The Thundershirt test: A WAFF 48 News special report - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

The Thundershirt test: A WAFF 48 News special report

Cookie sleeps through storms while wearing her Thundershirt. Cookie sleeps through storms while wearing her Thundershirt.

Does your dog go "ape" at the first clap of thunder, when lightning lights up your living room or rain hits the roof? Maybe your dog is just overly anxious about life in general? Maybe they just freak out at loud noises like when you turn on a household appliance like a blender or vacuum? If you are looking for a doggie-downer that doesn't include medication, it may just be an article of clothing away.

It's called Thundershirt. Its' a $36 tight-fitting sweater that claims to apply gentle pressure to a dog's body. But could it live up to its claims of soothing my savage beast? I took it to my own quirky and kooky cocker spaniel named Cookie to find out.

[Thundershirt online]

Cookie panics when she senses bad weather. She can smell a storm coming miles away. I've always said that she's my personal "doggie Doppler."

At the first sign of bad weather, Cookie paces and pants and runs around like her life is being threatened. We tried crating her for her own safety, but she bore a hole in the metal bars of her crate. We've held her, but it wasn't enough. We tried to maintain calm in bad weather and she didn't buy it.

She wanted some kind of reassurance that she was going to be okay. I suppose when we couldn't give that to her, she eventually got mad and got even. She ate many of my shoes.

We had just about exhausted our choices when we heard of Thundershirt. Medication didn't work because it was difficult to medicate Cookie before the storm hit. By the time it kicked in, the storm had passed.

Thundershirt made sense to me. It's designed to swaddle. Human babies are calmed and comforted by that secure feeling. Many people get a sense of well-being from acupressure, so I thought maybe this would work in a similar manner. I didn't know until I tried, and for $36 with a 100-percent money back guarantee, I had nothing to lose. I slipped it on Cookie and waited.

It didn't take long for the bad weather to roll in or for the Thundershirt to take affect. Within five minutes she was cool, calm and collected, and I had given her no medication.

It was still working 20 minutes later. She was not anxious. Could this shirt really be working  or was it just me thinking it was working? I checked the Thundershirt website for testimonials. I checked Facebook. I talked to friends, including Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard, a veterinarian and the Huntsville Animal Services Director.

She had heard about Thundershirt and was so convinced by its claims that she bought one for her dog, Thistle. Thistle is an older standard poodle who's terrified of loud noises.

Dr. Sheppard said so far, so good. The shirt seems to be working for Thistle. Dr. Sheppard said either way she wins. If someone says the shirt isn't working on their dog, there's a money back guarantee and all those returned shirts go to animal shelters like the one she runs to help skittish pets there.

Behavioral problems are a top reason for pet owners to turn in their animals, so this has the potential to actually save relationships and lives if it works. And for Cookie, it seems to be working.

On the day I testing the Thundershirt , a deluge started outside, hail pounded my house and the wind even ripped off  aluminum from the apex of my roof. While we were out watching the weather and then assessing the damage, where did we find Cookie? On the couch, peacefully slumbering in her Thundershirt. She slept through the whole thing.

You can order the Thundershirt online or locally at Goin To The Dogs and Cats Pet Supply in Five Points.

Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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