I used to dogsit for a collie named Bess, who was a Hurricane Katrina rescue. I didn't know then about thunder shirts for dogs, but that sweet girl needed one for sure. If we had a thunderstorm while I was taking care of her, I had to siton the sofa and hold her shaking body until it was over and she finally calmed down. Bess required a human thunder shirt to make it through the smallest thunderstorm, which are a daily occurrence during most Florida summers. I was glad to be her thunder shirt during those times when she was in my care. Even though the thunderstorms seemed like no big deal to me, it was apparent that her life experience had been such that even the smallest reminder of Hurricane Katrina sent shockwaves through her entire being. The more she trembled, the more closely I held her and spoke softly to her.
Since Hurricane Irma plowed through the state of Florida, and covered nearly the whole state, most of the residents of Florida have needed the comfort of a thunder shirt, both animals and humans. We have all needed a little comfort and had only each other to give it. I know it took a toll on me. When I was finally able to go back to my usual routine, I started hearing more stories of devastation and power outages that still hadn't been restored. There are still piles of tree debris lining the residential streets, even though trucks have been rumbling through our neighborhoods for days. I am finally feeling less shell shocked now that our power has been back for nearly a week. I have stopped feeling the need to reach out to try to find anything that would serve as a thunder shirt for my shattered nerves.
It is important in times like these to realize that even though we survived the same hurricane, we all experienced it a little differently. The hurricane was worse for some of us and not as bad for others. Some people are still without power, even though the majority of us have electricity again. Some lost homes, while a few lost their loved ones or their lives. No matter what happened to us or how we experienced the storm, we need to remember that sometimes the earth kicks up storms that frighten some beings and enthrall others. Sometimes life itself kicks up its own kind of storm even in the midst of a calm day. Everyone has their own experiences and it is important to remember that there are some who may need a thunder shirt at times while others can provide one. It is not always easy to tell which is which until the trembling begins. Listening compassionately to others will aid us in knowing when someone is in need of comfort.
While I was saddened this year to hear that Bess is no longer on this earth, when I think about what Irma might have done to her, I am glad that there will be no more Katrinas or Irmas for her to face. Her gentle soul is at rest. I pray that I will always remember to be a thunder shirt to the ones (human or animal) around me who need one. Even when I need one myself, may I remember to be one.