In the U.S. Independence Day, more commonly referred to as The Fourth of July, is a pretty big deal. It’s the official date that our country (though not our present form of government) started and it’s also in the middle of summer and a great time for a party!
In years past I’ve gone to cookouts, and fireworks shows, and enjoyed them as much as an introvert can enjoy large crowds and loud noises. Then I got a dog. With their far more sensitive hearing, dogs enjoy fireworks shows about as much as humans enjoy being repeatedly struck on the back of the head with a meat mallet. Since Hershey came into my life in 2010 I haven’t been to see fireworks once. I still go to family cookouts, eat, visit, and hightail it back home before dark when the fireworks start.
Where I live, in one of the most drought stricken parts of California, it is inexplicably possible to buy fireworks from stands that pop up on vacant lots the week before the Fourth. This allows families all around the neighborhood to have their own fireworks displays so they can enjoy Independence Day and mess with the mental health of local animals. This is tradition for many people and so, since getting dogs, I have had to come up with traditions of our own.
Tradition One: I’m always there for them. When it gets dark and the fireworks and firecrackers start up, I’m at home to be their rock. We are the cornerstones of our dogs’ lives and during what could be the worst night of the year for them, I feel that mine need me to guide them.
Tradition Two: Stay calm. When the noise starts I don’t react. I don’t show annoyance or get upset. Dogs have had 20,000 years to get to know us, and by this time they can read us like two-legged, hairless books. If they see that I’m not bothered by all the noise outside, they know they don’t have to be either.
Tradition Three: Hibernation. When things really get going outside, we take our evening to the bedroom. I close the door, we settle in, and I do something calm and ordinary like reading a book. They lay on the bed, and doze.
Tradition Four: Music. I play something light, and about middle volume to help muffle the outside noise.
All this seems to work! Hershey has been calm during fireworks every year I’ve had her. Graham was a little concerned the first year, but following these traditions his ears might perk up a little when things start but after that he’s as calm as Hershey.
Last year was Marsha’s first time, and it was effecting her. She was one solid tremble, but she came up with a tradition of her own. She snuggled under the covers and after that she was fine!
What do you do to help your dogs through this difficult day? What days in other countries are the worst for dogs? I’d love to know!
(Oh, anyone wondering about my cats should know that they barely register that the outside exists and have never shown any distress over fireworks! Maybe this has even helped with the dogs!)