It used to be that when July rolled around, I’d head out of town — not to go visit friends and do the whole fireworks and BBQ thing, but to go to get away from all that. My old Airedale, Joe, was deathly rattled by loud bangs, and we had to flee the beach area where we live because it’s a magnet for fireworks starting a few days before Fourth of July.
On the years we couldn’t get out of town, Joe was beyond miserable. He would tremble, pant, hide, and even drool — often all at once. It was terrible to behold, and I’m sure much worse to be him.
We tried a dose of doggy Valium one year, at the vet’s recommendation, but all it did was make him a little tired; the trembling and other symptoms of distress were still there, just in a very groggy dog who now couldn’t get up and bolt under a bed. (This was in the time before helpful tools like Thundershirts and Through a Dog’s Ear CDs. For some helpful tips on getting a dog through July 4 fairly unscathed, read my article “10 Tips to Help Your Dog Get Through July 4th,” as well as Casey Lomonaco’s “Don’t Let Fireworks Ruin Your Dog’s Fourth of July.”
Because of Joe’s condition, I could never go anywhere with friends during the Fourth. Early July was lockdown time at our house, at least at night. I’m not big on fireworks, anyway, so that wasn’t bad. But the suffering it caused the poor guy was painful to watch.
Enter Jake, the yellow Lab we adopted after Joe went to the big beach in the sky (sans fireworks). He is Joe’s opposite in the noise arena. Fireworks? Ho-hum. Jake doesn’t blink a blond eyelash. Nothing rattles this guy. We even sometimes end up on boats or yachts my husband drives on July 4 in the San Francisco Bay, and we never think twice about leaving Jake on his own at home. When we arrive back, he hops off his chair, does a long downward-dog stretch, yawns, and is the same guy we left.
Some 20 percent of dogs suffer from noise phobias so severe that their people seek out help from a pro, according to the book Canine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians. Sometimes those sounds are as commonplace as doors shutting and trash disposals whirring. But most of the dogs in this category have fear of the big bangs like thunder and fireworks.
That means that a ton of Dogster readers are probably staying home with their dogs tonight. We’d love to hear from you. Tell us what you’ll be doing, and how you’ll be helping your dog get through this holiday. Do you feel isolated, or are you happy to chill with your dog? Any tips on how others can help their dogs who hate this holiday? And those of you who have mellow dogs: Are you heading out tonight and not worrying a mite about your dog? Is that different from previous experiences with dogs?
Happy Fourth! And if it’s not a happy time around your house, just remember: The Fifth is just around the corner.
Top Photo: Scared dog via Shutterstock.