Mindy Smith Pierman isn’t much different from the rest of us when it comes to shelter pets. When she walks in a shelter, she wants to take every animal home and give them the love they deserve. But the reality is, she can’t adopt them all.
Still, Pierman was able to make a difference for the dogs at the Kent County Animal Shelter. Tuesday morning, she delivered 55 Thundershirts to KCAS in hopes of relieving the dogs in their care from a bit of the stress and anxiety they face every day.
If you’re unfamiliar with Thundershirts, they’re the snug-fitting wraps that many dog owners have sworn by. It’s based in part on the work and research of Temple Grandin, that constant gentle hugging pressure can calm an anxious pet’s nervous system.
Side note: If you’re not familiar with Temple Grandin, you should read up about this amazing woman. And if you get a chance to see the HBO movie on her life, for which Claire Daines won a Golden Globe, do it!
Pierman’s own dog, a golden retriever named Murphy, was adopted from a shelter. Murphy, like many dogs, gets anxious around loud noises and thunderstorms.
“Last Fourth of July, my neighborhood sounded like Kabul,” Pierman said. “My golden retriever has storm anxiety and noise anxiety and she will literally pace around where I keep her Thundershirt if she feels a storm coming on. I get the shirt and put it on her, and she calms right down.
“On Fourth of July it was so loud and so bad, and all I could think of was all the dogs here (in the shelter). They’re already under stress and they’re already scared, and there isn’t anybody to comfort them. So, I thought, they need Thundershirts.”
Because the animal shelter is a government organization, it can’t solicit funds like rescue groups. So Pierman solicited some help via Facebook and email and got friends to donate items for a garage sale.The proceeds would go to purchase Thundershirts for dogs at KCAS. Once her neighbors found out what the mission was, they brought items to put in the sale, too.
In all, Pierman raised $1,300 that weekend. And with help from Pet Supplies Plus on Alpine NW and Chow Hound at Breton and Burton, who ordered and sold the shirts to Pierman for a discounted price, it was enough to buy seven Thundershirts in every size to outfit the shelter dogs.
“It was just one long weekend, and this was a girlfriends’ kind of effort. It wasn’t a singular effort… I might have had the idea, but it took a whole lot of people to make it happen.”
Pierman points out that Thundershirts aren’t just for thunderstorms, and she hopes they go beyond keeping the dogs at KCAS calm and relaxed.
“They’re for anxiety … separation anxiety, barking issues, thunderstorms, loud noises, that kind of thing,” she said. “And it’s just a stressful situation for these dogs, just the fact that they’re here. Some have been abused or neglected or are in a bad situation. I kind of hope in the end that they may be a little more adoptable because they won’t be acting out and barking and jumping because of stress and anxiety. That’s where this kind of took us on this journey.”
Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department, was on hand for the delivery Tuesday.
“The shelter really is a community shelter,” London said. “The animals here belong to us and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to take care of them and do what we can to give them a forever home and a second chance. This sort of thoughfulness is important to us because we can provide for basic care and do what we can to make their time with us as enjoyable as possible, however we also know this is stressful for them.
“This helps get them that second chance … when people come in here they are seeing dogs as relaxed and calm as possible.”