BY HEATHER DOWDY
FOR PAWSITIVE STEPS PDX
As July 4th quickly approaches, many pet parents are preparing to hunker down to ride out The Annual Apocalypse. (Or, what regular people call Independence Day.)
It’s not that I hate the 4th of July. I can recall, before having dogs, oohing and ahhing at the magical splendor of Roman Candles and heart-shaped firework art exploding across the night sky.
After dogs, though. After dogs, the first onslaught of neighborhood pyrotechnic celebration sends our household into tremors. Our old rescued dog, Shelby, passed two years ago. He was half Australian Shepherd — a breed known for increased sensitivity to stimuli as well as for Epileptic seizures. He won out and got both. And the overbearing sensation of the house rocking as fireworks boom and clap and echo throughout the neighborhood leave him in such a panic that the ordeal, on more than one occasion, triggered a seizure.
Shelby's level of fear and anxiety during the 4th of July holiday meant that we were glued to the house every evening the first week of July, so that we are able to execute The Annual Apocalypse Protocol. And since our youngest dog, Briley, is now developing firework and storm phobia at the age of six... well, it's time we brush up on our protocol skills.
So, I present to you our own personal strategy for surviving the Firework Apocalypse.
1. Thundershirts. Except, we love them so much that we call them ThunderSnugs. In case you don’t know, these are some of the best things ever invented for dogs. The ThunderShirt is a snug doggie vest that wraps around the chest and abdomen, applying gentle and constant acupressure to help swaddle and calm your pup. It’s not hocus-pocus, either. In fact, it works based on science as studied by the famous Dr. Temple Gradin and others, and similar vests are used to calm children with Autism and more. These help during thunderstorms, fireworks and other high-anxiety situations. That said, using them alone was never quite enough for our overly anxious Shelboo. Thus, onward to Step #2…
2. Relaxing Music Cranked (Semi) Loud. Okay, that may seem like an oxymoron. But you’ve gotta turn the volume up enough to drown out the sound of Certain Impending Doom! happening right outside the windows. And not just any elevator music will do in our house. For serious Mayday situations, we pull out the iPod and put the RelaxMyDog.com playlist on repeat. These are some seriously soothing tunes with just the right amount of monotonous melody and calming sounds to sink your pooch pal into a semi-coma. It works on us, too! (It’s great for yin yoga!) You can play some clips on youtube, or download entire albums from the website. Trust me: the relief for our dogs has been well worth the $9.99. But, sometimes, when every house within a five-mile radius seems to be aiming bottle rockets directly at the sky above our house, we must add in Step #3…
3. Good ol’ Benadryl. While our senior dogs are on enough medications as is (seizures and thyroid and arthritis, oh my!) a dose of Benadryl is sometimes the final step we have to take to help take the edge off for our stressed-out furkiddos. (Please, please, be sure to consult with your own veterinarian first to see if this step might be okay for your pet, and in what dose. We are NOT medical professional, m' kay?)
We also have some other assorted secret weapons, which may or may not help but sure can’t hurt, such as spritzing Travel Calm around the dog beds and Apocalypse bunker area. (And it smells pretty! Air freshening bonus!)
It also helps to just sit with the pups, breathing deeply, exuding calm, quiet, happy energy. Dogs really do pick up on our vibes, so if we act nervous or stressed about them being nervous or stressed, they become — you got it — more nervous and stressed. So just chill out with your furpeeps. Do some yoga stretches next to them. Give them something to chew on or play with that may distract them.
And if you cannot be home during a time you know the terrifying fireworks will be popping, leave a few of your worn shirts and socks around your pet’s bed so your scent gives him some added comfort. Just sensing your presence may be another step toward relief for a high-anxiety pup.
Most importantly, whether your pet is truly terrified of fireworks or not — please keep your pets safely indoors during the holiday week! Even normally chill pets may become frightened and escape fences or doors during loud noises and holiday commotion, which is why shelters see an increase of an estimated 30% more lost pets after the 4th of July holiday. It’s not worth taking the chance.