How long can Independence Day drag on? As I look over this column one last time before sending it to my editor, my neighborhood still sounds like a battlefield. The ratta-tat-tat of firecrackers. Deafening cannon booms. The whistle of bottle rockets.
Never mind that the Fourth of July ended three days ago.
Volumes have been written about the physiological and psychological effects of fireworks on animals. But until you’ve watched an otherwise laid-back 50-pound dog tremble and hyperventilate and practically knock you down trying to find a place to escape the commotion, you can’t really understand the problem. That’s the case with Sophie, known to regular readers of this column as the cutest dog in the whole wide world. Throw in Iniesta, her high-strung littermate whom I inherited from my son, and you have a recipe for misery.
Where I live, fireworks mania begins around the middle of June. It starts with scattered pop-pop-popping in the late afternoons. The closer we get to the Fourth, the rowdier it gets and the longer it lasts. By July 1, chaos rules.
The dogs pace and drool and whimper. I’m reluctant to leave them alone for fear they’ll escape their confines and run off. Iniesta did that a couple of years ago, when she lived with James and Natalie in the heart of town, and was gone for eight days. Finding her was nothing short of a miracle. But even if the dogs choose not to bolt, the nervous jitters take a toll on them. And on me.
If they were tiny and quiet and sweet-smelling, it wouldn’t be so complicated. I could pop them into a tote bag and take them with me wherever I go. They could snuggle in my lap while I read or watch TV. They could even sleep in my bed, where double-paned windows and the hum of air-conditioning drown out most of the outside noise.
Sophie and Iniesta are just too big and strong. Their tails are mighty enough to clear a coffee table with one wag. Ten minutes after a bath, they smell doggy again. Because they’ve always lived outside, being in the house makes them nervous. Almost as nervous as fireworks. I’ve spent every minute I could for the past two weeks hanging out with them on my back porch, trying to act as though the world isn’t coming to an end.
On the Fourth of July, I decided we’d be better off attending the fireworks extravaganza at the Putnam County fairgrounds than staying home. At dusk I slipped each of the dogs a Benadryl, hidden in a slice of pepperoni. Then I loaded them into the car and headed for South Jefferson Avenue, to a spot close enough to see the show but not hear much of it. (Don’t ask. It’s my forever secret.) With the A/C on high, the windows rolled up and the radio blasting, they did okay.
Back home, it was another story. I spent the next three hours on the porch, Sophie’s head resting on my left knee and Iniesta’s on my right, while pandemonium raged on. A torrential downpour sometime after midnight finally forced the revelers, whoever they are, to stop. But they’ve been back at it with indefatigable enthusiasm every evening since. The ratta-tat-tat of firecrackers. Deafening cannon booms. The whistle of bottle rockets.
How long can Independence Day drag on?
(July 10, 2016)