I never thought I’d say this: I am jealous of my dog. Why? Because she has a Thunder Shirt.
For those of you who don’t know what this is, a Thunder Shirt is this ingenious thing you put on nervous dogs when there is going to be a storm, or to help them with separation anxiety, or just about any reason why they are shaking, shedding and shuddering. It’s kind of like giving them a wearable hug. Believe it or not, these things WORK!
I have three dogs. One of them, Bonnie, is terrified of almost everything. She expresses this in various ways. When she sees people, she barks like she is the Hound of the Tuttlevilles, so you are confronted by 65 pounds of bristling white German Shepherd fury. She also is able to leap tall fences with a single bound from a standing position, so it can be pretty intimidating, like a big, furry, flying missile. In reality, she is absolutely terrified, and just wants you to Stay Away From Her. If you speak calmly to her, and act as if her behavior is nothing special, she will approach you, sniff you, and eventually decide that she wants to live in your lap forever. (NOTE: Do not let her get in your lap. We don’t allow it, and you will look like the Abominable Snowman from all the white fur…)
When there is a storm, she morphs into Scared Storm Dog. Picture the X-Man Storm: Feminine and powerful, white hair flowing, eyes glittering with energy. Then, picture this same character absolutely terrified, running in circles, trying to hide in every closet in the house. She is just as powerful, but she has no idea of her powers, and she is shedding all that flowing white hair in clouds as she hides behind your legs, your chairs, doors, and follows you everywhere, tripping you in her zeal to have you protect her. Bonnie is 65 pounds of scared witless furball during thunderstorms. No matter how much you pet her, she shakes until it’s over, while trying to climb into or under your lap.
The other two dogs are indifferent to storms. However, Bonnie’s antics get on their last nerves after two or three hours. Picture one black dog the same size as Bonnie, who just keeps trying to get out of her way, while Bonnie licks her teeth looking for reassurance. Then, picture 155 pounds of black fur, who has a very low nonsense threshold when it comes to Bonnie licking his teeth. Yes, you get the idea. Eventually, we have a Furnado in the family room, while the booming of the thunderclaps rattle the sliding glass doors.
This is why I love the Thunder Shirt. Once it starts to thunder, Bonnie runs to the basket where we keep her Thunder Shirt. She waits patiently for me to strap her into her canine Cloak of Invisibility. The shuddering stops. The manic shedding stops. OK, she still is underfoot and so far up my backside that if I stop suddenly, I could fall backwards and end up with a concussion that an NFL linebacker would avoid at all costs. Clad in her Thunder Shirt, she is mostly able to lie down, deal with the sounds and ride out the storm without burying me in fur. It’s magic of the best kind!!!
After seeing these results, I started to wonder how it would be if I had a Thunder Shirt that I could put on when I encountered scary things. Something that would make me feel safe and wrapped in comfort. For example, a Thunder Shirt that I could wear under a cocktail dress so that going to social events was less traumatic. OK, it would probably look like I was wearing antique long underwear topped with sequins. Not a good look at any age. But you get the idea.
There are a lot of life experiences where I wish I had a Thunder Shirt handy. Armor against fears, insecurities and things that go Bump in the night. Or, in a pinch, things that go bump in the middle of a wedding and spill their beer on my new cocktail dress.
I think that we all have our own Virtual Thunder Shirt deep inside our minds. I think we keep it hanging on a mental hook, and reach for it when we confront stressful situations. Unfortunately, it isn’t something we are born knowing we have in our emotional wardrobe. We have to learn that it is there, learn how to put it on, which straps go around the neck and which ones go around our middle. We have to practice putting on our fuzzy armor, wrapping it around our hearts and vulnerable areas, securing it properly so that we are ready to brave the peril.
It would be a lot easier if we could just buy one and follow the diagram to fasten the Velcro in just the right spots. Unfortunately, we aren’t as lucky as our dogs. We have to put their Thunder Shirts on first, and then figure out where we left ours.
Maybe someday, some designer will come up with a human Thunder Shirt that will make us think we are safe in any loud, scary situation. Until that time, I am going to practice putting on my Virtual Thunder Shirt, and keep Bonnie’s handy in case it rains.