When Disaster Strikes | Preparing For The Worse While Hoping For The Best
By Barry 'Bear' Siragusa
I grumpily rolled out of bed, struggled into my clothes, and stumbled into the kitchen to start the coffee maker. The hounds heard me, and I could hear them start to shuffle in their crates. Once the smell of coffee hit their nostrils, they began to whine. They know that the only thing that could get me up that early in the morning is a catastrophe or the promise of a new day of hunting with them (and I usually don't take the time to make coffee during a catastrophe). I let them out of their crates and opened the front door to let them outside, and we were greeted by autumn's first hard frost. The water bowls were frozen, the grass crunched and broke underfoot, while the whole world glittered in the morning sun. My youngest hound had never seen snow or ice in her short life and found the entire experience blissfully fun and exciting. While they relieved themselves and ran in the frost—sliding and tripping as much as running, to be honest—I looked around at the frost-covered remains of the summer.
Summer 2023 in my neck of the woods was a natural catastrophe from start to finish. We began the year with a severe drought, which destroyed the grazing for all our animals both wild and domestic, and was dry enough to kill off many of the rodents and small mammals that feed our foxes and other predators. Just when it seemed like the ground couldn't get drier and we were all going to choke to death on the dust in the air, the drought finally broke in June with two of the biggest rain storms we have gotten in over 100 years. Groundwater rose, dams collapsed, and we experienced the worst flooding in recorded history. Bridges fell apart, houses were swept away, and roads simply vanished. My house and kennel are fairly high up the steep valley side but, while we didn't have any immediate worries due to flooding, the landslides on the valley side took roads and filled rivers even more. I woke up one night to hear massive boulders crashing down the mountainside 150 yards from the house. Too close for comfort.
Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and hurricanes are not as infrequent as they once were. In some places they are downright commonplace! It seems like Louisiana is always either cleaning up from or bracing for a storm. Canada has been burning merrily all summer. The high plains areas of Nebraska and Kansas are a lightning strike away from total incineration. It would appear that natural disasters are something that we just have to accept as an unpleasant reality for many of us now. Evacuations on short notice are becoming a distinct possibility. For houndsmen, the issue is further complicated by the reality of needing to move an entire pack of hounds out of the path of nature's fury. Not to mention the additional challenge of not being able to just roll up to a Motel 6 with 15 bear hounds and expect to be accommodated.
This summer was a wake up call for me. It was sobering watching my neighbors lose almost everything and wave to helicopters as they passed over the house for the umpteenth time, flying to evacuate another family. I had no prior plan for such eventualities with my kennel. How would we get out? What would I do with my hounds once we were safely away? Where would we go? Do I have what we need until we can return home? These are all questions I have spent time chewing on the last few weeks since the floods. I'm not done yet, but here's a list of the hound-related things that, looking back, I wish I had organized before the dog doody very nearly hit the fan in spectacular fashion:
A box or bag with the minimum basics: bowls, tethers/drop chains, a few extra collars, and some extra bedding.
An agreement with a friend or family member that is willing to accommodate my family and our hounds on short notice in an emergency.
A predetermined evacuation route: Where can I drive that will keep me out of the path of destruction?
A decent first-aid kit: My hounds get mighty unpleasant with each other after too much time in the truck. Dust-ups between bored and cramped hounds are a reality during even a temporary transient existence.
My GPS collars, handhelds, and chargers (that junk is expensive).
A bag of dog food and a jug of water.
This list is bare bones, but would have certainly made me breathe easier if I had squared it all away before I almost needed it. The wife and kids and I know what to do in the case of an emergency; we drill it at home. The logistical and practical realities of evacuating the hounds was not something I was prepared for. Luckily, we came through in one piece and were no worse for wear. I have made some changes and have prepared for the next catastrophe, and we are headed into this winter and next summer better prepared. I encourage you all to do the same. Make a plan, be prepared, and keep you and yours safe when disaster strikes.