Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Zen Dog in Thundershirt

April 2, 2012

Tags: healing, review

Even though I’ve researched and sampled almost every trauma therapy there is, even though I’ve published stories about some of the amazing new healing modalities, even though I’ve experienced occasional instant releases from fear through EMDR and EFT (see more on these on my Art of Collapsing blog from 2009 and the attached article, Radical Change Through Radical Disruption), I was skeptical that the Thundershirt™ would calm my dog Maya’s terror at thunder, vacuum cleaner, and rain-on-the-roof noises.

“Pressure has been used to successfully reduce anxiety for many years for both animals and humans,” says the package copy. But $43 for a little grey cotton (55 percent), polyester (35 percent), and spandex (10 percent) garment with velcro-attached straps? Despite the fact that I was near-comatose from an all-nighter of futilely trying to wrap myself around Maya as she shook uncontrollably from the noise of rain hitting solid surfaces, I was reluctant to spend so much money. “You can bring it back within 30 days,” said the store clerk. “It works for almost everybody. Just make sure it’s snug.”

When we got home, I tried it on Maya for size and she instantly looked dopey and tried to sit on me. Interesting, I thought. But how will she react when something is actually happening?

The next morning, motivated by the impulse to test the garment, I decided to finally clean my apartment. To be more precise, to vacuum—which usually sends Maya into tremors with panting. Before pulling out the vacuum, I dressed her in the new garment, and again, she got dopey. But at the sound of the vacuum, there it was: instant tremors and panting, running beside me as I attempted to speed-clean. Shit, I thought. But then something interesting happened . . . nothing. Nothing was happening. It stopped. I mean she stopped. She still alertly followed me and the vacuum as we dashed and rolled around the apartment, but the shaking and the panting stopped. Perhaps I wouldn’t be getting that refund after all.

Then last night the rain began. At the first hard patter, as she began to tremble, I reached for the Thundershirt, fastened the straps as snug as they would go, and I waited. Again, it was as if she rewound—her breathing, her blood flow, even the way she looked around the room—it all got very Zen.

Maybe she can’t breathe, I thought. I watched for a few more minutes and determined I was not suffocating my dog. She was merely deep in meditation. And most remarkably, she stayed in that state even after I took the shirt off.

Had I just witnessed instant reprogramming? New research has found that this kind of instantaneous change is possible. I’ve experienced it firsthand by throwing myself different signals through EFT when I’m in the middle of a fear response. I cannot wait for the next rainstorm to see if the change is now hard-wired.

My guess is that Maya will soon be effectively cured of her fears. Soon I will not even need her handsome new shirt with the patent pending. My guess is that there will soon be garments made for people. It’s a zillion-dollar moneymaker. Just think of the uses: undergarments that wrap and hug, clothing liners for everything from dresses to coats that exert calming pressure. Clothes that Calm—I give you the idea, all you fashion entrepreneurs. Make them hip and perhaps we will become a new society of peaceful people. Who knew fashion could be the antidote for anxiety and inane actions?


  1. May 7, 2012 2:52 PM EDT
    Time for an update. Here's what I've discovered after weeks of using the Thundershirt. It works great and fast for smaller anxieties: for us, rain on the roof, loud music played by neighbors, the vacuum cleaner. I've even found that the initial fear to some of those things has diminished so much that I don't need the shirt. For full-out thunderstorms, not so much. But maybe that will come. We had a real test last week, and Maya did shake and pant during the rolling thunder. But eventually she went to sleep. That's a nice thing: she can sleep in the shirt. Another nice thing is that now at least when she gets scared of thunder, I have something I can do to make it somewhat better.
    - Betsy
  2. July 17, 2012 7:03 AM EDT
    And another update. We've had many bad thunderstorms as well as July 4th fireworks since I last reported. Each time, we've used the Thundershirt, and each time Maya has trembled. But last night, there were surprise fireworks. It was hot. I didn't think they'd last long, and Maya wasn't trembling badly, nor was she panting. Yes, she shook a little, but with no Thundershirt, this was a 180 from the former response. Conclusion: Thundershirt desensitization is working. It's just taken a really long time and consistency.
    - Betsy Robinson
  3. July 29, 2012 7:35 AM EDT
    Thank you for your description of your dog Maya and the Thundershirt! We have a life jacket for our dog on our boat which looks similar and she too relaxes on the boat now too! I may just try it for home use on our dog during thunderstorms!
    There are pressure or weighted vests for autistic children that are very similar too and are used for calming purposes.
    - Judy Abrams
  4. July 29, 2012 10:18 AM EDT
    Thanks, Judy. I'm glad if this was helpful. One other interesting detail: Maya WANTS to wear the shirt when she's scared. She'll start trembling when the thunder is approaching. I ask, "Do you want to wear your Thundershirt." And she races into position to have it put on her.
    - Betsy Robinson

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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