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17 + 1 + never-ending = 0 sleep
April 15, 2007 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode
I live in a world of mixed blessings. Each year I anxiously anticipate the arrival of spring training because I know baseball season and warm weather are not far behind.
However, it is also the beginning of the end of my restful nights. With Curve games comes FIREWORKS. When you have a dog that is afraid of fireworks and you live within earshot of the Curve stadium, you are one of the first to pick up the team’s promotional calendar when it comes out.
Now, I just love Parney and our Boys of Summer and there is nothing more fun than taking in a Curve game; but, then I also used to love fireworks as did I love the smell of rain and sound of thunder.
In my brood of dogs it seems I always have one 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, (when I’m at my most hormonal) I can’t help but find myself hoping those inconsiderate jerks mess up and take off a few finger tips. I know it’s cruel but don’t forget by this time I am completely deprived of sleep.
Jess doesn’t mind noises at all. Mazey, on the other hand, becomes completely inconsolable. Last night, I thought I heard thunder then realized it was fireworks over at the stadium. I held my breath. Within minutes Mazey flew upstairs and tried to climb onto the bed with me and on top of my head.
With many dogs, the fear and associated behavior quickly become an instinctual habit. Even as Mazey has grown comfortable with her new surroundings (I’ve had her almost a year) and she can see Jess has no fear, her learned behavior is so ingrained that 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 quite a bit.
To help lessen the impact on Mazey (during fireworks or impending thunderstorm) 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 bet my house looks like the Griswalds in reverse.
I begin playing with the girls to distract their attention away from the outside noise. As I talk in a happy, non-threatening voice and run around the house, Jess gets excited. Mazey soon starts to follow, mimicking her behavior. 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 the girls a treat and continue to praise their playful behavior.
Mazey still ends up finding a bunker to hide in, usually behind the kitchen garbage can, but with a little effort vested in helping to calm her fears it seems to take less time with each incident.
I make it a point not to leave Mazey home alone during a storm or fireworks night. 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.