The fire season is here, way too early. We pet owners need to be gathering the needed items in case of evacuation. A soft duffel bag works well for this. Have one for you and one for your pets.
The most important thing: check your pet's health records and make an appointment to update any shots. Make sure all vital information is listed on the health record including special medications, allergies and the name, address and phone number of your veterinarian. While there, talk with your vet about the value of a microchip and consider having one implanted in your dog or cat. It is quick, safe and painless. Horses and birds can be microchipped as well. The microchip is identification your pet will always have with him.
From the vet's office, head straight to either Payson Town Hall or Gila County offices to get your pet's current license. This is one of the cheapest forms of identification available. Make copies of all this information and put it in an envelope labeled "pet's health records" and place it into the duffel. Include a photo of you with your pet. Pets taken to evacuation sites without shot records could be turned away or will have to be given essential shots again. Those without shots could bring diseases to the site. Protect your pets.
Attached to the duffel should be a checklist of all that needs to be in the bag in case of evacuation. Some of the things can stay in there, but many items need to be added at the last minute or refreshed. Stackable stainless steel dishes take up little space. Have a food dish for each pet and a dish for water. A container of dry food should be packed fresh every couple of weeks. If your pet gets canned food occasionally, have a can or two in the duffel, but make sure you have a can opener. You never want to introduce a strange food or water to your pet under stressful conditions. Always keep a couple of gallons of fresh water in your vehicle along with a box of plastic bags for that all important clean up. Keep a box of plastic bags in the duffel as well.
Make sure each pet is wearing his collar and tags before you take off. Even if you do not leave all these noisy tags on the collar all the time, have a snap to attach them in case of evacuation. Cats should have a secure harness, which they have worn enough so they are comfortable with it. Cats get very upset with sudden changes. Keep them safe. Each cat should have a carrier large enough for him to move around a bit. A cardboard box cut down to 3 to 4 inches with a large, plastic bag for a liner makes a fine litter box. Have a small bag of litter ready to go.
Have a leash for each pet. If you have extras, leave them in the duffel; otherwise, you will need to be sure to stick them in when you leave your home. A flexible extension leash is great for use in open spaces for exercise, but always have a 6-foot leash for up-close walks. Chew-proof tie-outs come in a variety of lengths and strengths. Have one for each dog. You may be camped on a hillside for a while. Extra collars are a good idea. One of my dogs broke his collar when I was in the middle of nowhere recently. Now I carry extras.
Each pet should have a kennel or crate. Folding fabric crates are lightweight and take up very little space, but if your pet is a chewer and clawer, get a folding wire crate. You may have to leave your pet with friends or relatives and all will be happy to have the kennel. Make sure your pet is accustomed to it ahead of any emergency and have his own blanket and favorite toy to put inside.
As you are putting together the emergency duffel for your pets, think about the items you use with them regularly. A towel for wiping wet feet or cleaning off dust is always needed. Dry shampoo is a lifesaver if your pet gets into something stinky. A wire brush will help remove stickers and debris. Add things to the list as you think of them.
This duffel serves a dual purpose. When you take off with your pet on vacation, you should have everything you need ready and handy. Hopefully, you will use the duffel for vacation rather than evacuation, but either way, you will be happy that it is ready to go.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1Box 210,Strawberry, AZ 85544.