Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I understand anxiety. I have been learning its language for the past six years, from its obvious, boisterous shouting to its more subtle nuances, all its I-before-E-except-after-C's. I am intimately acquainted with its peaks and valleys, its quiet tiffs and its full-blown temper tantrums. I know it as well as I know myself, but for all I do know, I do not know how to explain that to Duncan, who has suffered it tremendously the past few days.

In addition to the insane weeks-long revelry that has become July 4th, he has had to endure an endless stream of afternoon and evening thunderstorms, the kind that shake the house, rattle the windows shamelessly and knock things off shelves like an annoyed poltergeist. I have watched his body tremble uncontrollably, to the point of exhaustion, while his eyes remain wide and white like a fish caught on a line, alert and fearful. And there has been almost nothing I can do or say to soothe him.

I have learned little tricks, like running all the fans, the dishwasher, the air conditioner and the vent in the bathroom as well as the one above the stove. I have turned the stereo up to insane levels and attempted to distract him by taking out all of his toys and squeaking them. Ken and I have walked him miles around the parking lot, we have pulled him into bed and cuddled with him tightly, have given him herbal drops and treats. I have found him curled up in his kennel under his quilt, his face buried in the pillow, and have crawled into the tub with him, where he lays and pants loudly when the storm rattles the ceiling and sends even the cats scurrying for cover. We have done everything we could think of, even letting him crouch in the laundry room, packed between the washer and drier, the garbage can and the big bag of recyclables, the sketch of Winnie the Pooh and a bumble bee hanging benevolently on the wall above him.

And then there was the Thunder Shirt. After spending hours researching and applying treatment methods for him, including the absurd notion of rubbing him down with organic drier sheets, I finally settled on the Thunder Shirt. During a particularly nasty storm on Saturday we raced to Hero's Pets, where Chelsea was waiting for us with one already out of the package and ready to go.

The premise is rather simple: you put the shirt on and Velcro it around your dog, making sure it fits tightly, like a too small t-shirt. The pressure offered by the shirt soothes the nervous system and alleviates anxiety. I was skeptical but as soon as Chelsea had him securely fitted, his entire demeanor changed. The panting ceased, the nervous pacing stopped entirely and he was able to lay down and relax. I took him home and watched, astounded, as he napped away the remainder of the storm. And in the days that followed, as each new line of thunderheads piled up over the lush, stony peaks to the north and west of us, it took little to no convincing to get him to wear it. We simply offered him a treat and watched as he laid down calmly at our feet or retired to the cool linoleum in the bathroom for peace and quiet.

It is not a perfect thing. I will admit that Monday's firework celebrations all around us were a trial. While the cats slept peacefully on the bed, Duncan paced and whined and refused to stay far from me, but he did not shake and tremble. Friday's celebration was a nightmare and Monday was difficult, but his fear of thunder has been greatly reduced and I have taken great comfort in knowing I have done everything I can to help his anxiety as much as he helped mine. And watching him sleep calms my spirit more than I could ever explain.

I can only hope to be half the friend he has been to me. It is the least I can do.


Berts Blog said...

Thank you so much for your review on the Thunder Shirt. I have been watching all the bloggers who have tried the Thunder Shirt, noting all the comments. Most have been positive.

I have so many friends and clients that have fearful friends who are just having such a difficult time right now.

I hope you wont mind if I pass your comments on to them.

Bert's My Vickie

Greg said...

You two truly are best friends, that's clear, pal. What a remarkable difference the thunder shirt made. Fascinating.

Curt Rogers said...


PLEASE, pass it on. It's been an exhausting couple of days and I think everyone with an anxious dog should read about the Thunder Shirt. If you look at the link I posted there is a ton of information, including some from Temple Grandin, who is my Dog Guru. It can be used for all sorts of anxiety, including separation anxiety.


Suzanne Donnelly said...

Curt - weird as it seems, the thunder shirt totally makes sense to me. It's like the weighted blankets and vests for kids on the autistic spectrum or with other sensory integration disorders. It's balancing his "sensory diet" so that the pressure and tactile stimulation from the shirt give him something to focus on other than the noise, noise, noise! Figuring out what works for our "kids" with sensory issues is tough, but the emotional reward when we can make it better for them is tremendous!

Finn said...

I'm glad you posted your review of the shirt, I have been wondering how people think of it. I am glad the second round of fireworks went much better than the first!

MAXMOM IN SA said...

Hi there Curt,
I understand the anxiety that you are going through with Duncan. Our Tammy has the same problem - but mainly with fireworks. Nothing helps. Haven't tried the thunderjacket yet, but have also heard good reports (for storms). Fireworks? Another story altogether...Thanks for the review. I'm glad it's helped Duncan a bit...poor lad!
Give Duncan a cuddle from us.

Bailey Be Good! said...

I found my way to your blog and wanted to comment on the Thundershirt. I'm glad that it appears to be working for Duncan. I have an ongoing review of the Thundershirt for my furry sister, Nala, who is TERRIFIED of thunderstorms & fireworks. So far I only notice a slight improvement while using the shirt during fireworks... not so much while thunderstorms. Sadly, Nala is an extreme case and requires more than just the shirt to help her conquer her fears.

I enjoy reading other reviews of the shirt -- sometimes I wonder if my mommy is not doing something right. ;)

Happy Saturday woofs & hugs!

~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl!)

Bailey Be Good! said...

Happy Tuesday woofs & hugs,

~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl!)