Newly legal fireworks make my neighborhood noisy, my dog terrified

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Ted, my labradoodle

Dog experts will tell you that more dogs go missing during Fourth of July festivities than at any other time as our four-legged friends try desperately to flee the flash and bang of fireworks.

It makes sense.

The dogs are scared.

A big boom to us is like an erupting volcano or the end of the world to dogs, who have an amazing sense of hearing. Just think about dog whistles, which they hear and we do not. So when dogs hear what sounds like Godzilla bearing down on them, they do what anyone with half a brain would do: they try to get away.

A bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder makes it legal for Michigan folks over 18 to buy and shoot off assorted fireworks, including bottle rockets, Roman candles and fireworks, which is making life miserable for dogs.

It would be disingenuous to say that there were never bottle rockets or cherry bombs set off in Michigan before the bill. But now, rather than driving out of state, we only need to drive up and down Grand River Avenue to get our legal explosives.

The bill is meant to help Michigan’s economy by capturing taxes that have gone in the past to states like Ohio or Indiana, where it was legal to purchase fireworks. It also levels a fireworks safety fee on sellers who pay up to $1,000 a year for certification.

On its surface, it seems like a good move for the state, but it’s making life noisy for people like me, who find their once-peaceful neighborhoods sounding like little war zones. I kid you not: some neighborhood knucklehead set off a bottle rocket at 7:30 this morning — a Sunday, no less — as I sipped my morning coffee on my screen porch.

While it’s not every morning, it’s been every precipitation-free night since Memorial Day. Someone, somewhere within earshot of my downtown Howell house, is whooping it up with firecrackers and bottle rockets.

As annoying as all the noise is, I deal with it, despite my whining; however, it’s been absolutely terrifying for my dog, Ted, a labradoodle with the hearing of sophisticated surveillance equipment and the nerves of a bowl of Jell-O.

Every time there’s a sharp, loud noise, from a firework-related “bang” to a clap of thunder to a backfiring car, Ted hits the floor, or worms his way under a chair, or he dashes into the house, absolutely terrified. There’s never been a dog in my family who liked fireworks, but Ted takes it to a new level. I worry he’ll shake himself into orbit. It’s become often difficult to walk him through our neighborhood because someone is always shooting off something.

Thank goodness I’ve found a partial solution, one that soothes Ted just enough so that he quits shaking like a jackhammer.

It’s called a Thundershirt. As well as being an anxiety-reducer for Ted, it’s been a wonderful sanity saver for me.

I bought it after a string of spring thunderstorms found Ted nudging me awake at 3 a.m. I felt so sorry for the terrified beast that we waited out the storm together in the living room, watching crazy middle-of-the-night television, Ted shaking like he was trying to shed his skin.

I searched for remedies. Benadryl didn’t work. Downers from the veterinarian barely scratched the surface. Then, while surfing the Web, I stumbled across the amazing Thundershirt, a minor miracle.

Ted in his Thundershirt, relaxing on my screen porch.

Unless you own one, you might be asking what the heck is a Thundershirt. It’s made of a soft, heavy T-shirt-like material with Velcro strips that fasten around the dog.

It works just like you’re swaddling a crying baby. The gentle pressure on the central nervous system relaxes and relieves anxiety.

While Ted isn’t any happier about thunder or fireworks, he isn’t anywhere near as anxious when he’s got his shirt on.

So, until the neighborhood knuckleheads quit shooting off their fireworks, I keep the Thundershirt close at hand.

I don’t usually promote products, but I have to give the Thundershirt two huge paws up, which is a whole lot more than I give the folks shooting off the fireworks. Perhaps the Howell City Council might look into enacting a fireworks noise ordinance.

If your dog is suffering from fear of fireworks, or if you’re concerned about your pup’s safety on the Fourth of July, here are some tips from Cesar Milan.


About Maria Stuart 211 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.