The Most Terrifying Day of the Year – Happy 4th of July!

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

- Benjamin Franklin

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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.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Finding the Rainbow Bridge

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If tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you care for me, and how much I care for you,
and each time that you think of me I know you’ll miss me too;

But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,
that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand,
and said my place was ready in heaven far above,
and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love.

But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye,
for all life, I’d always thought I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for and so much yet to do.
it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.
I thought of all the love we shared and all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for a while,
I’d say goodbye and hug you and maybe see you smile.

Darwin circa 2005

Darwin circa 2005

I recently had a client ask me how they would know when it’s time to help their dog Buddy cross the Rainbow Bridge.  As you know, I’m always preaching the PAW Method. The biggest part of that is Piloting. You are Buddy’s pilot to the very end. You will be strong and help Buddy when the time comes. He is relying on you to make a decision, but remember, he doesn’t need a perfect decision. He doesn’t expect you to be infallible. So the answer is, there is no correct time. You are trying to balance your need for Buddy with Buddy’s quality of life. There is no precise moment when the scales tip, and suddenly Buddy’s life is too painful to justify not leading him to the Rainbow Bridge.Points to consider:

-You may find that everyone feels free to tell you what to do, but the responsibility for this choice is yours. This can be more difficult when a couple disagrees, but it can still weigh heavily on a single person.

-Your veterinarian is trained to save lives. That’s what they do, and that’s why you go to them. But all they can do is delay, not prevent. No veterinarian should make you feel guilty for choosing not to pursue treatment, even if you can afford it.

-If your veterinarian is advising euthanasia and you’re reluctant, closely examine your own motives and see if they’re for your benefit or the dog’s.

-People often say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” In many cases that’s true, but not always.  I say this from personal experience.

-Choosing euthanasia is not “playing God” any more than providing medical treatment to save a life is.

-Euthanasia ensures that you’ll be able to be with your dog at the moment he passes so he’s not alone. However, you don’t have to be there with him. If you feel you cannot remain calm, it’s sometimes best for your dog that you not be there.  It’s okay to say your goodbyes at home and have a someone who isn’t as emotionally distraught take Buddy for the final vet visit.  Remember, he’s going to mirror your emotions, and if you are having a hard time controlling your emotions in a scary place like the vet’s office, he’s going to feel that.  Don’t let anyone judge if you should or should not be present:  that’s up to you.-Most people believe it’s better to euthanize your dog a day too early rather than a day too late.

I went through all of this with Darwin many years ago. I wish I could say something to make it all better, but the truth is, I can’t. If you are already at this stage where you are asking me when you know it’s time to put down a dog, it’s most likely that you are already there. You are only now trying to cope with the acceptance aspect. Don’t deny Buddy his right to a dignified ending. He’ll still be there for you until the day you are reunited at that Rainbow Bridge.

So take a picture with him (you’ll want it later). Compare it with the pictures of him from a year ago, and you’ll see the difference and how much help he is requiring from you. Give it to him that help. You know he would love you enough to do the same for you. That’s what dogs do…put their humans before their own needs. Now be a dog, and put his needs before yours. At that point, he will give you his final gift: his gratitude for being the best Pilot you could have been for him.

This is the last picture I have of Darwin (2009).  We said goodbye a few days later.  I still miss my boy to this day.

This is the last picture I have of Darwin (2009). We said goodbye a few days later. I still miss my boy to this day.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio