The Joy of Fireworks


Another 4th of July has come and gone. Sort of.

Fireworks are illegal where we used to live. Not that people didn’t set them off anyway, but the din wasn’t nearly as bad as it was at our new location this year. Fireworks are legal here.

When I was younger I loved fireworks. I loved watching the sparks and colors. I was never big on the noise, but I didn’t mind. I understand enjoying the large fireworks displays set off by your local city or some other organization. And I understand the appeal of having a few sparklers at home. But as a dog-lover, and a dog-lover who also hopes to sleep again sometime soon, I really wish it would all stop.

A.J. had a tough time of it this year. The noise from the fireworks had started by July 1. There would be an occasional loud bang, and A.J. would start barking. This continued on July 2nd, and the 3rd. Then came the 4th.

I should have gone to the vet to get A.J. some drugs. I hate drugging him, it just doesn’t seem right. But it would have been a kindness, and I didn’t do it. So we all paid the price.

On July 4th A.J. was barking at fireworks noises by 7:30 PM. Around 8:30 I tried giving him a treat every time we heard one. That worked for the five minutes before that round of treats ran out. We then got some more treats and I worked with him, doing some of his training. He was able to focus, do what I asked, and get his treats. Ten minutes later we were out of treats, and he was barking again. I couldn’t keep stuffing him all night, so that was the end of that.

At about 9:00 I went upstairs, grabbed my tablet and a book, and went and sat in the walk-in closet with A.J. I put on some music, and A.J. settled down a little. He could still hear the fireworks. He’d start to growl, I’d talk to him, and he’d settle down. A minute or so later it would happen again. I tried different music and white noise, but none of it helped. (Personally, I thought the recording of rain just sounded like static.) The only thing that was helping was when I talked to him, so I opened my book and started reading to him. By 9:45 the booms were coming loud enough and often enough that A.J. was just standing in the closet barking at the walls and feeling trapped, so I let him out.

The barking continued almost non-stop. I finally took him into a back bedroom, turned on a fan for some white noise that didn’t sound like static, and settled in on the futon. A.J. isn’t allowed on the furniture, but I’ve been letting him sleep on the futon with me every night since the fireworks started. On this night he just couldn’t settle down. Eventually A.J. was starting to sleep through the booms that weren’t too bad, but then another very loud one would hit and he’d be up barking again.

At 12:30 AM A.J. and I were both sleeping between the barking fits. A.J., eyes red and bleary, voice hoarse and squeaky, just couldn’t stop himself. At each loud boom he’d jump up and bark in a completely crazed way, then he’d turn and look at me. The look said “Why aren’t you making this stop?”

Eventually, sometime around 1:30 AM, it did stop. We fell asleep on the futon, then got up at 6:00.

At this point you might think, whew, we got through another 4th. But no such luck. The next night the fireworks started again. There weren’t very many, but they were still loud. I was very tired and went to bed early, and I was asleep soon after 10:00. Between 10:15 and 10:45 A.J. woke me up twice barking at fireworks. I stopped looking at the clock, but after waking to a barking fit two more times I got up and took A.J. downstairs to the back bedroom. I turned on the white noise fan and laid down on the futon. A.J. climbed onto the futon, curled up next to me, and rested his head on my side. We both fell asleep instantly.

Now I just have to hope he doesn’t think that barking at night will always get him a nice comfy spot with me on the futon.