The Unsolicited Endorsement: Thundershirt

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The Thundershirt makes Fen a normal dog, sometimes. (Photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)
The Thundershirt makes Fen a normal dog, sometimes. (Photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

by Sayaka Matsuoka

It’s like having a child.

At 22 I may be a little young to have my own child but having a dog feels like basically the same thing. Except my child is louder, stronger, messier and way more destructive than any baby or toddler could be. My boyfriend and I used to wake up every day around 6 or 7 a.m. to the whining of my 1-year-old shepherd mix. We would push each other out of bed, fighting to be the one to get to stay under the covers.

Fen used to jump on us as soon as we walked in the door, easily knocking the wind out of our chests. He would bark at any passing blur of motion outside or any slight sound that passed his ears.

We would tell people that Fen wasn’t a dog so much as a tornado trapped in a dog’s body.

This was all before we found the miracle that is the Thundershirt.

We used to pass it on the shelves of Petsmart every time we checked out. It looked ridiculous. Who would actually pay $40 for some fabric and velcro? How could a simple shirt work such impossible wonders?

It was about two weeks ago when we had been woken up for the 10th straight day in a row by Fen’s incessant crying.

“That’s it! I’m buying the stupid Thundershirt! I’ll try anything,” my boyfriend said desperately.

The shirt is supposed to mimic the comforting feeling of being held tightly like swaddling a baby. The fabric applies a little pressure to their upper body, causing pets to feel at ease and generally less anxious.

As soon as we wrapped the Thundershirt on Fen, he stopped moving.

“Fen? How do you like it buddy?” I asked him. He looked up at me from the corner of his eyes without moving his head. We walked from the kitchen to the living room but Fen stayed glued to the linoleum. After calling a couple of times, he finally appeared from the hallway, sad-eyed but calm.

Have you seen the videos of cats with socks on? That’s what Fen was like. He didn’t want to move. After 10 minutes of this awkward new physical reality, Fen began moving around again and eventually laid on the hardwood floor. Five minutes later he was asleep. My boyfriend and I exchanged looks of awe. Now it has been two weeks and the effects still amaze us. He’s been waking up with us ever since we bought the Thundershirt and according to the website, sometimes the effects of the shirt happen even when pets aren’t wearing it.

Plus, it’s based in Durham.

How’s that for killing two birds with one stone?