Don’t have a ‘dog gone’ July 4th / by Annette Tait

Loud fireworks can make even the best-behaved pets bolt in a blind panic. 

Loud fireworks can make even the best-behaved pets bolt in a blind panic. 

Rural dogs have it good, even when they’re working. They ride around with their people, chase things (with a purpose), have room to run, and can bark their heads off without ticking off the neighbors. The people they live with … well, that’s another story.

They can hang with their kids, swim in the creek, roll in all sorts of smelly stuff, and -- during hunting season -- find the absolute BEST prizes in the bone pile. Life in the city just can’t compete.

Even so, country canines have more in common with their city counterparts than what meets the eye. They still share the same keen eyesight, super-sensitive hearing, and self-preservation instincts, no matter where they live.

Which brings us to a dog’s-eye view of our nation’s birthday. Even trained gun dogs have been known to flee when blast-zone-level explosions start in around the Fourth of July. And living in the country doesn’t mean the booming sounds of fireworks are always at a distance -- it mostly depends on how folks who live nearby like to celebrate.

Every year we get at least one call from a neighbor whose dog disappeared when the explosions started. And, at animal shelters, the phones ring off their hooks.

“It’s usually people who have left their dogs alone in a backyard, and, in that panic mode, they’ve broken out, or jumped out, or dug out trying to get away from the noise,” Central Dakota Humane Society Shelter Director Sue Buchholz said. “Even dogs that usually stay in an electric fence will get out -- nothing stops them when they’re in a blind panic.”

We’ve seen it ourselves. We had one old dog you couldn’t ruffle for the world. Gunshots, sudden noises, kids with air horns -- nothing bothered her.

Except the annual fireworks display. We knew she’d finally gone deaf the year the show started and she didn’t try to squeeze herself between the toilet and the wall in the back bathroom.

If there’s any chance the noise will reach your pets -- remember, their hearing is much better than ours is -- make sure they’re in a safe, secure, indoor location they’re used to. If they’re not house pets, a garage or outbuilding works, too, providing there’s no means to escape if the fear hits them.

“We hear people say ‘I think that’s mean’ about crates, but it’s not -- it turns into their safe place, their little den,” Buchholz said, adding it’s a good idea for all dogs to be crate-trained. “Even if you don’t always have to crate them when you leave the house, it’s a safe place for them at times like Fourth of July, so they won’t get hurt, cause damage, or possibly get out and get lost.”

She’s right about crate training. We’ve had all sorts of canine pranksters over the years, but the one who took the cake was the pup who ate an entire container of mink oil. You can probably imagine the aftermath of that disaster. Let’s just say “monumental clean-up” and leave it at that.

Last, but not least, make sure pets are wearing ID tags that include your phone number, and keep the info current. It’s the quickest way to reunite an escaped pet with its family.