Comprehensive  Ways To Delightful Healthy Pets
I’m crawling on the floor in our burning house. The stench of smoke and melting plastic is overpowering. My hand slides along the baseboard in the pitch black, trying to find the doorway to the bedroom. I know my animals will all be there, together. Except for our timid cat, Face, who likes to hide in the closet, on a pile of my scrubs.
I had left the house twenty minutes earlier, with my five-year-old son, when my neighbor called me on my cell phone.
“Your house just burst into flames,” she said, “and there’s smoke pouring out of your kitchen window.”
That is just not possible, I thought.
While racing home in my car, I feverishly thought through different scenarios. What could have happened? Did the fire start in the kitchen? The living room? I tried to figure out exactly what I’d have to do to get my animals out. How would I find them, and when I did, would I be able to carry them all? The cats could be tucked in a curl of my coat. The dogs would be harder. Maybe I could drape my long-legged soul mate Tundra around my neck, while carrying hefty Jake in my arms.
Fire trucks surrounded my house. I rushed my son to the next-door neighbors, hugged him tight, and told him I’d be right back.
I was halfway across the lawn to my house when Tundra jumped out of the bushes into my arms. I have never been so happy to see her. I scanned her body with my hands. She seemed okay. One out of four. Where were the others?
I asked another neighbor, who had come out to help, to take Tundra to his house. Tundra didn’t like that idea. Always protective of me, she had to be dragged away.
Without thought or hesitation, I darted into my burning house. Now, three steps in, the heat is intense. The ceiling’s on fire and I am already gasping for air. Black clouds of smoke roll at me from the kitchen; eerie flickers of light create quick silhouettes. As I drop to the floor, narrowly avoiding some falling debris, the thought crosses my mind that I might die. But the bedroom where my pets most surely are hiding is only one room away. I have to get there.
I hold my breath. Crouch low. I prepare for one quick dash through the smoke. But there’s someone else in the room with a different idea. I hear his muffled breathing through the firefighter apparatus. Suddenly I’m hauled upward by strong arms.
Many people say they would die for their pets. I don’t doubt it. I’ve been there. It’s a choice we don’t often have to make, but we feel certain we would do it just the same. I’ve also known pets that have sacrificed themselves for their owners. That’s how deep the bond goes.
But are we willing to be proactive and use that loving energy to save our pets’ lives a little bit, every day? An emergency exists now—much less obvious than the threat of a fire—but I see it daily. Increasingly, pets are suffering from the same maladies as humans: thyroid, liver, autoimmune, adrenal, and kidney diseases; arthritis; seizure disorders; and cancer. Because they live the way we live and eat the way we eat in the environment we have created for ourselves, they have inevitably fallen victim to the same illnesses that plague us.
The average Standard American Diet (SAD, an apt acronym) has changed radically in the past twenty-five years, almost entirely for the worse. Processed foods make up the bulk of our national dietary intake, contributing to rampant diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis. Our pets’ diets mirror this trend. Even when owners are careful to buy the most expensive, supposedly healthy pet foods (even prescription foods), they are often poorly suited to an animal’s true nutritional needs. And since many of us have come to believe that these diseases are an inescapable part of modern life, we don’t think it strange that the same fate should befall our pets.
As for the fire that day, it continued to rage. My life was certainly saved by the fireman who half-dragged, half-carried me, protesting, back through the hallway and out the front door. Apparently he had dealt with this kind of lunacy before. With surprising forbearance, he quickly and efficiently propelled me into the cool spring air, where he gently settled me on the front lawn and asked another fireman to watch over me. They were very kind. If I were in his shoes, I would have tossed me out the door, maybe given me a swift boot on the way out, and screamed, “You stupid, stupid woman!”
Sitting there, I stared at what would soon be the burned-out shell of my home, watching flames lick out of the windows as it devoured the floors on which I had been crawling moments before. Unable to stop the tears, I sobbed, not even noticing the crowd that had gathered.
I stood up unsteadily, drawing a suspicious glance from the fireman designated to watch me.
“I can’t just sit here; I have to do something.” I said. “I promise I won’t go back in the house.” There wasn’t much house to go back into anyway.
At the time I could barely come to terms with what was happening. All I could think about was finding my pets. I had already done the few things I could to improve their chances of survival in the event of a household disaster. You can do these things, too:
1. Put an in-case-of-fire sign on windows or doors that tells what pets live with you. Indicate how many and what types of animals they are.
2. Microchip your pets. If your pets escape, an agency that finds them has a better chance of identifying them and contacting you.
Knowing that I had done what I could was some comfort. But most of my animals were still unaccounted for. The uncertainty of their fate was unbearable.
Circling the house, I called their names—“Jake! Fingers! Face!”—not knowing if they were still inside or if they would even recognize my hoarse, shaky voice. When I finally heard Fingers in the alley, her voice echoed mine with a hoarse, shaky meow. She jumped onto my shoulders. This was her signature move. Her white fur was gray with soot and reeked of smoke.
Besides the brave firefighters that day, our neighborhood garbage man was also a hero. He broke down the kitchen door and released both dogs, Tundra and Jake. By good fortune, Fingers had run out with the dogs. But where was my other cat, Face? And where had Jake gone?
3. Be sure to secure the animals that have been rescued so they can’t get back into the burning building.
Jake had been freed, but tragically he’d returned to the house. The firefighters later told me that many dogs, including German shepherds like Jake, often go back inside. It is their instinct to protect.
As I feared, Face had stayed hidden. She never did leave the closet. Jake was found right next to her with a toy in his mouth. My only comfort is that they looked peaceful together—as if they were sleeping.
I need to add one final, cardinal rule here, regarding you, your pets, and fire safety: Never, never go inside a burning building.
Do not attempt to rescue your pets. I never should have done it. But for me, I suppose, it was force of habit. I’m a veterinarian—saving animals is what I do.