What do you do when your puppy is terrified of loud noises and here comes the Fourth of July holiday? This year is a particularly rough one with the holiday falling on Wednesday. Heaven knows that Jellybean is ready with her patriotic dress and coordinating bow. Communities and families are making it a week-long celebration with picnics, parties and fireworks shows. Jellybean and I are approaching week two at our new home and loving it. Did I mention, however, that we are directly up the hill from a beautiful park that serves the community with programs, concerts, recreational facilities and yes, gigantic firework shows? Enter a carefree puppy that generally prances through life, ears flapping as she bounds from room to room, silky white tail held high. That is until she hears the loud pop and sizzle of a fire cracker set off in the local neighborhood. Suddenly this carefree little puppy loses all sense of security. Her ears droop low. Her tail drags on the ground; she begins panting and looks at me with those dark, soulful eyes for help. It is almost like she is saying, “Okay, Momma, you are my protector, do your job!” The problem is, she will not allow me to do my job. She is inconsolable and does not want me to pet, hold, or even speak in a reassuring voice to her. She just wants to get to a safe place where she can hide until the fear no longer controls her. That is usually under a piece of furniture; the sofa, the overstuffed chair, or a bed.
Medication is not my first choice to deal with Jellybean’s anxiety, and I have avoided it for the first four years of her life. But let’s face it, there is going to be a genuine, full blown fireworks show right down the street. This is nothing to make light of. She will be terrified and it is my responsibility to see that she is safe and comfortable during the event. The timing for Jellybean’s yearly vet appointment provided the perfect opportunity for me to speak to her veterinarian regarding my concern. The vet agreed that this event was much more intense than a neighbor popping off a few random fireworks. We walked away from the appointment with a prescription of anxiety medication that should be given about an hour prior to the big light show.
The evening of the concert, to be followed by a gigantic fireworks show arrived. We had a great day with lots of family and friends helping to celebrate our new home. As evening approached, Jellybean and I headed downstairs to the family room. I turned the television a bit louder than usual and the dehumidifier hummed in the background. I gave the medication as directed, and put Jellybean in her ducky pajamas, so that the tightness of the material could help to sooth her. We made ourselves comfortable on the sofa and began to watch television in the family room. Fifteen minutes later, Jellybean was sound asleep. I heard the first boom and held my breath. Jellybean sat up and looked around. Then, quick as a wink, she snuggled into the blanket beside me on the couch and fell back to sleep. The fireworks continued with big kabooms, sizzles, cracks, and bangs. Jellybean remained as snug as a bug in a rug for the evening. Whew! All my anxiety about this night for naught! Just to be on the safe side, I waited an extra half hour before rousing her to take a potty break and head to bed for the night. I made sure to let her know what a good girl she had been as I fastened the clasp on her pretty pink harness.. I opened the door and we stepped out onto the brick pavement, and KABOOM!!! A neighbor, one street over, set off a perfectly legal, albeit very loud firework just as we walked out the door. I turned to look at Jellybean, as her ears drooped low. Her tail was tight against her bottom and its silky white hair spread out on the ground. She began panting and looked at me with those dark, soulful eyes for help. Slinking close to the ground she turned and headed for the door. I opened it and she quickly scaled the brick step. I reached down to undo the clasp on her harness and she was gone in a flash. Up the stairs and under the bed, the darkness once again providing the safe haven she needed at that moment. Well, we almost made it through the night before the bang, kaboom, sizzle, skedaddle! At 3:30 AM I hear her scratching and pawing at the side of my bed. Finally, hours later, the anxiety had eased and she was ready to snuggle by my side for a good night’s sleep. The morning arrived quickly and she was raring to go, carefree and rambunctious as always. That is until the next bang, kaboom, sizzle, and skedaddle!
Beverly Stiffler Smith