Companion animals are highly individual in their response to noises - and they can readily perceive so many more sounds than we humans can.
To even the faintest chirp of a distant neighbor’s failing smoke detector, our Lilly, the Boston terrier, trembles, sputters and paces like I did while studying for finals in grad school. She also recoils to a car backfiring and bristles to the hydraulic lift of the garbage truck.
Fireworks, on the other hand, don’t phase her. For the past four years, we’ve brought her to our favorite neighborhood park in Burbank to watch streams of color splay in the skies above the Starlight Bowl on the Fourth of July.
Many pets, however, cannot bear the loud popping and abrasive whistling of the rocket’s red glare. Our welcome celebration of “freedom” may be a bombast of peril from which our pet cannot escape fast enough.
Some may hunker down at home by diving under a bed or shimmying between two kitchen appliances that emit harmonic - and soothing - white noise. Others may be so shaken that they crash through closed window screens, scale backyard fences or bolt out the front door the second we open it. Some will keep running - too many will get lost.
At about this same time each year, many animal advocates make an “empty-the-shelters” push to accommodate the anticipated influx of unidentified pets spooked far from home by fireworks. Scores of selfless pet-lovers take in shelter pets “red tagged” for destruction while attempts are made to locate the parents of pets who fled from home. Sometimes, days pass before people realize that their pet is missing.
Of course, we would love for people to continue to foster and adopt shelter pets (especially those whose time is running out) even when no new influx of shelter pets is expected. So that we don’t add to the number of animals housed in cold cages - perhaps never reunited with their parents - a few steps are in order:
- Determine whether or not fireworks spook your pet. If it is your first shared 4th of July, consider staying home and making yourself available to comfort him as necessary. Depending on where you live, there may be plenty of opportunities to gauge your pet’s reaction to the snaps, crackles and pops from neighbors setting off illegal fireworks.
- Signs of distress are obvious. Downplay your reaction and offer gentle verbal reassurance. If this fails, try wrapping her in a ThunderShirt or administering a holistic calming agent such as Rescue Remedy.
- Camp the family out at a distant spot from the light show and enjoy from afar. Decibel levels dissipate exponentially the further away you get from the source of noise - and you might actually decide that you prefer having a private, little party! As always, be attentive to your pet’s reaction and be prepared to bug out if the sights and sounds are too much for him.
- Never, NEVER forcibly try to acclimate your pet to loud, noxious noises! Is is one thing to use an aversive sound - such as coins rattling in a glass jar - to train unwanted behaviors out of a dog. It is quite another to subject her to sounds you know she finds disturbing. This is tantamount to torture!
- No matter how much the kids plead, do NOT purchase fireworks and set them off at home.
- If you’re hell-bent on going to a fireworks show, have a trusted friend pet-sit and follow the steps noted above. You may ultimately decide that it’s more important to stay home and watch the spectacle on your big screen.
- Be sure that your pet is microchipped and that you update the information upon moving. Same with name tags on collars which your pet should wear at all times.
Ultimately, celebrations of freedom mean nothing if our furry family member is miserable - or missing.