Independence day has come and gone with all its’ accompanying festivities. I know some people plan for this holiday for weeks, if not months; BBQs, fireworks, camping trips etc., but what about their pets? Did they plan to keep the family pets safe? This is such an important question because every Fourth of July thousands of pets are lost and killed because of a lack of planning on their owners’ part.
On the fourth I was coming back from an ambulance transport when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very young dog by the side of the road. He was obviously searching for food on the ground, but at the same time he appeared desperately scared. I knew I’d have to be extremely careful both because of his skittishness and his proximity to the road. He traveled a little way down a side road, so I followed and got out of the ambulance when he was about 100 yards away from me and I was between him and the road. Listening to my gut instinct, I didn’t even try to approach him and instead called him, patted my leg and started off in another direction, hoping to have him follow which could be easier for him to handle. Sadly, he ran almost instantly, luckily in the direction of the nearby woods, not the highway. Several fireworks went off about that time and he just took off. I followed slowly for about a quarter of a mile, hoping to find him holed up, but was seriously disappointed. I called our 911-dispatch center and asked if they had any reports of a dog that matched his description (since it was July 4th, they get a lot of those), but no one had called. After waiting quietly for about 20 minutes, I had to get back to work and reluctantly left. The next day, I found that he had been sighted running across the highway a few times and again the next day. I haven’t been able to catch up with him again and it’s breaking my heart.
My plan is to hope that he’ll be safe until we can get a trap into place: I just think he’s too skittish to coax into a car, although I will try again with my dogs. Hopefully, I can work with animal control and we can be successful, but hope is not a plan. This sorrowful dog could be safe at home, snuggled in a cozy pet bed instead of searching for food and water if only his owners had cared enough to plan ahead.
The Fourth of July isn’t a surprise to us humans, but it certainly is to our animals, both large and small and we need to be prepared to keep them safe. Until you know how they’ll react to fireworks, both the big displays and the poppers that are everywhere, you need to get them into a controlled environment where they can’t escape and where you can buffer the impact of what must appear to them to be the end of the world.
I’ve had great success with fireworks shy dogs simply by keeping them inside (windows almost completely closed, I knew a dog that pushed out a window screen on the third floor) and by letting them hide in a closet. Some dogs do well with a little tranquilizer prescribed by the vet, others need some music or even the shower running.
I had a wonderful dog that was reduced to a shaking, panting mess around fireworks if he was inside or out, but if I drove him around in the car, he was just fine!
Cats are usually OK with just about anything, but I always close them up in the house too. As for my horses, each one is different, but so far they’ve been only mildly startled for a minute or two and then they settle back in.
The bad news is that thousands of dogs are lost every year due to poor planning and fireworks. The good news is that with a little care, your holiday can start and end on the happiest of notes. Happy Independence Day and stay safe all year long!