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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 06 28 24 - Independence Day, the Everlasting Fusillade and Doggie Downers

The title says it all. The three things are intertwined, at least in our neck of the woods. These are things I love, dogs (no not downers, those days are long over for me) and the birth of our nation. As I have noted before, dogs are better people than most people and I am a very patriotic person. As someone once dryly noted, our form of government is the worst in the world, excepting all the other forms of government. I love my dogs, but they are not fans of our Independence Day celebrations which are beginning to ramp up here in my community. It feels like being downrange in the photo here at the Nevada atomic artillery test site.


Of course, I am talking about fireworks, which at an earlier stage of my life I enjoyed more, but time has moderated this fondness. What used to be a one-day celebration is now in essence a military campaign that lasts for weeks. Our fairly dense urban neighborhood is reminiscent of a scene from the movie Apocalypse Now in which rockets stream across the sky in all directions and explosions rock the furniture in our living room for hours each night. The libations span all hours. Sleep is not possible as rockets go off throughout. Occasionally over the years we have fires have damaged local houses.


All this I could get through, but the worst is the impact on our dogs over the years. Sumo, are newest addition become afraid to go outside after dusk starting in May. Our last dog, Mr. Tweaks would shake for hours and at times would not eat. Other dogs had even worse reactions. We had a dog named Webster who one summer began to get out of our house through windows and doors and we did not know how it was happening. One day after a thunderstorm, a neighbor called to tell me the front door of our house was wide open and our dogs were running around. It was puzzling.


A few weeks later on July 4th during a particularly prolonged and loud salvo, I looked towards our front door and saw Webster turning the door handle with his mouth and beginning to open the door. Mystery solved. From that day forth until we lost Webster, we had a bungie cord on the inner door so he could not get out. We have adjusted our lives year in and year out to assist our traumatized dogs and the time we have to do so has shifted from a day to a season.


I did learn from that the tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Boston Common, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” That same night, a group set off fireworks over the Commons, the oldest park in the United States. So, from the verry first anniversary, fireworks were part of the event, which is kind of cool. If a ship at the end of my street did a 13-gun salvo and called it, we would better be able to tolerate it given the weeks of overhead explosions.


There are cottage industries forming around these needs. Dogs and Fireworks: July 4th Survival Guide for Pet Owners notes how thunder shirts, pheromone sprays, and CBD oil can help them endure. They strongly recommend tagging your dog and ensuring they have IDs on them. Statistics show that July 4th is the time of year when more dogs get lost than any other time of the year. Losing a dog in this way would be devastating to me, I can only hope it never happens to us. Please make sure your dogs have ID on and do not let them outside without close supervision during munitions season.


Part of how we do so include what I affectionately call doggie downers (for them, not me of course). Mild sedatives to help our dogs cope with the never-ending explosions. Our vet tells us that requests for sedatives have increased over the years. On some level I would prefer not to have to sedate our dogs but pragmatically seeing how hard it is for them leaves us few better choices. One year we clanged on pans and distracted them which actually worked pretty well, but one cannot do so for weeks on end from sunset to sunrise.


If you are reading this, consider all the dogs in the nation in how you celebrate Independence Day. Maybe wave a sparkler or two around and leave the munitions to the experts. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour and reconsider the notion to set off a half stick in the alley at 2:45 AM. Your neighbor thanks you, your neighbor’s dog thanks you. My dogs thank you. I thank you.


So, this Independence Day, I am grateful for the birth of this great nation and options to calm our pups, but not necessarily in that order.


What are you grateful for today?

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