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Be prepared to care for pets during the cold

January 27, 2014 - Jenny Rukenbrod
So here we go again. We're in the midst of yet another "Polar Vortex". Since I have recently proclaimed myself officially "old school", I'm calling this frigid weather pattern a good "old fashioned" winter. However, in a community where people and pets are connected, whatever you choose to call it, preparedness and precaution are the words of the day.

I recall the winter, in January of 1977, that left high walls and cuts through the snow like I have not seen since. Frigid temperatures crystalized our nasal passages as we walked up the inclined sidewalk to good old EP High. The snow squeaked beneath our feet with every step. I was validated in this memory by a quote by County Engineer Burt Dawson, in a newspaper article during a snow emergency in 2010, that said "the worst snowstorm during his tenure as engineer was the blizzard of Jan. 28, 1977, not so much because of the snowfall - which was significant enough - but the treacherous conditions created by extreme cold and high winds that continued for two days. Some motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road, and the snowdrifts that resulted completely buried them." Notable is the fact that Dawson remains the county engineer, some 37 years later!

According to outspoken Meteorologist Joe Bastardi at least one other example of the polar vortex occurred in 1985. But the dry spell in such frigid temps, seems to have left us "out of practice" on how to deal with it. Unfortunately, forgetting how quickly water pipes can burst and pets can freeze to death leads to costly, inconvenient and tragic circumstances. Just ask any citizen of the Village of East Palestine how challenging broken pipes can be. They are also a great example of working together in the face of adversity.

Round one's punch from winter 2014 earlier in January, brought warnings and survival tips howling into our paths via every media outlet. Alarms about freezing flesh, electric outages and dangers to pets were rightfully sounded. The Humane Society of Columbiana County received 10 times the normal amount of calls of concern about outdoor pets. Pleas for straw donations were answered by the kindness of concerned supporters and pet lovers. Residents raced to stock up at grocery stores and fill up at gas stations. Tasks like winterizing pipes and outdoor structures became a priority. But why did these actions wait until the last minute when we know the Boy Scout Motto of "Be Prepared" has great merit?

As an optimist, I like to think that common sense kicks in. But, what is it about today's society that has an attitude of invincibility. We must act today, not tomorrow. Prepare your home, your car and yourself for the unexpected. It is you that will be the victim of your poor judgment. Pets and children on the other hand depend on us, as logic producing humans, to protect them. Do not wait until it is too late.

Pets require warmth, wholesome food and unfrozen water in order to produce the internal heat needed to survive cold temperatures. Should no indoor option exist, it is essential for their shelter to be overstuffed with dry straw. Keep children indoors if temps can freeze flesh and pose dangerous conditions if stranded in a car. Check-in on the elderly or shut-ins with an offer of assistance and oversight. In a community where people and pets are connected, follow preparedness and precaution with a good dose of compassion when conditions turn extreme. The forecast will be sure to turn sunny with a little help for our friends, both man and beast.


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