Welcome to Dog Terror Week. As fireworks sales commence in North Dakota, families who are blessed with dog companions can be divided into two camps: those whose pooches can accompany them to the picnics and Fourth of July festivities with nary a qualm … and the rest of us, who celebrate America’s independence with our quaking hounds drooling under the bed or panting in the back corner of the basement closet.
Our family includes one from each canine camp. Molly, our little old yapdoodle, is the impervious kind, mostly immune to sudden loud noises — whether they come from our neck of the woods (where fireworks are not legal, but you know how that goes) or the towering thunderstorms that have been rattling windows overnight.
And then there’s the dogasaurus. Our kids’ lab-retriever cross Cody, who’s as big as a moderate-size black bear, looks the part of a tough, stalwart hunting companion. He boasts the heart of a bunny.
Like other pets we’ve loved over the years, our grand-dog turns into a quivering mass of canine Jell-O when thunder rolls across the river. The Fourth of July? It could just as well be spelled A-R-M-A-G-E-D-D-O-N.
City laws banning firecrackers and other ignitable bangers do seem to put a damper on this official week of random explosions here in Moorhead, compared to the small-town battlefield racket I remember as a kid — but they’re far, far from a full sound barrier. I suspect the boys of all ages who delight in setting off noisemakers don’t give a thought to the incidental mayhem they cause. They’re just intent on having fun and perhaps attracting a bit of attention — traditional pursuits that are mostly harmless, as long as they look where they’re tossing those mini-explosives.
Not so in homes with sensitive pets. A friend’s black lab, Willy, spends her days cowering under their downstairs desk. Our kids’ Cody shivers and whines in the innermost corners of their house, barely daring to venture outdoors to do his business.
Russ’ and my first dog, the sainted Norwegian elkhound Ole, was so overwhelmed that he once pulled the sliding doors off a closet to hide, drooling and shivering under the blankets stored inside. On another occasion, we located him in the kitchen inside one of the (latched) lower cabinets, seeking solace between the pasta pot and frying pans.
It doesn’t take full-scale pyrotechnics to frighten sensitive furry folk. Former neighbors drove Ole (and us) to distraction by sitting on their front steps shooting puny bottle rockets from 10 in the morning until long after dark, day after day after day.
We tried all the vet-recommended measures. We sheltered him in an interior room booming with classical music. We dispensed with car rides and in-town walks until July 6. We distracted him with toys, treats and attention. Still he nervously dogged our every step around the house. Finally, we resorted to boarding him at an out-of-town kennel for the duration.
The dogasaurus’s folks have tried all the scientific dog-soothing remedies that have been promoted since Ole’s day, from thunder shirts to pheromones and calming scents. None has worked much magic for their big brawny brute … other than a solution Cody himself invented, jumping into the middle of their bed and drooling all over the blankets. This home remedy does enable the dog to catch cat naps, but it does absolutely nothing for his human bedmates’ sleep.
Only one approach has proven reliable — drugging him. The vet prescribes a fairly hefty dose of legal dope to dampen his anxiety. Cody may not quiver as much or whimper around the clock, but the medication leaves him three-quarters comatose, staggering drunkenly until he collapses in the most remote corner to sleep it off.
Dogs, of course, aren’t the only ones who will be alarmed and disquieted by the gunpowder-fueled celebration of the week ahead. Battlefield veterans and victims of trauma who suffer from PTSD may be profoundly affected by the random thoughtless bangs throughout Terror Week. But they can calmly ask their neighbors to be courteous … or, failing that, go camping in the wilderness, or give the fireworks-obsessed an earful, or even call the cops. These veterans recognize what’s upping their anxiety and can take reasonable steps to control it. They’re respected.
Terror-stricken dogs and their families aren’t taken seriously. After all, those four-legged trauma victims are just (just!) our pets.
Please honor the Fourth of July by sidestepping neighborhood sadism. Be kind. There’s plenty of time and space to get a bang out of Independence Day without terrorizing man or beast.