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Here comes the rain again, Annie...

April 3, 2009 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode
April showers bring… no sleep for Amy.

(Mazey sporting her fashionable, new "calming collar")

While I anxiously anticipate the arrival of spring, it is also the beginning of the end of my restful nights.

With Spring comes baseball. I love baseball. There is nothing more fun than taking in a Curve game but with baseball games come fireworks. When you have a dog that is afraid of fireworks and you live within earshot of the stadium, you are one of the first to pick up the team’s promotional calendar when it comes out. I used to love fireworks... and the smells and sounds of a warm summer rain and thunder.

I always seem to have one dog that is deathly afraid of fireworks and storms. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood comes alive with illegal fireworks from about mid-June through Labor Day. Some of the neighbors are relentless. It‘s as if they have a mission to see how loud and how long they can ignite their illegal contraband. At least one week each month, I can’t help but find myself hoping those morons mess up and take off a few fingertips. I know it’s cruel but don’t forget by this time I am completely deprived of sleep.

As soon as Mazey catches a whiff of either she is completely inconsolable. I am not a fan of the prescribed sedatives (for dogs – for me, yes) because it seems to make them so incoherent. And, at Mazey’s ripe old age she already has enough problems with balance and steps.

The one over-the-counter calming pill that did work for her is no longer available. I contacted the company directly pleading for my own private supply but the only response I got was “we’re sorry for the inconvenience, this product is no longer available”. They have NO idea what they have done to my life…

I have yet to find another one that works. I’m trying everything.

I found Deb Mendez. She may just become my new BFF. She is based in Florida and makes, among other things, hand-made collars filled with natural herbs that are designed to help calm noise-sensitive dogs . Her turn-around time is incredible, she’s great to deal with and I’ve been wearing the collar on Mazey a lot. We have yet to experience a major thunder boom but I think that’s coming tonight and we’ll put the collar to the test.  I will say that the herbs do seem to calm Mazey to the point of deep sleep at times. And, it smells so good I wondered if I should order one for myself ? (We may have a new human trend, Deb!)

With many dogs, fear and associated behavior quickly become an instinctual habit. Even as Mazey has grown comfortable with her surroundings (she adopted me almost 2 years ago), her learned behavior is so ingrained she can’t shut of her automatic response. She paces, pants, shakes and paws at me for attention. I feel so bad for her.

However, I have learned a few things by having dogs. You can, in fact, help to reverse many learned behaviors. Because I have no idea what trauma Mazey might have endured before I adopted her I may not ever be able to successfully eliminate her behavior completely but I am able to help diminish it.

To help lessen the impact on Mazey (during fireworks or impending thunderstorms) I take a few proactive measures. I barricade myself in the house, turn on most every light and television as well as every fan or air conditioner to mask the sound. The electric company loves me.

I try to distract her attention away from the outside noise. (I used to be able to use Jess to distract Mazey because Jess had no fear of loud noises.) I shower Mazey with praise and talk continuously in a comforting yet stern voice to let her know that no harm is going to come to her. I offer her a treat and continue to praise her positive behavior. Mazey still ends up finding a bunker to hide in, usually behind the TV stand or plastered up against the kitchen door.

Except when I’m at work, I try to make it a point not to leave Mazey home alone during a storm or fireworks. I miss watching fireworks. I long to enjoy the relaxing sounds and smells of a good rainstorm but I can only imagine the fear Mazey faced all alone in some cage before I got her with nobody around to comfort her.

If you are one of the many pet owners with a storm-phobic pup, know you are not alone. If you have any good remedies please share! Somebody deserves a good night sleep between now and October.

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