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Life with Dogs and Cats

Friday, September 2, 2011

Battening Down the Hatches, Hunkering Down and Dodging Bullets

Henceforth, I declare that I will never, ever use the following expressions:
  • Batten down the hatches
  • Hunker down
  • Dodge a bullet
The arrival of Hurricane Irene on the east coast of the U.S. caused an outbreak of these expressions--dare I say an epidemic. I woulda thunk that somewhere, somehow, there would be at least one creative talking head who did NOT use one or all of those expressions when reporting on this historic storm.
At least none of my cats or dogs did. Nor will I in this post.

For the most part, they ignored Irene.
Jasper is trying to ignore the activity as we prepare for Irene's arrival. For some reason, Playing with Dogs wasn't on the list of things to do.
Preparing for the worst, with help from the dogs
The humans, though, found it hard to ignore. The rain wasn’t that dramatic, and although it was windy, we didn’t get the full brunt of Mother Nature’s intensity.  Before Irene hit, Brian and I spent most of Saturday tying down lawn furniture, stowing plant pots, and removing blowable items, to prevent them from becoming missiles during the hurricane.

Before Irene: our deck. Everything had to be stowed.
Chairs, umbrella and plants removed; glass from the tabletop stored in the shed.
Every pillow, cushion, table and plant had to be accounted for.

After everything was as ready as we could make it, Dr. Lilah inspected.
Previously, we had gone shopping, buying water and human, cat and dog food to last us for a week. We didn’t need batteries, as we always have tons; flashlights are always on hand for nighttime dog walking.

Once flooded, twice shy 
As Irene bore down upon us, we watched The Weather Channel almost obsessively. A year and a half ago, after a particularly wet spring, the power went out during a heavy thunderstorm. Despite a panicked run to Home Depot to buy a generator, and a group effort to pull things out of our basement, we wound up with 8 inches of water there. Doesn’t sound like much if it’s never happened to you, but it was enough to ruin a huge amount of our stuff—and took us nearly a year to clean up afterwards.
From last year's flood; only a small portion of the stuff we lost.
After we cleaned everything out of the basement, the remediator brought a few fans to help dry it out. This is NOT all of them.
I can only begin to imagine the fear and loss that so many people here in New Jersey and throughout the northeast felt and are feeling from the devastation that Irene wreaked. My hearts go out to them; our little flood does not compare.

With money from the insurance (plus a lot more we added), we installed better drains and improved sump pumps in the basement, and then created a finished room. Most important, we also installed a gas-powered generator that automatically turns on 3 seconds after we lose power.

The generator is the only reason I wasn’t panicked during Irene. Because I’ve had two flooded basements in my lifetime—and that is two too many.

That said, I was a bit concerned about the storm. As Irene approached the wind and rain began and intensified. The Weather Channel had our area under a tornado warning. And the gorgeous old maple tree by our patio was looking too darn close to the house.
Big tree. Near house. Very pretty, but a little scary when you consider the hurricane force winds that were expected with Irene.
Raining cats and dogs
During the afternoon, the rain and winds came in earnest. Lilah barely noticed it was raining. I’m not sure if she cared about the wind. But the two boys, Jasper and Tucker, Do Not Like Getting Wet. And, while they’ve learned to got outside and Potty when it rains, this was a little over the top. 

Each time I took the dogs out, after they did their business, Jasper would stand next to me and Tucker would try to shelter under me, sitting as close as he could to my legs. Lilah ran around splashing in puddles and sniffing Good Sniffs.  When it got too much for them, Jasper and Tucker would bolt for the door, hoping for the opposable thumbs that would enable them to get out of the rain without having to wait for me to help them.
"Hey, let us in! It's starting to rain!"

Our routine when the dogs come in from a wet outside is that they wait by the door on the bath mat we have there—just for soaking up wet dog paws. And then we play Treats for the Feets. That’s when I towel off a doggy and then he or she gets a treat for each foot that I dry. Lilah loves it, and Tucker says it’s worth it for the treat. But Jasper just hates having me Do Things to him, so he’s always last, and, while he lets me dry off each foot, it’s grudgingly, and only just barely worth the proffered treat.

During the storm, Dawn and Athena went about their normal cat duties: prowling, sleeping, pouncing and hunting bugs. 

The night of the hurricane, Athena seemed blissfully unaware.

The windows, otherwise known as Cat TV, seemed to be tuned to a different channel; normally it’s the Birdie Chipmunk Squirrel channel. For no discernable reason (to the cats), someone had changed it to the Blowing Leaves Channel. Still good viewing, though, and both Dawn and Athena were amused until it got too dark to see.
We took some of the more vulnerable plants inside and put them on the table in the dining room. The plastic tablecloth made a fantastic cat cave where it covered the chairs. The next day, there were little pinprick holes in the tablecloth. Athena must have been redecorating; I think she was going for the Night Sky look.

Blowing in the wind
When night came, we closed all the curtains to minimize flying glass should our windows break. Dawn and Athena were sent to their basement lair, where I had the crates open and ready in case we needed to transport the cats. The misses were a little perturbed because they only like going into the basement when it’s their idea—not when they’re sent there by lowly humans. But it’s comfy and there are plenty of soft and hidey cat places. Tolerable, I guess.

The dogs and Brian and I camped out in the living room all night, as it was far from the part of the house where the big maple might land.  Aaron slept in his bedroom, a bit disappointed and wishing the storm was bigger and more exciting; I think he wanted a Jim Cantore moment: standing outside in the rain and getting blown sideways. (For those of you who are not Weather Channel geeks like I am, Jim Cantore is one of their star meteorologists, and they always send him to the place they think will get the worst weather. My daughter, who lives in Manhattan, texted me before the storm arrived to say, “Jim Cantore is being sent to NYC. We’re screwed.”)

The dogs were thrilled to be in the living room, since I slept on the floor on an old comforter. Which, to a dog, is simply a very long dog bed. And it was the best kind of bed, because they could all snuggle up next to me.  Which they did. It would have been kind of fun, actually, if there wasn’t a hurricane raging outside.
Jasper on my--excuse me, his--bed where we spent the night.
So, with cats in the basement, humans and dogs camped in the living room, we passed the night, sometimes sleeping, sometimes listening to the wind and rain.

To be continued…my next post will be about the end of the storm and the aftermath.

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