I’ve recently added a bit to my awkward beginning-of-interview spiel. I do the standard “here’s what my story is about, here’s why I wanted to talk to you” thing. But I also now usually say something like “oh, and if you hear any weird sounds, there are squirrels fighting in my back yard and my dog would really like me to let her out there to go investigate.” It’s not a lie, there has been a squirrel war raging in my yard for the past few weeks (a post for another time) but it also tends to serve as a nice ice breaker. “Oh! What kind of dog?” they often ask. I tell them, I ask if they have any pets, we banter. I hear great dog stories. Rapport is built. Then we actually start the interview.
I did this song and dance recently when interviewing a guy who goes by the name of Pat Henry. I say “goes by the name of” because that’s not actually his real name. He’s a prepper, someone who has nearly two years of food and supplies stockpiled in his house in case of an economic collapse or huge apocalyptic natural disaster. He uses a fake name partially because he doesn’t want hi neighbors or employers to think he’s weird, but mostly because when shit does go down, he doesn’t want them all showing up at his house because they know he’s got food. Preppers call this the “Gray Man Theory.” You want to look just like everybody else.
Pat is very friendly, and tells me all about his “preps” and his guns and his concerns that the world economy will collapse and all chaos will sweep the land. Pat has a plan for most things. He’s really thought this through. And as he talks, I start wondering how I might fare in a worldwide economic collapse (not well, probably). And I realize that one of my big concerns would be my dog. I know that Pat has a dog, because we talked about it at the beginning of the interview. So I ask him, “So, do you have two years worth of dog food stored up?” He laughs at me. No, he says, dogs can eat whatever he’ll be eating: chicken and rice, beans, animals that dogs can catch and kill if we would only let them.
I ask him if he has a plan for his dog. He laughs again like it’s kind of a dumb question. “I do have a plan for my dog,” he says, “my dog is going with me.” Pat has a Belgian Malinois, which looks a lot like a smaller German Shepherd. They’re compact, athletic, and very, very smart. Which Pat of course knows. “They’re the dogs they guard the White House and you know can’t catch people coming over the fence that kind of thing,” he says. “They’re smart, extremely hard working dogs and she would she would run herself into the ground before she would you know give up on you. So she’s coming with me wherever we go.”
I didn’t ask if Pat got a Belgian Malinois with prepping in mind, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he passed over other breeds because they might not make it through an apocalypse. But this got me really interested in how many preppers have plans for their pets. Perhaps they don’t have pets at all, knowing that their furry friends might not make it through?
So I went onto the site that Pat runs, The Prepper Journal, to see what I could learn about making my dog, Moro, apocalypse ready. And it turns out that Pat has written a few things about this: articles like Bugging Out with Pets (bugging out is a term preppers use to describe leaving an urban area in a disaster and trying to make it out in the woods) and 3 Survival Commands Your Dog Should Know.
And in the comments on these articles other preppers voiced their opinions about what they’d do with pets. Here’s Mark (the ellipses are in his comment, they’re not added to suggest a jump in the text):
“Why not let cats fend for themselves? … or for that matter, any other pet? Who are we to determine when they should die & why? …How long they will live otherwise? …. Whether or not they will suffer, so we will be their savior and executioner? Freedom is what we all want. If we are given the chance to live or die based on chance, what would we prefer? Isn’t bugging out an example of suffering in itself? What makes a pets struggle for normalcy any different than our own? – “Thy shalt not kill” ! .”
Other people in the comments wonder if they’d be able to kill their pets if they had to, and what weapon they might use to do so.
Then I went to the Prepper Forums, and read through several threads on what people plan to do with their pets. Here’s a woman who goes by “shotlady”:
i have a cat named mittens shes mean. like beats me up gives me stiches and tetnus shots, scars and bites the children mean if they dont pet her right enough fast enough and with out warning beats them up and goes right back to purring.
i have a soft bug out bag for her to come along prepacked with food and little watering bowl.
if she ends up being too dangerous, im gonna have to loose or eat her. but first ill do what i can to protect her mean ass.
Another user posted a video of his dogs who apparently know the command “let’s bug out.”
Another user commented with a photo of a puppy in a hotdog bun, saying “ If you’re starving in a SHTF world, pets will come in very useful..” (SHTF, in case you couldn’t work that one out, means “shit hits the fan.”)
Another thread is all about which dog would be best in a prepper situation. The poster writes “We have some unique family needs for a dog. Right now our Boxer/Lab mix isn’t cutting it. She was supposed to fill the shoes of our Catahoula/Aussie Shep mix and apparently that was a taller order than I originally appreciated.” In the thread, people debate the pros and cons of a Mastiff. Pros: Very loyal, strong, fierce. Cons: require a lot of food and water.
There’s a thread on which kibble lasts the longest, in which one comment points out that “dog’s will eat their own vomit.. doubt they will complain about the food..” and threads about which backpack is best for which dog. There are posts on how to train your dog to pull a cart, and on which flea and tick and heart worm meds are the best for long term survival. And there are a lot of jokes about eating dogs.
My dog has caught and killed NYC rats and squirrels while on a leash. I think she’d do just fine catching her own food. And god would she be delighted to finally be able to eat something she killed, instead of having me freak out and take it from her. We actually do have a camping backpack for her, which we use to load her up with groceries from the farmer’s market when we’re not hiking. I think Moro would do quite well. Better than me, probably. And call me a softie (Pat certainly would), but I will not be killing and eating my dog no matter how much SHTF.
Top image: Moro with her backpack.