Storm Defender Dog Cape – Part 1

I couldn’t tell you when our dog’s storm fears began, only that it wasn’t always like this. Dakota had become deathly afraid of storms. One theory was that the lightning strike we had a couple years earlier was the trigger. It hit very close to our house and took out many of our electronics, but Dakota’s fear snuck up on us so quietly that we really couldn’t pinpoint the origin; we could only make guesses.

Australian Cattle Dog Husky mixIt started benignly. We’d go to bed and wake up in the middle of a bad thunderstorm to find our dog sitting with her head resting on the edge of the bed. Dogs are not allowed on our bed so it was as close as she could get to us. Dakota did not whine, bark, or wake us up. She simply sat quietly with her head resting on the edge of the bed.

I had instituted the rule never to pet dogs from bed to prevent them from bugging us in bed and waking us up, but my husband did not abide that rule and Dakota usually sat on his side of the bed where she was most likely to be petted if he did indeed wake up.

Our dog did this for months and as she didn’t actively disturb us, we let her be. We made the mistake many dog owners make: It was cute so we allowed it; it seemed innocent so we ignored it. As with all unwelcome dog behaviours we did not nip it in the bud while it was small and it soon blossomed forth, growing bigger and more urgent with each passing thunderstorm. Before long Dakota had morphed into a dog who went into a full blown panic over thunder and lightning storms.

The odd part was that our dog did not appear to be affected by storms during the day; her panic was reserved for the storms that came in the darkness of night. We thought maybe the lightning was more visual when the house was dark, and that when we were awake there were enough other distractions to divert her attention. The previous lightning strike happened in the middle of the night, so we figured maybe that’s why only nighttime storms bothered her.

No matter how you sliced it the end result was the same. Our dog had become deathly afraid of thunder and lightning storms. She’d spend the entire night pacing and panting, working herself into more of a frenzy with each passing hour and if Dakota was awake, she kept my husband Bear awake. The floor next to the bed creaked loudly and her pacing kept that floor creaking for hours on end.

We’d read about dogs who became destructive during storms, chewing and pottying in the house. Dakota had come to us with these problems not relating to storms, just as her normal way of being, and we’d fixed her. It took a lot of hard work but we’d broken our dog from chewing and pottying in the house. She’d been solid for three years but we couldn’t help but wonder: What were the odds that our dog would revert to her old bad behaviours if she got worked up over a thunderstorm? Dakota’s fear symptoms were progressing and it stood to reason that potty in the house would be the next logical progression.

After a long string of sleepless nights where the storms just kept rolling in, Bear finally turned to the internet in hopes of getting advice to calm our dog down and keep her at peace so that he could sleep at night. That’s where he found the Storm Defender dog cape. He showed it to me, I think as a joke, as we discussed Dakota’s storm fears and how to deal with them.

We had already tried to cover a dog crate in the bedroom so that she’d have a “safe place” to go. As Dakota had never embraced the dog crate as her home, she had no interest in going into the covered dog crate. She did desperately want to get into the bathroom so Bear started letting her go in there, and because he so desperately needed to sleep he’d close the door behind her, leaving her alone in the bathroom. I’d go in and find her jammed between the toilet and the wall in the one room that didn’t have a window, so I figured she was trying to escape the lightning flashes.

In the meantime I read about the Storm Defender dog cape and how it was supposed to work. The official Storm Defender cape had a lining that allegedly shielded a dog from electrostatic charges. As lightning was one of the issues we suspected was bothering Dakota, this interested me.

The Storm Defender website talked about dogs wanting to get close to plumbing, which was grounded and somehow diffused the electrostatic charges. I was becoming more and more convinced that Dakota’s issues were lightning related.

I read about the Storm Defender dog cape in various forums across the internet. Some folks were praising it as having solved their dog’s fear of storms and they called it a godsend. Others said it worked, but that rival products without the electrostatic lining worked just as well and were cheaper. Right about then the mother of all storms rolled through the South spawning hundreds of tornadoes across several states.

It was April 2011 and the storms just kept rolling in. Superstorms one after another came blasting through the South spawning one tornado after another finally coming to a head in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina with us in the middle of it all. Thunder, lightning, tornadoes, and baseball sized hail accompanied the supercells. The TV sounded the alarm for tornado warnings, telling everyone in a nearby city to head for the basement. The tornado warning interrupted American Idol cutting off the entire performance of James Durbin. We wondered how that would affect his votes. Radar maps showed the supercells heading straight for us but somehow, the storms went around us on each side and didn’t blast us as they had so many others.

While our little town stayed in a donut hole and was spared from the great wrath, Dakota still reacted just the same. We could see dark clouds and lightning off in the distance and for the first time, she was reacting during our awake hours, not just sleeping hours. This particular set of storms boasted serious lightning and tornados, and her angst led me to conclude that she was reacting to the electrostatic charges building up in the house and the change in air pressure.

Bear draped a heavy dog blanket over her as she stood in the living room panting hard with chest heaving. Oddly enough, she stopped panting. The heavy dog blanket seemed to calm her down and it took us another step closer to believing that the Storm Defender dog cape might actually work.

We were getting desperate for a solution so the next day, I ordered the newest version of the Storm Defender dog cape with the electrostatic lining and which wrapped around her with Velcro. I’m not sure why they call it a cape as it wraps around more like a dog jacket. The Storm Defender cape was bright red like a superhero cape and we laughed and joked all the time we were waiting for it to arrive. We were not the sort of folks to dress our dogs in sweaters and jackets and booties.

The Storm Defender dog cape came just in the nick of time. It arrived on a Tuesday where we were expecting thunder and lightning storms yet again. I put it on Dakota in advance of the storm as directed, but the storm never came. It didn’t matter as more were coming over the weekend so we’d put the Storm Defender dog cape into use before long.

Dog wearing Storm Defender dog cape

The weather man predicted thunder and lightning storms several days in a row starting on Friday, but the weekend came and went with sunshine and blue skies. That began a long spell of clear weather. Every week the weatherman predicted nasty storms, and every week he was wrong and we experienced sunshine, blue skies and not a drop of rain.

We laughed and decided that the Storm Defender did indeed protect our dog from the storms, but not in the way intended. The Storm Defender was so powerful, it prevented the storms from coming in the first place! It’s been more than three weeks since the Storm Defender dog cape arrived and there hasn’t been a single storm to try it out on. We’re still waiting for the opportunity to use the Storm Defender in the hopes of helping our dog with this intense fear she has developed.

When the moment of truth finally arrives, we’ll post Part 2 of the Storm Defender story. (Originally posted on May 25, 2011.)

Storm Defender Dog Cape – Part 1
Storm Defender Dog Cape – Part 2
Storm Defender Dog Cape – Part 3
Storm Defender Dog Cape – Part 4

* * * * *

Dakota was a semi-adult shelter dog who was the Queen of Bad Behavior and the Master of Dirty Tricks. Bad Dog to Best Friend takes you from Dakota’s awful beginnings to her amazing transformation.

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