pack puppy pads and a urine eliminator to keep your room tidy.
Pack a Raincoat. It’s far easier to wear a raincoat for poop breaks than to carry an umbrella that will just turn inside out in the winds.
Pack a Short Leash. Now is not the time for long leashes or retractable leashes. In crowded halls, use a short leash (I use 4-foot leads). Be sure you know how to safely load your dog in the hotel elevator or use the stairs (and always use the stairs during times when the electricity might go out).
Pack Your Dog’s Normal Meals. Bring your dog’s typical diet; now’s not the time for first-time food or treats. (See potty breaks, above.) Don’t pack any food that absolutely requires refrigeration or a can opener. Pack water as well if you have room in the car; if you don’t, fill empty jugs and containers with water as soon as you arrive at your hotel.
Pack Proof of Immunizations and Ownership. Bring your dog’s veterinary records and microchip number as well as the phone number for HomeAgain or other service that you use, just in case you and your dog should become separated.
Identify Your Dog. Even if your dog doesn’t usually wear a collar and tags, he needs to now. Be sure your dog has a tag with your cell phone number and also the number of a relative or friend outside the impacted area, just in case local service is lost. If you have a GPS tracker for your dogs, as we do, be sure it is fully charged before the storm hits.
Create an Indoor Dog Walking Path. We stayed in a three-story hotel; I walked the dogs down our hallway, up the stairs to the next floor, down that hallway, and continued on, walking the halls and stairs until the dogs had a good workout. It’s good for the dogs and for you (and I needed to get away from the Weather Channel for a while).
Pack Your Patience. Be prepared for hallways filled with dogs who aren’t as socialized as yours and who may have never stayed at a hotel. Patience and a smile are musts during this stressful time.
If You Have a Crate, Pack It. Even if your dog doesn’t typically stay in a crate, pack one in case your hotel should be evacuated into the public conference areas. We packed popup crates that fold completely flat and used them for our cats’ litterboxes during our hotel stay.