Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fourth Of July: Not A Cause Of Celebration For Most

It is the fourth of July and the neighbors are at it again. Well, lighting off a few fireworks in the ‘hood is harmless fun, right? Maybe not. More dogs & cats are lost on the fourth of July than any other day of the year. Many animals are terrified by all the noise and commotion so they bolt and even jump fences as the fear courses through their veins. Years before I became a foster for Planned Pethood my rescue dog Helga had developed severe storm and fireworks anxiety before she became part of my pack.

Just a bit of background on the big girl. Helga Sue was marked down at the shelter because she had been there for months without any interest whatsoever. The employee there must have been desperate to get rid of her. She told me that our meeting was the first time she had wagged her tail since she had been incarcerated there. My semi-significant other and I rolled our eyes. The employee also commented the dog was obese and depressed. I retorted, 'aren’t we all?' I’m not one to resist a sale, so Hellie was on her way to her forever home. When we got her there, she immediately started chasing the cats and exhibiting nearly every bad behavior known to dogdom. Poor kitty Bernice lived in the basement for four months.
[SIDE NOTE:  Hel’s name had been Honey, a name that was so ill-suited that we laughed. The shelter told me she was a golden/husky mix but she was so unusual that I had her DNA tested. The certificate came back blank and the company gave me my money back.]
We had no clue about her anxieties until the first serious thunder storm hit. And, I am ashamed to say, we did everything wrong. Helga was a big girl and she would pace and try to stuff her large butt under the bed (ain’t happenin’).  I would try to console her and pet her which in reality was reinforcing her negative behaviors. Then we looked for solutions to the problem.
The vet recommended anti-anxiety medication (downers). My next question was, when do I give them to her? The answer was astounding. They told me to watch the radar on T.V., then an hour before the storm was to arrive, give her the pill. Really? So, on goes the T.V. and down goes the pill. I cannot tell you how many times Helga Sue was high but the storm blew over. Then we figured out a system. We used an herbal remedy that lasted about 20 minutes while we waited for the drugs to kick in. We also had to tell the big girl to suck it up because she was not going to be coddled anymore. That was terribly hard because we felt so badly for her.
Over the years, several of my Planned Pethood foster dogs, including Stanley who I have adopted, have experienced various stages of these kinds of fears but I have always dreaded the fourth most of all. We close the windows, turn up the stereo, and crank up the AC, all in an attempt to blunt the effects of well meaning people out to celebrate our nation’s birth. This will be Stanley’s first Independence Day with us. Maybe people would think twice if they knew the heartbreak and panic families experience when they find their companion is missing.
Protect your animals by keeping them inside days before and after July 4th.  Close windows and secure doors.  Your animal might have been fine last year, but may have a problem this year.  For those who are especially frightened by loud noises such as storms, please secure your animal in a place like your basement or a cage indoors.  Your vet may think it best that your animal be given medication prior to fireworks to help with anxiety levels in your pets.  Consult your vet before it’s too late. 

Should your pet become lost, you can find helpful hints here.

Mission Statement:  To reduce the overpopulation and suffering of dogs and cats through education and low-cost spay/neuter programs and to rescue, vet and place adoptable dogs and cats into
good permanent homes.
 This blog is dedicated to the memory of Helga Sue who we lost to a kidney disease at the age of 10.  Blogger extraordinaire- Judy Szewczak

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