As I write this, I am 7 years into my business as a dog sitter. I’ve been staying in owner’s homes (away from my family and own dogs since 2014). Although I only went full time this year, I have never had an experience actually frighten me to my core before enduring Hurricane Ida on September 1st of 2021.
If you just want to hear of my experience with Hurricane Ida in a light-hearted way, shared by me 24 hours after its occurrence, feel free to watch the 3+ minute video below. Otherwise, you can keep scrolling for the:
I was staying over in a home in Horsham, PA with two dogs. It was a new client of mine, a very laid back and accommodating family. They said on any day you have prior engagements (personal or business) feel free to bring Minnie to daycare. They added you can leave our other dog at home since she mostly sleeps all day anyways.
I dropped Minnie off at daycare. Then, completed two dog walking services before heading home to work on planning out the office wall in my home. My friend Maria (another entrepreneur) came over and helped me plan out the shelving that would work best. Then, we ordered shelves on IKEA.com to be picked up tomorrow (so we thought).
I had to pick up Minnie from daycare so when Maria went home, I headed out to do that. Because Maria and I bought a shelf from Target just for reference and we were done with it, I stopped there first and returned that. Then, wandered into the new Amazon Fresh in the same parking lot to grab something quick for dinner since I would just be relaxing at Minnie and Coco’s for the night.
Just some casual shopping during the pre-hurricane hour (which I was completely unaware of).
I made it to Minnie’s doggie daycare around 5:40 to pick up Minnie. My old coworkers (since I used to manage this doggie daycare) were all in the office. This tipped off to me that I may have been the last one to pick up. When I asked if that was the case, they said I was the last to pick up.
The last person picked up 20 minutes ago, but most people started picking up around 4 because of Hurricane Ida. I had heard things here and there about residual rain but nothing too crazy. I was surprised that daycare cleared out so fast.
When I tried to leave with Minnie, the general manager said “I wouldn’t leave, Heather.” When I asked “Why?” She said there is a tornado warning. I thought to myself, “We get those all the time and nothing ever happens.”
I shared that I only have to go 5 minutes up the street.
“Minnie lives in the neighborhood off Babylon Rd.”
That’s when Kim said “That’s where the tornado is supposed to hit and in 5 minutes.”
I hadn’t received any texts or warnings about Hurricane Ida or the tornado so I just assumed she was being extra cautious. I appreciated her concern but I picked up Minnie and said “I’ll see you guys later; drive safe” and ran through the rain to my car.
I started driving and I thought to myself “See, it can’t be too bad. There are still other people on the road.”
All at once, I realized that every single car I had seen since leaving doggie daycare was driving towards me / away from Babylon Rd. I started getting worried thinking, “Are they trying to get out of dodge before it gets bad?”
All of a sudden it got really dark. I turned onto Babylon Rd. All at once, it felt like I was the only person in the whole town. Wind picked up big time and I kept thinking “Stay cool. You’re almost there. You’re almost there.”
I couldn’t see 5 feet ahead of me, it was like the rain was circling around me. My brain went “Oh my god, what if I can’t see a tornado because Hurricane Ida is also going on?”
Because of how little I could see ahead of me, it wasn’t untiI I was 5 feet away that I could see there was a huge tree blocking access to the rest of Babylon Rd. I put myself in reverse, still trying to remain calm. There was one single car behind me. I was about to start backing up to give him them memo. Then, a tree just as big as the one ahead of fell behind him.
We were trapped and it felt as if Hurricane Ida had just escalated.
Limbs of trees and trees themselves started hurling themselves at my car.
Knowing I couldn’t keep moving forward towards my dog sitting house left me with no distraction.
I am in full blown panic mood.
As a reminder it was a valid time for panic, lightning struck down a few feet from the driver’s side of my car. It cracked and bustled there for what felt like 5 whole seconds.
My car started rocking back and forth viciously. The two drivers side wheels would be off the ground. Then, the two passenger side tires would be off the ground. And then all 4 for a second, then back to two on either side. My Dodge Durango was putty in this tornado’s hands.
At this point, I called Jack. I think I wanted to get some mechanical advice on what is the best thing to do to keep your car on the ground during a tornado. However, it came out as “What do I do? What do I do? AHHHHHH. I’m so scared.” He started screaming back because I couldn’t hear him trying to talk to me over my own screams and how loud this Hurricane Ida / tornado combo was over my car. He yelled “Where are you?” “I don’t know” was all I could say because my mind wasn’t in a place of logistics at the moment. I then told him I was trying to get to Minnie and Coco’s. He has never been there so that didn’t help either. He asked for the address 3 times before I could think to do what he was asking.
My hands were shaking so bad (something I didn’t realize until Jack asked me to use my fine motor skills). It took me 3 times as long to do the simple task of copy and pasting an address.
The world around me was unsettling, lonely, & unrecognizable. I found this video a week after Hurricane Ida ripped through here. It’s from the dash cam of the tractor trailer that was picked up and blown over in Maple Glen down Norristown Rd from where I was. This is EXACTLY what it looked & felt like around me for reference.
I was practically cry-begging Jack not to come to me. I didn’t want him driving through a tornado but I later found out that Warrington was only really hit with the hurricane so there was only major flooding. Although I wanted him to stay home and safe, a part of me was thinking:
“Just stay alive for 10 minutes and then someone else will do all the work of fixing this.”
While we were on the phone, the car that was stuck behind me started to drive past me.
At this point it seemed as though the worst of the storm was ahead of us now. I thought to myself “Where does he think he’s going? No part of the road is drivable.”
And just like that this guy jumped the curb and arched around the tip of the tree in the front lawn of the house it fell in front of.
I asked Jack to stop driving towards me. I was in a bigger car than the guy who just passed me so I did the same.
Sorry to the 2nd and 3rd front lawn I had to drive through to finally get to one of the entrances to Minnie and Coco’s neighborhood.
It was a mess.
It was still pouring at this point, like Hurricane-type pouring. After being in the midst of the actual tornado during Hurricane Ida, I was just happy to be alive and kept trucking.
My trek through a tornado was finished; I made it to Minnie and Coco’s house. Frantically, since it was still pouring, I got out of the car and ran to the garage door opener. I tried to put the code in as quickly as I could because I was already soaked. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. The power’s out and the only way I had to get into this house was the garage code.
I called Coco & Minnie’s dad to get further instructions. Although difficult, I tried to keep as cool a composure as I could. The fact that I was yelling over the monsoon of rain to hear him was a big giveaway.
He told me there was a house key with his neighbors across the street. I drove over and saw they already had the front door open waiting for me. I ran right in.
Because they knew I was obviously driving during Hurricane Ida, they asked me a few questions. They said it was brutal even just being in their house during it.
I talked to them for 2 minutes or so and then ran back to my car. My jeans were so soaked from that 10 seconds of running in the rain that they looked like leather pants.
Once Minnie and all my stuff was in the house, I called:
Once I had finished all of those calls, the realization started to sink in that there is no power and the sun is going down.
About an hour after Minnie and Coco’s dad and I talked on the phone and a bit of texting about the damage, he asked me “Are you okay to stay? I’m not sure how you are feeling?”
I wanted to text back that I would love to go home with my family, but I understand the compromises that come with being an in-home dog sitter; you can’t just go cuddle up in your own bed after a bad day.
I just feel very lonely, in a dark home after a hurricane / tornado while my family is:
It would be no secret to say I wish I was there with them. I texted him back “I’m definitely a little stressed / still shaken up.”
As the conversation continued I added “Even if I didn’t stay tonight while there’s no power (ONLY if that was okay with you), I would still take care of Coco & Minnie through the end of your vacation. Let me know your thoughts or questions or requests. I will do whatever is best for you guys.”
He texted back “Give me a minute- I’m not sure how my dogs will do with no one home all night.”
Then one minute later wrote back “Apparently people can’t get in and out because of the power lines. My friend that lives two doors down was not allowed to drive into the neighborhood.”
Any inkling of “Maybe I’ll get to go home tonight” was gone. Now I was hoping for a miracle to make the idea of sleeping in someone else’s home with no power, no lights, and no contact out of the house less anxiety inducing.
Minnie and Coco’s dad texted me back saying “Would you feel better if we had power?”
I was getting ready to text back “Of course, but how would you be able to get power?” but then he texted again saying “I’m with a neighbor who lives on the corner and he has power.”
Every single house in this neighborhood is without power except for one house. One house in this neighborhood has power. To my amazement, it’s owned by a family that is currently on vacation with my dog sitting family.
What are the odds.
I didn’t question them. Minnie and Coco’s Dad told me the address. He said that they have a puppy as well so there are baby gates up to be able to stay in the family room. They can unlock the door remotely and have me come in through the garage door.
All I would need for the dogs is their food and Minnie’s crate.
It all sounded great except that I can’t put hands on Coco.
“Just feed her, let her out, and let her be during my stay” was my instructions for Coco’s care. They know the only person she likes is the dad, but now I would need to transport her. I can’t pick her up and put her in the car so Minnie and Coco’s dad told me to just drive all my stuff over. Then, get a leash and collar on her and walk her down to the house about 4 doors down.
That was the plan so I packed up what I needed. I grabbed 6 Ziplocs and a sharpie. Then, I measured out and prepared Minnie & Coco’s food to eliminate having to bring their entire food containers.
I packed up my car with all my things and Minnie. We headed over to the only house with power (still can’t believe my luck).
When we got to the neighbor’s house, I:
I leashed up Coco and ran through the rain to get Coco to the neighbor’s house.
I texted Minnie and Coco’s dad around 8:20 saying “We’re all here.”
He sent me a picture off of the Horsham Township Twitter page saying:
I texted back saying “Have you ever had to shelter in place before? How long does it usually last for?”
He texted back “This has never happened to me.”
He then wrote “Do you think we should come back early?” Do you want to check in the AM? I’m not sure what your other clients are doing.”
I said “It’s totally up to you guys. Will this generator die before you guys are due to come home?”
He wrote back “ It’s natural gas so it stays on indefinitely. I need one of those but I didn’t want to spend the money on it.”
I texted back “I totally get that! After this storm, I know for certain I’m going to get one for my future home. Scariest day of my life.”
He wrote back “I can’t believe you drove through that! I’m really sorry you experienced that.”
I spent my night scrolling through Facebook saving pictures of videos of the:
The pictures are a marvel on their own. The videos are what really make the severity real.
I can’t believe how bad we got hit. I went to bed so thankful to be alive. And to have power so I could have the TV on so I didn’t feel so alone after a scary day.
I spent my day fixing up both backyards / patios at both houses I’ve stayed at during my stay with Minnie & Coco. It took me about 3 hours collectively to get their back patios back to relatively normal.
I tried to leave through Babylon Rd at one point just to see if I could. However, every single tree and powerline was down from last night, making it impossible to turn left or right.
Later in the day, Minnie and Coco’s dad informed me that they would be coming home tonight. I spent my day cleaning up the neighbor’s house and getting Minnie and Coco’s things back into their own home.
Around 6 PM, I was able to leave their home through the industrial park beside the neighborhood. I made sure to do so after thanking Minnie and Coco for the most eventful dog sitting experience I’ve ever had.
It was found out that Babylon Rd was one of the worst affected areas during Hurricane Ida.
Minnie and Coco’s dad sent me this video that Peco had taken above Babylon Rd.
I was on this road as trees were hurling and powerlines were falling like dominos.
I am eternally grateful with each new piece of data that comes out proving the severity of this storm.
After he sent me this video, curiosity got the best of me.
I decided to drive by the entrance of Babylon where I had entered just a few days ago in the height of the storm. I was already on Babylon Rd as these lines and road posts were falling just behind me.
So, there it is. The scariest experience I have ever endured as a in-home dog sitter. And as a human being quite honestly.
Just a little blog post to remind you to be grateful for dog sitters.
I had no choice but to keep forging through Hurricane Ida / tornado to keep the dogs in my care safe.
Not all heroes wear capes; some wear dog hair.
Breed: Aussie Shepherds, Blue Heelers, Long-Haired Dachshunds
Owner: Open-Minded, Fun-Loving, & Involved
Treat: Macaroons & Pumpkin Pie
Trick: Finding gems at the thrift store, the Rubix Cube, & making friends anywhere