Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The 4th of July and Dog Safety: A Personal Account

So it is that time of year again, the time where two of my dogs live in my closet for the next couple of weeks because of the nightly fireworks. Do not get me wrong, I LOVE a good fireworks display but that makes me in turn responsible for keeping my dogs safe. I found out the hard way that my Tyson was terrified of fireworks the first 4th of July we had him. The neighbor's display started early and lasted for about 2 hours. The whole time Tyson was on lock-down in the bathroom, drooling, panting and shaking uncontrollably. Once it was all clear, it was time to let the dogs out to potty. The fireworks had been done for a couple hours so I thought it was safe. After being in the yard for about 2 minutes the neighbor's decided to continue with the show. As soon as the first boom hit Tyson ran, scaling my 5ft fence and was gone. I was frantic. I looked for hours trying to find my baby and could not find him anywhere. I finally gave up my search for the night and went home to cry myself to sleep. At about 4 a.m. I let the rest of the dogs out only to find that Tyson had climbed the fence back into the yard and was hiding under my deck. I have never been so happy, I have never been so lucky.

Working in a shelter for the past 8 years, I have seen the
numerous pets that are lost around the 4th never to be found again. Dog after dog come through the door, scared, lost and not knowing what happened. You have to be proactive when you own a dog during this time as it can be life or death for many.

After that night I almost lost Tyson forever, we have a ritual for the weeks around the 4th. No one is outside without a leash, no matter if fireworks are going off or not. I speak to my neighbors to ask when they think they will be setting off their display, so I can have my guys down in the basement in their covered crates. I approach my neighbors as friendly as I can as everyone is allowed to celebrate the 4th and this is not something to create neighbor wars over. Your neighbors could surprise you and be more sympathetic then you had thought. All of my neighbors understand and have no problem keeping me in the loop as they love my dogs as well. It is a good idea to have a radio playing, or tv on loud so that the noises can be drowned out as well. I also give my guys their most favorite treat in the world to bribe them to enjoy the night. Once they are in their crates for the fireworks displays, I leave them alone. Many times dogs will become even more anxious if you show more attention when they are scared. Many take this as a confirmation that there is something to be scared of.

There are also the type of dogs who really, really like fireworks. These are the types of dogs that will chase the sparks, chase the popping, and put themselves in danger-- not knowing that what they are doing could cause severe burns. Many people find it funny to watch a dog chase the sparks, but it actually is quite dangerous and the pets should be safely contained behind doors to ensure their safety.

If your dog has severe anxiety, I strongly suggest you talk with your veterinarian as there are medications that can be used to help calm/sedate your best friend. There is no reason for everyone in the home to be miserable.

The 4th of July is about celebrating, having fun, and having a day off from work. We all want to take the time to relax. We just have to help our four-leggeds out in relaxing sometimes. So have fun this year and keep those pitties safe!

~ J. Teal

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