Fireworks & Frightened Animals

I am happy to report that the 4th of July is over for another year. I used to like that holiday since it’s all about getting together with friends and family, grilling things, and there’s no religious connotation or exchanging of gifts.

For my non-American friends, The 4th of July is an American holiday that commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. For 246 years, Americans have celebrated the founding of the United States of America with beer, hotdogs, and fireworks.

I live in California, a state with a perpetual drought where all fireworks are illegal except for the big permitted displays like at Universal Studios just down the street from me. You would never know that fireworks are illegal though since everyone and their drunken brother in Los Angeles shoots fire into the sky on and around the 4th of July.

For the past eleven years, I’ve hated Independence Day. I dread its coming starting at the end of May when my neighbors begin randomly shooting off fireworks. Happy Tuesday! BOOM! For the second dog in a row, I’ve celebrated America’s independence with all the windows closed comforting a terrified, shaking beast.

Even before I had a terrified dog though, I never really enjoyed fireworks. I don’t understand the appeal of things that you just stare at like fireworks or parades. One year, I went down to Long Beach to watch the fireworks display there. My friends and I carried about 50 pounds of tackle roughly three miles from my friend’s house to get a spot on the beach. We stood there looking at the sky, then we carried about 30 pounds of stuff back. Other than hanging out with my friends, it wasn’t all that enjoyable. We could have had the same amount of fun at my friend’s house where we started without all the walking and carrying.

I used to drug my previous dog with Valium. It made her so out of it that she didn’t care about fireworks. She just draped herself over my lap (always in my lap) and slept. For 8 years, I spent 4th of July with a drugged dog in my lap. If I moved, she’d panic, so I tried not to move.

When I got my current dog, I hoped she wasn’t afraid of fireworks. Sadly, it turns out that she is even worse than my previous dog. In three years of experimenting, I have not found a single medication that works for her. This is a picture I took last year of her shaking in the bathtub.

That is not a happy dog. A happy person did not take this picture. The white fluff at the bottom of that picture is from a throw pillow I propped against the tub so that I could lie on the bathroom floor with her all night.

Last night, I gave her 5 Trazodone anti-anxiety meds, 6 Acepromazine sedative/tranquilizers, and 3 CBD calming treats. Instead of keeping her in my room since she always digs at the door, I decided to let her have free roam of the house so she could pick where she felt safest.

At first, she was on the stair landing, which seemed like a pretty good spot. I hung out on the landing with her watching videos on my iPad. After one particularly loud bang though, she went downstairs and started digging at the door to the garage as if that would be any better.

Finally, she ended up in the half bath downstairs. I turned on the light which also has a very loud fan. She picked well since the half bath is on the first floor under the stairs in the middle of the house. It really is the best place for firework aversion. She was shaking, but not agitated, until another very loud bang, when she opened the bathroom cabinet, pulled everything out, and tried to climb inside. Unfortunately for her, she is a 75 pound German shepherd mix who will not fit inside a smallish bathroom cabinet. She tried to wedge herself inside anyway. The best she could really manage was the front half. It seemed to help being in the cabinet so I sat on the bathroom floor with her there for another hour or so.

Around 11 pm, it seemed like the fireworks were mostly over with just a pop here and there, so I tried to get her back upstairs. She would not go. I had to half carry her upstairs where she immediately went into the bathtub and finally fell asleep. My neighbors were shooting off fireworks until well after midnight, every single one of them illegal. Grrr.

This morning when I awoke, she was still in the bathtub and she was still terrified. She didn’t want to come out. Once she did, she paced around my room, which is an indication of nervousness for her. I opened my blackout curtains and she realized it was daytime. That made her feel slightly better and she managed to eat some of her breakfast.

She didn’t want to go outside for a walk. I had to pull her outside, and when she heard no pops or bangs, she got a little more confident with every step. Right now, she’s sound asleep on the couch and didn’t even wake up when I walked over to her. She woke up with a start, wagged her tail slightly, and went right back to sleep.

It’s unfortunate that even all that medication seemed to make no difference to her. She was on the maximum dose of vet prescribed anti-anxiety meds and tranquilizer that I could give her, and she was still absolutely terrified and not at all sedated. I wish I could find something that would help her because spending the 4th of July on a bathroom floor with a terrified dog isn’t much fun. I don’t like seeing an animal in such distress and there’s nothing I can really do about it. At least it’s over for another year.