Every Fourth of July I think of this “dog thought”…I cower in the shower.  Many years ago my family had a wonderful 65 pound Golden Retriever and Lab mix named “Nuva.”  She loved the kids and let them crawl all over her.  After the initial puppy and teen years, she never chewed up anything, never pottied in the house and was gentle and courageous, but come Independence Day, she was a different dog.  Fireworks scared the heck out of her and she would become nervous and whale-eyed and very unpredictable, but then she found a solution.

One day, about four days before the Fourth of July, I couldn’t find Nuva anywhere.  I was frantic.  Our yard was dog safe and the house, the same.  I decided I needed to head out and comb the neighborhood.  I went to the bathroom before I left and suddenly heard whimpering coming from the shower.  I pulled back the curtain and there was Nuva, huddled in the corner, slobbering, shaking and miserable.   I tried to coax her out, but there was no budging her.  I realized that was probably the best place for Nuva during the Fourth of July week; she was inside, no windows, sheltered from much of the booms and flashes and secluded, but easy to find.  Most importantly, she was contained.

The Fourth of July is a horrible day for many dogs and cats.  Every shelter agrees they are flooded with lost dogs and cats once the fireworks begin.  So, what can you do?  I asked our medical director, Dr. Jennifer Lavender for advice.

“Don’t ever underestimate the ability of your pet to escape,” says veterinarian, Dr. Lavender. “When dogs are scared they can scale large cinder block walls, escape through locked doors and windows and chew or dig their way out of yards, rooms, garages and kennels. The most important way to keep your pet safe and sound is ‘containment.”

Also, if your dog is on anti-anxiety medications, make sure their prescription is filled and dosage is correct and you have kept them on their meds consistently.  You have probably heard of “pressure coats” called “Thundershirts” and these work for some, but not all dogs to ease anxiety.  There are some over the counter dog appeasing pheromones that come as collar or diffuser.  You should test these possible aids well in advance of the Fourth of July to see just how effective they will be.

I know we all love to party, but if you have dogs and cats who hate fireworks, it’s probably not a good idea to have people going in and out of the house and fireworks nearby. If you are going to be out of town, don’t leave the safety of your pet with a house sitter or friend checking them before and after work.  Instead, consider a professional kennel or consider taking vacation time during a less stressful time for your pet.

But, things can happen, so make sure your animal has a tag with their name and two phone numbers.  You can get these made immediately at a vending machine at the big box pet stores or Walmart.  If your pet isn’t chipped get it done (here at Spay Neuter Network, we do it very cheaply for $16.50 per chip per pet) and make sure your information is updated!!!!

If your dog or cat does get lost or takes off, time is of the essence.  Hit the streets immediately and talk to everyone, not just neighbors, but also postal workers, delivery people and people just walking around.  Put up simple flyers on telephone poles right away in the neighborhood with a picture and phone number.  Post a picture on social media like Facebook and Next Door.  Post immediately to the lost and found sections on the area shelter websites.  Many cities and counties also have a pet lost and found on their websites and Facebook pages. As soon, as the shelters open, start walking the closest ones to your home at least once a day and recruit a friend or two to do the same. Oh, when you find your dog or kitty, be sure to post that they have been found and there is a happy reunion!  Also, if you see a four-legged running about, bring them in and help get them home.

So, as the rockets start glaring and the bombs bursting in air, watch your best friends and watch their cues; what helps them feel safe?  For my old girl, Nuva, the best bet was to hit the shower; it was the safest space she could find. So, I put her bed in the shower and let her cope in her canine way.  Nuva knew best.

From all of us here at Spay Neuter Network, have a safe Fourth of July and enjoy your most precious independence and freedom here in America.