KENNETT SQUARE – When a store loses power, it usually shuts its doors down and just loses a day of business. But when it comes to Paws & Claws Pet Store, there was a lot more at stake.
When the power went out from the ice storm, there was more than just concern over the air temperature for owner George Treisner, but also the rapidly dropping water temperature in the fish tanks.
“We lost power for about 15 hours,” he said. “When I got here around 7 [a.m.], it was off for a while already. What do you do? I didn’t have any idea at first.”
This was a whole new experience for the owner. He’s faced power outages during thunderstorms before, but never had to worry about cold temperatures during the summertime.
So Treisner drove to the nearest Lowe’s to try and find anything to help him keep the store and animals warm and he stumbled upon something unexpected.
“It was whatever I could find at Lowe’s,” Treisner said. “They’re already getting ready for spring, so all their heating stuff had been put away except for a few things. But they did have grills out.”
And what he found among the grills was a fish fryer.
He peeled labels off water bottles, cleaned them and using propane he already had, he boiled the water with the fish fryer and placed the hot bottles in the cold fish tanks.
Treisner constantly cycled through the bottles, switching them out about every 10 minutes with a fresh one out of the fryer.
“It worked well with everything except the one warm-water fish tank that I have,” he said. “That was the one where I lost a lot of the fish. I managed to keep [the temperature] in the high 60s, but they’re usually in the mid-80s.”
For the other animals, Treisner didn’t have to be quite as creative since many of them can survive as long as it didn’t fall below freezing, but he did use some different methods with them to keep them just as warm.
Ricky, a green Amazon parrot, was put into a smaller cage which would fit in his car. He was joined by the snakes in the store, which he placed in pillowcases and then into a box, and by the lizards placed inside the transport boxes.
“I kept the heater going and kept the car on for about 45 minutes and then turn it off for a half hour or so,” Treisner said. “I had the music in the car going and Ricky really seemed to be happy in there listening to it and staying warm.
“I did that for hours and didn’t even notice the gas gauge going down much. Cars are so efficient now.”
The smaller birds, such as the parakeets, had their cages wrapped in blankets with heated bottles in the bottoms of the cages. Everyone else who had fur was hanging in just fine in the store.
“The amphibians I kept in their cages with the hot water bottles,” Treisner said. “I didn’t want them to dry out in the heat of the car.”
Amazingly, all the animals – except for the few warm water ones fish – made it through the frigid ordeal.
“If it had been longer [without power], I don’t know what I would have done,” Treisner said. “As long as I kept the water bottles going through the fish tanks, everybody would be okay.”
He spent the early morning by himself in the store, but was joined shortly after by his daughter and another employee to help out.
Power was restored to Paws & Claws around 5 p.m., sparing Treisner the fear of facing a very cold night with the animals.
But even that wasn’t quite as worrisome after seeing the amount of support from the community.
“We had a lot of people on Facebook volunteering to take the animals if needed,” Treisner said. “People with power who lived not that far away would have taken them if it had gone on too long.”
Now that he has gone through it all, Treisner says he is better prepared in case it was to ever happen again.
“The next thing I did was get an indoor propane heater – one that is designed for RVs so that you can run it indoors,” he said. “Next time, we’ll set it up back with the fish and a 20-pound can can keep it running for three of four days.”