In our day-to-day lives most people seem to take our pets for granted. They are a welcome sight after a long day’s work, and a loyal companion with whom we can share our deepest darkest secrets. Our pets love without condition, and many of us return that love to our pets when our lives seem to be going well. However, far too often our animal friends are either left out of survival plans unintentionally and left to fend for themselves, or removed with cruel forethought and left to suffer alone.
It can be understandable that a person would want to ensure their own welfare and survival or that of their family over the welfare of an animal; however, those who consider themselves "preppers" have not rightfully earned that title until they have implemented plans to deal with the problem of surviving with pets. Pets can be valuable survival tools or terrible hindrances depending on how well you have prepared. Being a dog person myself, it's hard to see the value of a cat in a post apocalyptic world other than as a companion animal to help stave off loneliness, and to alert to possible unseen threats (something a dog is also capable of along with many other endearing traits).
Almost every breed of dog can be trained to hunt. When your very survival could depend on being able to find the sustenance provided in the meat of just one rabbit or squirrel, a dog's acute sense of smell and hearing, plus that inexplicable 6th sense to tell them when something else is "out there", could mean the difference between living to see another day, and dying a slow and painful death from starvation. The unconditional love that a dog feels towards its owner can compel the dog to heroic feats of courage in the face of deadly attacks from other animals (be they two or four legged), and in the coldest throws of the darkest nights, the warm embrace of a K-9 friend as they lay their head against your chest and breathe softly and calmly can be the emotional support one needs to get up the next morning and start the daily cycle of surviving once more.
Of course, trying to survive with pets does present greater challenges as well. They are another mouth to feed; another body that needs water; they attract dangerous animals as they are usually easy prey; they can be loud when it is imperative that no sound be made; and they take up room in cars/boats/shelters that might be used for storage. Make no mistake, having a pet after the SHTF will become a more difficult task than just having to get up in the middle of the night to let them outside. Rigorous training needs to be in place so that every command given to your animal is followed to the letter, and if that's not possible, you may have to face letting go of your beloved friend to ensure the safety and survival of your family. To help prepare you for that inevitable day, here are a few things that one must consider when prepping yourself and your pets for TEOTWAWKI: (We'll use dogs as an example because after all, dogs are man’s best friend, and arguably present the best possible chance at surviving because of this)
#1 - Bringing Your Pet: First and foremost, you need to know ahead of time if your pet will be joining you on your quest to survive after TEOTWAWKI. If so, then you need to start training now (if you haven't already). Training must include the ability to stay completely still without any movement, and to remain absolutely quiet unless otherwise ordered. In a post apocalyptic world, man will join the ranks of "beasts". We will have to rely on our senses to find food, and to avoid danger. Our animal instincts will need to be sharpened back to the point of our cave dwelling ancestors if we want the best chance of surviving. Since that will not happen overnight, we must rely on our K-9 friends to use their already impeccable senses to keep us out of harm’s way, and to keep food in our stomachs. This will not be possible if your dog runs around barking at everything and not listening to your commands. A barking dog could alert a hungry animal or worse, a hungry person, to your whereabouts. The ability of your animal to remain still and silent while you use your advanced brain to assess the situation at hand will prove to be invaluable when the ruffling of leafs, or just a few decibels of sound at the wrong time can mean the difference between life and death.
Teaching your dog to aid in hunting will also be valuable. Their highly tuned senses alert them to the presence of other animals far before we humans have any clue that an animal has been anywhere nearby.
"The structure of a dog's nose gives it a sense of smell that is much better than a human's. A dog's nose has two hundred million nasal olfactory receptors. Each receptor detects and identifies the minute odor molecules that are constantly flying off different objects. Of all a dog's senses, its sense of smell is the most highly developed. Dogs have about 25 times more olfactory (smell) receptors than humans do. These receptors occur in special sniffing cells deep in a dog's snout and are what allow a dog to "out-smell" humans. Dogs can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. They can detect one drop of blood in five quarts of water! Sniffing the bare sidewalk may seem crazy, but it yields a wealth of information to your dog, whether it's the scent of the poodle next door or a whiff of the bacon sandwich someone dropped last week. When a dog breathes normally, air doesn't pass directly over the smell receptors. But when the dog takes a deep sniff, the air travels all the way to the smell receptors, near the back of the dog's snout. So for a dog, "sniffing is a big part of smelling".
Hunting and obedience classes and training aides can be found in nearly every city across America. Local pet stores should have information on clinics and schools nearby, and if you still need help, a simple Google search will produce a wealth of information online.
Of course, not every dog can be trained to serve as a survival dog. Some dogs are simply too old already to learn how to aid in survival. Too many bad habits have already been formed, and the amount of time required to correct them simply isn't realistic. Other dogs have cognitive disorders akin to A.D.D. that prevent them from ever really learning how to obey commands. That doesn't mean that you can't have years of love and faithfulness with them, it simply means that they will most likely hinder your ability to survive after the SHTF. If you find that such is the case, it is important that you plan accordingly. If your pet is nearing or already in their twilight years, a natural ending is most likely going to occur before TEOTWAWKI. However, if your dog is still young and you've found that no amount of training has been able to correct unwanted habits, you will need to face the decision of ending your dog’s life.
Already in our day to day life, the prospect of living without our beloved canine friends is heart wrenching. The thought of being the one to end their lives is more than even I can bear to think about without stressing my emotions, yet it is a situation that needs to be addressed. You must think about it ahead of time so that you will be prepared when the day comes because when faced with the possibility of a slow and painful death, or the grotesque demise of one's family, the decision on whether or not to part with your dog must be made. If you choose to part ways, please, please be humane about it. Do not tie your dog up and leave them as easy prey for whatever my roam by. Make it quick, and make it painless. The guilt of doing otherwise might also hinder your chances at survival.
#2 - Food and Water: It's likely that you've already planned out your own food and water needs. You may have large air tight containers filled to the brim with purified mountain spring water, or perhaps a steadfast filtration system and a nearby water source. You may have large bags of grains or legumes piled high in a basement, or a garden with a variety of foods and the ability to harvest seeds year after year. Whatever the case, it's doubtful that you have considered how much of that food and water would be spared for your pets should you need to ration. The Golden Retriever and the Labrador are the most popular breeds of dog in America. Each of these dogs can weigh anywhere from 60 to 100+ pounds from the time they are one year old to the time they pass away, and can live nearly 20 years! "The average dog drinks about 1/2 to 1 ounce per pound per day". That means that an 80 lb Lab or Retriever needs roughly 40-to-80 ounces or 5-10 cups of water. That is proportionally the same amount as a human. So when calculating your water needs, remember to add one more "person" to the equation.
When it comes to feeding dogs, things may get a little tricky. Dogs can eat almost all the same foods as humans, with a few exceptions such as onions, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and a few others. So if you have food stored away, chances are you will be able to share some with your canine friend. However, the daily caloric requirements for dogs is roughly the same as that of humans, so if you're planning on sharing food, make sure you count one more "person" in on your food storage needs also. A better alternative might be to start stocking up on dog food. One thing to keep in mind is that according one good authority "most dry foods have a shelf life of one year, while canned products are usually good for two years from the date of manufacture"
It's doubtful that you will only plan on surviving for that long, so additional measures will need to be taken to preserve the pet food longer. Dry dog food isn't totally dry; it has oils in it that are good for the dog. You might notice this if you pick up a handful of food and rub it between your palms. Storing the food in vacuum sealed containers will help preserve it, but it cannot guarantee the same texture for years to come since most vacuum containers do not remove 100% of the air. The food will likely dry out, but will still be good to eat. The only question at that point is will your dog still be a picky eater. (And yes, it is generally safe for humans to eat dog food, though the lack of moisture and lower protein concentration found in most foods make them not the best choice for long term survival).
#3 - Space: Unless you have horses, cattle or other farm animals as pets, most household pets don't take up very much room. Whether you have a cabin in the woods, a small apartment in the city, or a moderate suburban home, chances are you have enough room for an animal companion. But what if you need to get out of dodge in a hurry by car? Is there enough room to pack all your gear, your family and your pet? Do you drive a Prius or an F-350? Do you have a small Terrier, or a Great Dane? If you're not planning on staying put, transportation in a bug out scenario needs to be planned out.
If you've already decided that your pet is coming with you then you need to make sure you can actually bring them with you when you leave. True "preppers" will have most of their survival supplies in place already, with a Bug Out Bag or Kit ready to go in case the trip to safety demands a little survival of its own. But how much room is allotted for your pets? Do they get a full seat? Are they in a carrying case in the back with all your gear? Will they be on your lap or spread across a few laps in the back seat? Pets can't teleport to where you're going so you need to bring them with you and if you're not adequately prepared, that may mean you need to leave some supplies behind in order to fit them in.
Perhaps you're leaving on foot. Why not utilize your K-9 friend to help carry some gear? www.ruffwear.com has a variety of packs that every true "prepper" with a dog should have (no matter how you plan on "bugging out). Your dog could help lighten your load, or bring along extra supplies that you don't have room for. They can even carry their own food and water in a pack that detaches and leaves a harness still securely around the dog. Dogs can be trained to help with just about any task, but putting a pack on and walking is something that requires no training and no special skills.
Whatever your SHTF plan is, it should be constantly evolving to help you survive after TEOTWAWKI. If you are a pet owner, you need to decide early on what you will do with your pets and begin training with them just as you would with the rest of your family. Do not underestimate the usefulness of a trained animal in your ability to survive. Think of all the reasons why you love your pet, and then add to that the ability to truly save your life with the right training. Wouldn't you want to do them the courtesy of including them in your plans for survival? After all, they may be your best chance at doing just that.