Rhett Butler & his ThunderShirt

Today we are stepping away from my mutant ears and instead talking about my weird dog.

(I bet all of you are so glad you read my blog, right?)

Rhett Butler, age 6, came to us after (presumably) living in a home and not being treated well, then living on the streets for a few months during a Chicago winter and then spending a month in an over-crowded shelter. His journey to us was a little longer and not as storybook as a puppy presented with a pretty red bow around its neck, but he is no less loved.

Sadly, he still gets quite upset during thunderstorms. He gets the shakes and is paralyzed by his fear- he simply crouches, spending an agonizing ten minutes getting to the bathroom, where he paces, back and forth, back and forth, for the duration of the storm- his toenails clicking and panting the whole way through, especially lovely at 3 am. He also chews on his leg, which really troubles our vet, and makes him prone to infections where he over-nibbles. He is on a daily dose of Prozac (which in canines can help with anxiety) but that wasn’t doing the trick for storms, just for his general separation anxiety. Our vet encouraged us to try other therapies before resorting to prescription sedatives and she suggested, among other things, that we try a compression jacket- aka the ThunderShirt. (Their website, incidentally, is so cheesy it hurts.) We tried sleepy chews with little luck, we tried crate training him (disaster), we tried ignoring him (per Cesar Millan) and we tried giving him treats and petting him during a storm. Nothing worked, so I began looking into a compression jacket. Very skeptically. Because, really? A jacket? Right.

How was this going to help our neurotic beagle? I did some research, and everything seemed to equate the compression jacket to a swaddle for a baby- it just helps soothe them, like a (cheese alert) big giant hug. For $36 and a generous return policy I plunked down the money. Nothing but the best for our rescue mutt! (For the record, the ThunderShirt people have NO clue who I am. They don’t even follow me back on Twitter.)

And…it works.

Yes, crazy as it sounds, it works. The swaddling/soothing/whatever compression of the jacket takes the edge off enough that RB can calmly go to the bathroom (with a few shakes) and lie down on the bathmat and wait out the storm. He isn’t a happy camper, but he settles down enough that if we combine the ThunderShirt with a well-timed sleepy chew, he can fall asleep until the storm is over.

Crazy, right?

Yeah, it is kind of crazy.

But it works, and that is all we care about.

For $36, I’m happy to let Rhett Butler nap through any Midwestern thunderstorm. Because when it is over, he just climbs back in bed with us.


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7 Responses to Rhett Butler & his ThunderShirt

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  • Brittany says:

    I just heard about weighted blankets the other day for children with autism and other sensory disorders. It supposedly even works with restless leg syndrome. A friend of my family (with whom I am friends on Facebook) just posted a picture of her autistic son sleeping soundly for the first time in months thanks to his new weighted blanket. I’m a believer! I wish S’s parents had known about the ThunderShirt when their sheltie was alive. She had really terrible thunder anxiety.

  • TUWABVB says:

    I did not mean to make fun of RB in any way when I first saw the Thunder Shirt on Twitter. I’m so glad that it gives him some comfort! There is nothing worse than not being able to make your pet feel comfortable and secure. Especially with shelter/rescue dogs (I’m on my third). I hate that they have such “pasts” and I have to admit, I got a little teary reading about RB’s rough time and I’m so happy he is adored now. You’re a good puppy mamma. Give him a hug from me.

  • Amber says:

    Thanks for this post! Our rescue dog has mostly gotten over her anxiety issues thanks to a little time and patience, and her dad working from home so she’s not left alone all day. But if the anxiety returns, we’ll be investing in a Thunder Shirt.

  • Lanny says:

    Thank you! This we perfect timing! Poor WonderDog’s storm fear is getting worse, and it’s turning into a fireworks fear too. Next week baseball season at the stadium starts, and with that comes weekly fireworks. Poor WD will be a mess, and I’d rather not have to medicate constantly. :) Glad RB found relief with it!

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