Handling fireworks and thunderstorms

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The 4th of July has come and gone, and as a dog person who lives on a lake part-time and near an ocean beach the other part, neither location was “ideal” for escaping the fireworks, and thunderstorms can be more than just a little intense.

Here on the lake, the neighbors have a tradition where they all pitch in for a massive fireworks display similar to those you might attend put on by town officials. But the lake’s event is not put on by town officials, firefighters, or anyone else qualified. Lest we think that it’s only one night, on the 4th of July… nope! Any excuse for fireworks: let’s not forget Massachusetts (Boston) sports fans are unmatched for their rabidness. Between wins (of which there are many) and holidays (year-round, yes even in the winter, the bombs burst in the air!) well, firecrackers are just a fact of life on the lake. Not only do they light off the pretty oooh-and-ahhh type, and the small, annoying firecrackers, they more often than not go for the bomb-like explosions of M-80s and cherry bombs. I am always concerned “someone’s going to get hurt.” And no, I do not contribute to the cause!

But enough about that, this is about the dogs. I moved here in 1985 with my faithful black Lab-mix companion, Timba. Timba was unafraid of fireworks or thunderstorms, surprisingly, and we never thought twice about either event. 

In 2000, we adopted Hobie, a Lab/Shepherd mix. Hobie, 12, is terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. Hobie will pant and pace excessively, and try to hide in small spaces such as under a desk, or inside a closet or shower stall. He will paw at me incessantly until I go with him – usually to “the bomb shelter,” a place I set up in our laundry room in the basement when he was a pup. I have there a lawn chair, and a radio, and I sit down there and read a book while he sleeps, until the fireworks pass. This could be many hours, as the fireworks display here on the lake is extensive and goes on well past midnight for many nights in a row. I’ve tried everything with Hobie: taking him for a walk and tiring him out, soothing him, ignoring him, sitting in the shower stall or closet with him (or under a desk), playing loud music and shutting all the windows (that one works best), bringing him to my office four miles away (that works, too!) and the Thundershirt. Alas, Thundershirt did not work on Hobie, but it did work for our other dog, Hector.

Hector, 9, who passed away unexpectedly last summer, reacted differently, but equally intensely, to fireworks and storms. He, at 85 pounds, and taller than me if he stood on his hind legs, would climb onto my lap, wherever I happened to be sitting, even if I was at a desk! He could not get close enough to me, and would claw at me and try to sit on me, or as close beside me as possible, all the while panting and just half-sitting, more like standing up, which hurts your thighs if he’s trying to get into your lap! But, aha! The Thundershirt worked on Hector, hooray! 

Enter, Charlie Brown, our 8-month old puppy (and boy am I exhausted! but that’s another essay). No fear of either fireworks or thunder. Ahhhh, relief. Anybody want to buy two Thundershirts?

Do you have any tips for helping your dog during fireworks or thunderstorms?

K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites www.ksmueller.comwww.k2k9.com; and www.fibroworks.com. Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

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