Sometimes, in a fit of financial panic, I find myself trying to dream up some wonderfully easy invention that will take the QVC market by storm; the next Snuggie or Spanx, for example. Inevitably I fail at this and get depressed, resigning myself to the belief that all the obvious ideas have already been taken. But then I heard of the Thundershirt.
The Thundershirt melds the qualities of both the aforementioned products – imagine the comfort of a Snuggie combined with the body-shaping capabilities of Spanx.
Naturally, there’s a catch: The Thundershirt is for dogs, and is designed to relieve anxiety. Clearly, this idea is going to make some insane Internet person rich. I only wish that person would have been me.
I heard about this from my friend Amy, who has a basset hound who is frightened by thunder. “Thunderstorm anxiety is pretty common in dogs,” she told me. “But I think with basset hounds it is especially pronounced. Bassets have a lot of fabulous characteristics like that.”
So what happens when good old Toby hears a rumble?
“He freaks out. The first time he hears it he looks at me like, ‘Are you worried? ‘Cause I’m worried. What are we going to do?’ He starts running around the house, panting and drooling even more than normal, which is already pretty substantial. And when it actually starts storming, wherever I am, he has to be. So if I am on the bed, he tries to get on the bed. Which is something to watch, considering his physique. He just can’t deal with it. At all. It doesn’t stop until the weather stops.” She pauses. “Or, until I drug him,” she adds.
Pre-Thundershirt, drugs were the only means of comforting Toby. And with summer thunderstorms almost a daily occurrence, this sort of anxiety management has many downsides, not the least of them being that it is easy to over-medicate a basset hound. I asked Amy what the consequences are when that happens.
“He looks like Keith Richards.”
The Thundershirt works on the principle of swaddling. The idea is that the tight constraints of the garment soothes the anxious hound, helping him through the dark patches of summertime thunderstorms. But getting Toby used to the Thundershirt took some trickery. “To use the Thundershirt you are told to place a treat on the Thundershirt, like it is a plate, and place it before him as an offering. The idea is that they have a positive connection with the Thundershirt,” she explained.
The first time Amy put one on him, Toby tried to run away from it. (“Of course, this didn’t work, because there is a LOT of Velcro involved.”) But once Toby became acclimated to it, he settled down. Most importantly, it actually works, she says. It helps relieve his fear.
But how does it look?
“Ridiculous. He looks ridiculous. And it is hot. And people look at me when I walk him to get him out before it starts raining and I know they are thinking, ‘Why does she have a jacket on that dog? It is August.’ And I can’t start explaining myself, because it gets weird and complicated real fast.”
So then, this is my new Internet get-rich scheme. I will create a line of Thundershirt-like garments for dogs, which offer the same comforting swaddle, except that they will be stylish to boot. Thundershirts that a dog would be proud to be seen around town in, like Prada for the ladies and maybe Tap-Out for the dudes. Perhaps made from a breathable lightweight mesh for the summer. Or for the especially anxious dog, ones with secret compartments for emergency doses of Acepromazine.
Keith Richards would approve.
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