I love fireworks. But I don’t usually attend 4th of July displays — I stay home to hold my dogs’ paw.
Sure, fireworks are spectacular. Visually, I mean. I don’t get the big noise thing, thing. I can understand that a good BOOOOM scares off evil spirits. It’s just not a pleasant sound. At least we humans understand what’s going on (well, some of us). What the heck do animals think?
Whatever it is, it’s not good. Because more pets go missing during July 4 weekends than at any other time of year. Animal control official’s nationwide see a 30 percent increase in missing pets right after the holiday.
I think I’ve seen maybe three or four fireworks displays in my adult life – at least the years I’ve shared my home with dogs and other companion animals.
While friends head out to watch the pyrotechnics, I head for the bunker, or whatever’s lowest and most sound-resistant in the house or place I’m visiting.
I turn up the TV, sing, whatever. Armed with Greenies, toys and other in-the-end useless distractions, we prepare for the anti-celebration. Nothing really works. All we can do is tough it out. I’m actually a little afraid of fireworks myself. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, we all knew the legend of that neighborhood boy with one hand – the other blown off when he was playing with (you guessed it), fireworks. I never saw the boy, and I was glad.
I’ve often feared my own dogs would suffer physically from just the sound. I remember Benji, four pounds of Chihuahua fierceness, would hear one BOOM and become one small ball of fear. His tongue would unfurl as he panted and — this was the frightening thing — it just keep on unfurling. Rolling out like a little pink roll of toilet paper that had fallen off its roller. It was, well, inhuman – incanine. Like, possessed. I feared the supernatural unraveling. I feared what might happen when he tried to roll it back in.
My late dog Sadie used to tremble nonstop for hours. If she wasn’t under the bed, she was trying to squeeze under, or behind, me. Heat radiated from her so violently that I’d be sweating. No matter where she hid, she shook, even as I tried to physically get her to be still. All I could do was pray the booming ended before her heart gave out.
The most memorable fireworks episode was long ago when I lived in Tucson. I had, silly me, gone off to see fireworks without my two dogs. I returned to find the front windows broken and the curtains hanging out of them and trailing along the ground outside like, well, I didn’t know it back then, but like Benji’s tongue.
The dogs were in the back yard, not a scratch on them, thankfully, but no doubt the sound of all that glass breaking made the evening that much scarier.
Here are some suggestions from veterinarians on how to keep your critters calm – or at least safe – during fireworks season – whether near or far from home.
- Remove anything your dog (or cat) could destroy or that would be harmful if chewed.
- Keep them active all day so they’ll be dog-tired and less antsy by the time the night and the fireworks roll around.– Create a sheltered and quiet area with their favorite bed or their crate (if they feel at home in it).
- Provide lots of water: stressed animals pant and get thirstier.
- Put on the TV or play music
- Check with your vet to see if they recommend herbs or prescription meds for calming fear and anxiety.
- Don’t bring your dog to a fireworks display, or leave him in the car while you watch the fireworks – BTW don’t leave them in the car EVER EVER in the summer.
- Don’t leave your dog alone in the yard on the Fourth of July weekend. He or she could freak over even the random firecracker being set off in the neighborhood, and bolt.– Don’t chain your dog, either – it could act as a snare, or a noose…
- If you’re traveling to a destination specifically to see fireworks, leave the dog in the hotel room – with someone they know. Bring Fido’s crate for an extra measure of familiarity.
- If you’re traveling and you just happen to be visiting when there are fireworks, either spend the evening somewhere out of earshot (way out) or prepare to hunker down in the hotel with Lassie on the TV and the air conditioner cranking.
- Make sure your buddy is wearing his or her ID tag. Better yet, get them microchipped — especially if you’re traveling. Just in case they bolt, you have a better chance of finding them.