An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Benjamin Franklin
When I was a kid, my grandma had a dog named Patches. He was the sweetest beagle ever. A bit stoic for a beagle, he wasn’t really into playing much, but he was a solid companion. He was one of those dogs who never did anything wrong – he was trustworthy both in and out of the house. He never needed a leash, and he didn’t have a fenced-in yard. Didn’t matter; he never even thought about leaving the yard.
I’ll never forget Fourth of July when I was 11 years old. Patches would have been roughly 13 at that point. A senior most definitely, but a healthy, sprightly old man. Most of my mom’s side of the family was spending the holiday at my grandma’s house: at least 18 of my 22 cousins, plus aunts uncles – it was a kid heaven. At dusk the adults started to light some fireworks. We had a great time. We headed home around 10:00. Traffic was unusually heavy on the street where my grandma lived. It took us a while to navigate. When we got home, we found out why.
Patches had been hit and killed by a car.
The dog who had always been so stoic, truly a Pilot of a dog, had been frightened by the fireworks and run into the street. Nobody had bothered to check to see where he was because the dog had never left his boundary in his entire life! Not to chase squirrels (he stopped at the perimeter), not when guests came (he met them at the driveway). Never. Of course if we had realized he was terrified, we would have taken measures to ensure his comfort and safety.
Sparta and Orion have a fenced-in yard. They will be spending the 4th in their crate, with soft music playing (I almost always have music on in my house, so this will seem normal, if not a bit louder, to them). My pets’ safety is all on me. It’s my job to make sure they are happy and healthy. Things that may not seem scary to me may be terrifying to them, so even though they’ve never shown any signs of fear in the past from fireworks or thunderstorms, I’m still going to make sure they are contained. It’s my job as Pilot.
Fourth of July is the busiest day for animal wardens. Dogs (and cats) become scared and run off. Some never return. Take some precautions to avoid tragedy:
- Exhaust your dog before nightfall. Exercise creates a natural state that make your dog want to sleep. Help them to sleep through the scary parts.
- Secure your dog in their crate. For added security, a blanket can be placed over the crate (it will insulate some of the noise). Just make sure that the dog is comfortable, and not overheated if you add a blanket, and always leave a few inches of the crate uncovered for ventilation.
- Make sure your dog has their tags on, and consider microchipping. It could be their ticket home.
- If your dog is terrified, Pilot them. You can’t soothe them. They are legitimately frightened, and speaking to them in a high, whiney, “soothing” voice is counterproductive. They need a Pilot, not another source of stress. Read how to accomplish this here.
- If your dog needs to eliminate, take them outside on a leash.
- Ask your vet about medication if your dog has a history of reacting badly. I’m against casual medication of dogs because they are “too hyper” or “anxious” during normal situations. Those dogs need Piloting. This is not a normal situation. Before I get on an airplane, I have drink. A strong one (or two). I’m terrified of heights, and it takes the edge off. That’s all you’re looking to do: take the edge off of a truly terrifying and abnormal situation. Again, consult your vet. Do not self-medicate.
I do miss Patches, though it’s 25 years later. He was a good dog. Perhaps he would have lived only a few more months before succumbing to old age. Perhaps he would have lived a few more years. Regardless, his life was cut short due to ignorance. I now know better. I will Pilot my dogs through the Fourth of July.