The phone rang a few minutes after eleven at night. My wife, Marie, replied. He yelled “I’m Bob, turn on channel 28”. I turned on the television and tuned into WBRE-TV 28. A reporter was interviewing EMA director Jim Siracuse, who said they expected the river to reach 36 feet. The levees are between 37 and 39 feet and he said he would be too close to call. The Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency was ordering a preventive evacuation throughout the valley. At seven in the morning it was mandatory.
Already seen. We live a few blocks from the Susquehanna River in Forty Fort Pennsylvania. On June 22, 1972, the river topped the levees and flooded the entire valley to a level of almost 40.6 feet. At that time we had two giant Schnauzers, Ch. Camoli’s Gem of the East and Ch. Von Russ Brinny Brite, a mother and daughter pair. We had very little notice at the time. I had Marie drop me off at my office a few blocks away to move some files to the second floor and pick up the state car that was parked there. I returned to my house and was putting the dog things in my personal car when the sirens began to sound. Until you experience the sound of sirens howling and know that it means that the river had topped the levee or that the levees have been broken and the river running through it cannot realize what a terrifying sound it is. When I left the house with Gemma, the water ran down the street. Marie had left a few minutes earlier and had taken Pazazz with her in the other car. We were to meet at a friend’s house outside the floodplain. We had brought some clothes and enough food and water for the dogs for a few days. Little did we know that we would have almost four meters of water in our house and that we would be away from our house for weeks.
This time, as soon as I heard the words “EVACUATION” I told Marie “pack the clothes and I’ll take care of the dog’s things.” I immediately thought that the next thing they would announce would be a water advisory, that would mean that the water was not safe to drink. I pulled out my water containers for the Giant Schnauzer we have, Ch. Von Russ Follie Berger ‘and collected enough water for a week (15 gallons). I also put food for a week in a metal container along with her medications, a feeding tray, and a bowl of water.
The phone rang and this time it was our friend Anna Cervenak. She and Max Bartikowsky have a Beagle, Sparkle. She said they were going to stay at the Victoria Inn and that we would meet there. I called the Victoria Inn but found that while I had been packing the clothes and dog supplies in my Maxi Van, others had been calling to make reservations. No rooms available. Then I called Knights Inn because I knew from traveling the dog show circuit that they accepted pets. No rooms available until noon on Saturday. I made reservations for two rooms. One for us and one for our Cairn Terrier friend Bob Adams, Darcy. It was now close to midnight on Friday, January 19, 1996.
Due to our experience showing giant Schnauzers for over 25 years, we are used to packing up the needs of our dogs and ourselves. We have left home many times in the wee hours of the morning to go to dog shows. My wife, Marie, has a list of things for us and the dogs. The list came out that night, only there was no Best of Breed or Group Placements to win, this was a life and death situation. We had everything to lose if the river crossed the levees. We had thrown everything we had out onto the street to be taken away after flood “72” and it looked like we were going to be in the same situation again.
The phone rang again. It was Bob. Like many dog show people, he has two vehicles, a passenger car and a dog van. Bob needed to move one of the vehicles to high ground. I said that I would go directly with my car to follow him and take him back. Now it was about one thirty in the morning.
Marie had the television on during all of this and when I returned from Bob’s she said that they had informed the public that the location of the evacuation centers was going to be announced and that they were not going to accept pets in the centers. This meant that a hundred thousand people were going to have to leave their homes. What were they going to do with their pets? We have cages in our vehicles for our dogs, but most pet owners only have a collar and a walking leash for their pet. What were they going to do?
People who live in a flooded plane or near the ocean and are in the path of a hurricane need to have an evacuation plan that includes their pets. The first thing to consider is a pet carrier or cage that will fit your vehicle. Even if you end up in a motel, you can keep your dog in the crate or in the cage if it is a cat. You need something safe to keep the animal inside when you can’t be with it constantly. This also means training the pet to enjoy being in the cage!
The next thing is to eat food for at least several days. A metal. or a plastic container is best as it will keep food dry and is easy to transport and store when you get somewhere to stay. Water for your pet is easily carried in two-liter plastic soda bottles. TAKE ENOUGH FOR AT LEAST FOUR DAYS. Label containers “DOG FOOD”, “DOG WATER”. Water from a different source could upset your digestive tract and cause more diarrhea problems. Make sure to take any necessary medications for your pet.
Heartworm medication should not be forgotten as it needs to be administered daily, unless you have your pet on monthly medication. Another factor that is important is that your pet is used to traveling in your vehicle. Many pets can only travel in their vehicle when they need to be taken to veterinarians. This is a somewhat traumatic experience for the animal and if the only time it can travel with you is with the veterinarians, it will not make your evacuation trip any easier with a dog that is upset and possibly vomiting. Another safety factor that we practice is never leaving the collar on your pet when it is in the cage. The animal could become aroused due to the situations to which it could be exposed and the collar could get caught in the cage and the dog could suffocate. We always hook the collar and drive to the cage door so that it is always accessible when we want to remove the animal from the cage.
If it is absolutely impossible to take your pet with you, it is best to place it in the highest room in the house. Do not tie the animal to anything, let it loose. Choose a room that has a secure door. Put the papers in a corner of the room. Place at least two days’ serving in a large pot, such as a toaster, and be sure to provide plenty of water in containers that cannot be easily thrown away. The animal can go a few days without eating, but water is very necessary. If it is during winter, provide several blankets for the animal to lie down and keep warm because the electrical power must be cut off and there will be no heat in the house. Place something in front of the bedroom windows to avoid the possibility of the animal jumping out of the window and through it in an attempt to escape. You can clean up any clutter when you get home, hopefully in a few days.
Another factor to think about is in the case of fire. There are stickers available that you can stick on your doors that tell the firefighter you have a pet inside and also indicate what type and how many. Your fire escape plan should include your pets and what you can do with them once you are out of the house.
People who had to evacuate were informed by WBRE-TV that there was a lady in Clark Summit, a town about twenty-five miles away, who had a large heated horse stable and was making it available to pets, but they had to be in boxes. Also, some of the kennels outside the flood area still had vacancies.
We decided to leave our house around 2:30 am and cross the river to the Knights Inn area before the bridges closed. They had closed the bridges early during the “72” flood. Marie and Bob followed me and I headed to an all-night restaurant around 3:00 AM. I have a small television that plays the battery of my truck. I took this with me so that we could stay informed about the events related to the river.
During Friday afternoon, the temperature had reached 60 degrees. At 3:00 am the temperature was 17 degrees and the wind chill dropped to 12 degrees. Bob and I had our dogs in our vehicles and that meant we had to keep going to the vehicles and starting the engine to keep it warm for the dogs. I have a curtain on my truck that hangs just behind the dog crate to help keep the heat in the front of the truck. I was able to keep the temperature around 68 degrees overnight. At dawn we went to Victoria Inns to stay with Max and Anna until we could check into Knights Inn.
We sat down to watch television. Remember during the Gulf War how you could watch the war from your living room. Well, thanks to the coverage of the local television stations, we were able to see the scenes of the floods as they happened. Some of the scenes were very graphic and terrifying. There was a scene of a firefighter wading waist-deep in water to rescue a dog that was tied to his kennel by the river. Another scene showed a National Guard officer carrying a Golden Retriever out of the floodwaters. The dog was licking his face. There were other stories of abandoned and drowned pets. Not everyone had prepared to take their pet.
The river reached the crest at 34.38 feet around 5 p.m. Saturday. We were able to return to our home the next day. Our dogs were safe and healthy because we had the experience of traveling with them and being ready to carry the things they needed to keep them safe and healthy. They had acted as if they were going to a dog show, thanks to their experience at the dog show.