Fireworks & Dogs – Her Fear is Our Heartache

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We used to LOVE fireworks. The 4th of July used to be a favorite holiday at our house, but after seeing the severe emotional damage the noise from fireworks caused our Nissa, we now dread them. This really translates into the old “The more we know of people the more we like dogs!” It’s not the fireworks we hate – it’s the uncaring JERKS who set them off. I’m going to share our story in the hopes of sparing other dogs and their owners from experiencing the same kind of backlash from fireworks that we are.

July 2010

Last year we had some young adults (???) who’d rented a house around the corner. I use the word “adults” loosely here because these kids were no where near adult brain age — drunk for sure and possibly high-on-something,  juvenile delinquents is more like it. They were extremely selfish, self-centered idiot kids who cared only about their own fun and games. Not once did they stop for even a millisecond to think about the consequences of their actions. Of course they weren’t the ones who were going to suffer from what they did and little did we know at that time the long-term damage their fun would have on our Nissa and our lives.

In probably every town across the U.S., the few weeks leading up to the 4th, the 4th itself and the few weeks afterward the big thing for some people seems to be to find the biggest, baddest (and in most places — probably  illegal!) fireworks they can and start blowing them off whenever they feel like it. Doesn’t matter to them that their neighbors might just be asleep because they have to be to work or somewhere else important when they get up. Doesn’t matter that area residents are calling in complaints right and left running their local police departments ragged going from fireworks call to fireworks call. Of course the offenders are most often never found because they enlist the help of police scanners, spotters or any other sneaky thing they can to avoid being caught. As soon as the cops clear the area with “not found” as the disposition for their call, these bozos are going to come out of hiding and start their shenanigans all over again. Who cares as long as the they’re are having fun, right?

Well, this group of party animals went nuts with their fireworks and my dogs began getting anxious and nervous — pacing, whining, trying to climb into or under anything that might even come close to helping them feel safe in their efforts to escape their fear and shut out the pain in their sensitive ears. Did you JERKS even stop to think of the pain you’re causing innocent animals all over the neighborhood? Their ears are sooooooooo much more sensitive than human ears! Think of how loud these fireworks are to your ears and then multiply that by hundreds of decibels and your ears would hurt, too!

Hunting Down the Source

I put up with this way to long before I went on a hunt to find the source. I never should have let it go on for even so much as five minutes — tops! I didn’t realize this could have long-term repercussions or leave permanent emotional scars on my FurKids. At 4 a.m. I went outside rounded the corner and felt pretty strongly that I’d found the right place but these young people gathered outside looking off into the distance of course wouldn’t admit to being guilty when I calmly and politely inquired of them. Instead they oh so nicely sent me on a wild goose chase by telling me “Oh, it’s not us, Ma’am — (pointing) it’s coming from somewhere over there.” Stupid me bought this the first time because after all – they were so clean cut, well-mannered and there was no reason to lie to me. I was only going to simply and nicely ask them to stop.

Of course it was silent then so after a bit of fruitless searching I went home. I don’t think it was five minutes later and the explosions started all over again. So, I go back out and still the only people out are the same party-animals I’d encountered a few minutes earlier. My suspicions were pretty much set in cement at that point but of course I had no actual proof. Believe me after the second time I went over there (they saw me coming and ran into the house which was a dead giveaway) don’t think the thought didn’t cross my mind to take my very intimidating looking furkids along with me and threaten to have them put the bite on these lying sons of b’s if they didn’t stop right that minute. I decided it was best to not use my dogs as a weapon or a threat. You never know what a person might do, especially in a pickled state of mind. If my dogs did bite someone who knows what consequences we might suffer because we were not on nor defending our own property from harm at the time of the bite. The courts have this crazy idea that for some reason this is necessary ingredient to not losing your dog when it comes to a dog bite.

Time to Call the Cavalry

Not normally being one to call the police for noise complaints, I decided enough was enough — went home — and found my furkids cowering in a corner like they’ve never ever done before. It brought me to tears to see them that way. They were literally terrified!

The officer who responded came into the area darked out, silently exited his squad and proceeded to play sneaky-peek between and behind the houses and caught one of them coming out the back door. Seeing the cop standing in his parking lot first stopped him cold in his tracks for just a fleeting moment and then he immediately went running back into the house screaming “Cop!!!” faster than you can blink your eyes — but not before the officer could ID him by sight. The officer was also able to ID a second guy peeking out the window on the 2nd floor as well. These two just happen to have already earned many “frequent flyer rewards” with our local law enforcement agency. With my statement, the license plates of every car in the driveway and those parked in front of the house and his eyeball ID — he was able to issue citations.

To Little To Late — the Damage Is Done

It didn’t take but until the very next thunderstorm to find out that issuing citations was pointless for us. The satisfaction of knowing these people didn’t get away without consequence was short lived and now means absolutely nothing at all to us anymore. It was already too late. We found that Nissa (who never used to be bothered by noise before) – was now pacing, whining, crying, refusing to eat her meals, tightly circling me, leaning against me and hiding under my desk with every rumble of thunder within about a ten mile radius of our home. All she has to do is smell it in the air and she’s a basket case. There’s no consoling her and no way to ignore her emotional pain. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see her like this! Riley doesn’t seem to be so badly affected but time, thunderstorms and the upcoming 4th of July will tell us more.

Since I first realized that the fireworks has had such a horrible affect on her, I’ve tried several different things to try to ease her stress level when thunderstorms roll into the area. Unfortunately, everything I’ve tried so far has been a miserable failure. I used to love thunderstorms and now I dread them. Those of you with pets who are afraid of loud noises will know exactly what this is like. The emotional damage to her looks like it may be permanent. It’s now almost a year later and she has not forgotten. The thunderstorm season has begun as has her panic. She was so terrified during a nighttime thunderstorm a few weeks ago — while I was at work and could do absolutely nothing to help her — that she peed her crate.

My latest attempt to ease her fear was to buy a Thundershirt to put on her when bad weather threatens. Although the reviews show that this works for a large number of dogs — we aren’t holding out much hope. After wearing the Thundershirt through one storm — it didn’t seem to help her much. The Thundershirt website does says that sometimes it takes a few uses before it works so I haven’t totally given up yet and sent it back, but I’ll be grateful for the money back guarantee if it comes to that.

THINK Before You Explode!

It’s not a pretty site to see a dog react in fear to thunderstorms — in fact it’s very sad. Please people, the next time you want to set off fireworks — THINK first of the harmful consequences that you may be inflicting on others. Are a few minutes or a few hours of fun really worth the damage you could be doing to someone’s beloved pet? If you think it’s funny — THINK AGAIN! This could very well be your own pet that your few moments of selfish glory may cause pain and suffering to. Not only might you cause them severe physical pain but the emotional stress can be tremendous to them, not to mention what you’ll be putting their human families through in their attempts to try to cure what you inflicted. You will probably never see the hurt you’ve caused — but the dog’s family will every time a stressor comes along.

Remember that once a dog is afraid of something it can be very hard and sometimes impossible to cure them of it. They don’t have the ability to reason like a human can. You can’t sit them down and explain it or tell them “It’s ok — it’s just noise — it can’t hurt you.” because they simply aren’t capable of understanding! For a dog — setting off fireworks can be much the same as putting them smack dab in the middle of active war zone. The consequences can be similar to a human suffering from PTSD. Their fear can permanently affect their emotional well-being and spread from a fear of fireworks to things like being phobic in thunderstorms or being afraid of the vacuum cleaner or other loud noises. Nissa is only four years old which means that unless I can find a way to help her out of this — she’s got probably 8-10 years ahead of her having to live like this! That’s a helluva long time to live in fear!

The only thing a dog has to protect itself is its teeth and a fearful dog is more likely to bite. You must never forget that fear is #1 on the list of reasons of why dogs bite. In it’s panic to find a safe place and make the noise stop — do you realize your dog could bite someone? Maybe a small child? Do you realize that there are still to many people who wouldn’t understand this and fall back on the still way to much believed “Once a biter always a biter, we can never trust this dog again.” Do you realize that you might very well be the reason that innocent dogs get euthanized?

Am I Angry?

You bet your sweet bippy I am! These jokers got away with nothing more than a ticket which they probably won’t even bother to pay anyway. Our Nissa is paying the long-term painful price for the actions of a group of stupid, drunk, lying, selfish kids who put their fun ahead of everything else.

We too, pay the price. We are the ones that watch her suffer. I’m the one that spends hours scouring the Internet and other resources trying to find ways to help her and some of these ways are not cheap. I’m the one who has to keep trying to find ways to keep her safe during a thunderstorm-induced panic attack when no one is at home and worry every night, all night when I go to work that when I come home she will have hurt herself because of the fear you put into her.

What about the other neighborhood dogs? Did your fun create the same kinds of issues in them? How many other dogs and their families in the area do you suppose are now suffering because of your actions? There are some dogs that can handle fireworks and not suffer negative consequences but from what I’ve learned they are few and far between. Considering what  this has done to Nissa and what we go through now, we urge every dog owner to never take their dogs to a fireworks display and if you have people setting off fireworks in your neighborhood — protect your dog — do whatever you can within the law to make them stop IMMEDIATELY! If you don’t — you may suffer the same kind of backlash we are and I wouldn’t wish this on any dog or its owner.

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