The inutterable terror of fireworks

For New Year’s Eve, CR and I attended a burning bowl service at my church, then joined a few friends to have some supper and a nice ale and headed home early, since the weather is still brutally cold.  The dogs are always waiting at the back door, Sasha barking, Jack just wiggling silently.  Sasha was there…but no Jack.   

Weird. We looked around the house, calling him.  Checked the backyard.  No dog.  I started to get a little freaked.  He’s been known to panic over fireworks and go through a screen, and earlier yesterday I managed to catch a plastic bag on fire in the microwave (don’t ask–I swear, I get so scattered sometimes!) so I’d opened the windows to air things out, and I wondered suddenly if I’d forgotten to close them.  I went to the living room to check.   I’d closed the windows, but the middle section was shattered. 

Jack had gone through the window.  Sick with worry, we rushed outside, and there, amid huge shards of glass sticking out of the snow like some horror flick setting,  were his tracks, dashing toward the street. No blood, thank heaven.  Somehow, he managed to get out without hurting himself.   

CR and I bundled up and split up, each of us carrying a bag of treats to rattle in our silent, post-blizzard, post-Christmas suburb.  There were no cars, thank God.  It’s the kind of place where people will bring the wine and the treats and spend the night, and the streets are still a disaster around here, so people respected it.  The only sound was the most dreaded of all sounds–fireworks, popping here and there, a benign sound most of the time, even happy, if you are not a dog who believes this surely means the end of the world. 

I couldn’t find him.  It was very, very cold and we had to give up eventually.  Shivering, we kissed to celebrate the New Year, and I fretted about bad omens.  CR assured me that Jack would be all right, that his heavy coat and webbed feet would keep him warm.  That it’s the kind of place where people would take in a terrified dog, and he has his tags and a little note that has my cell phone number on it.  I tried to believe him.

Jacksnowynose But as every mother knows, the thing that keep you awake are always the worst-case scenarios. I kept trying to beam soothing thoughts toward him, wherever he was.  When midnight passed and the madness of explosions passed, I imagined him taking shelter in a big snowbank under a tree and finding his way home in the morning. 

At four, I awakened abruptly and rushed downstairs to open the door to my boy.  He wriggled his way inside, sheepishly hanging his head as I exclaimed in relief and joy.  He kissed my face and let me kiss him and check him over.  He wasn’t even particularly cold.  His feet were muddy and wet, and he drank about five gallons of water, and then we went upstairs and fell back asleep, both of us exhausted and relieved.  CR said, "I knew he’d find his way home."

But–through the window! The window is demolished.  I feel terrible for him, that fireworks are so terrifying.  We theorized that he was looking for us, and would do anything to find us. Which is heartwrenching on it’s own.

I’d really love to know how to make him feel better, feel safer.  There are psychological treatments for humans with phobias–anyone know of desensitization techniques for dogs?   

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6 thoughts on “The inutterable terror of fireworks

  1. Gabrielle

    Thank goodness he found his way back unharmed! I think the best thing is to have him near the sounds and act as though everything’s okay instead of soothing him–though that’s much easier said than done. Sounds like a case for Cesar.

  2. Bex

    Wow … I read your post with you my heart in my mouth. I was extremely glad to see that your dog made it back home safe and sound. A for desensitization techniques …. I don’t know, alas. My dog is a brick.

  3. Wish my dog was a brick. I’m looking into this, though and will report back.

    The good news is, we’re getting much nicer window! :)

  4. Barbara, I haven’t a clue how to help your little guy, but I AM very glad he is home safe and sound.

  5. Sharyn

    I have never had to use it, but one thing I’ve heard over and over again that helps with both fireworks and thunderstorms is melatonin. I’d give it a try with a weight-appropriate dosage.

  6. ruth

    Hi ruth !!!
    I’m from brasil and I love yours romances!!kisses!!!

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