Column: The most dreaded time of year for dogs


I believe my dog is American, but boy does he hate the Fourth of July.

As the celebration of our nation’s independence approaches next week, we’ll enjoy with barbecues, parades and cold drinks. And as night approaches, those dreaded fireworks will light up the sky.

I love a great fireworks show as much as anyone, but over the past few years I’ve come to truly despise those loud bangs in the distance when I’m home at night. And for some reason, they seem to be gaining in frequency. Who’s shooting off fireworks in mid-June, anyway? Is that really necessary?

Or maybe I’m just noticing now that I own the world’s-most-easily-frightened dog.

My wife and I rescued our dog from a shelter in the summer of 2015, a few weeks after the Fourth of July. So it wasn’t until a year later we fully realized how much he despises fireworks and other similarly loud bangs like thunder. His name is Melo (Yes, after the basketball player, who at the time was still playing well in New York. And no, we didn’t immediately change his name to Porzingis). We were told he’s an Australian shepherd/golden retriever mix, although my wife insists he’s a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. One day we’ll get a DNA test to find out for sure.

On most days he’s a perfect dog. He doesn’t cause any destruction, he’s sweet, he’s friendly. But this time of year gets to be a trying time.

I know I’m not alone. In 2015, The Onion ran a story headlined “Nation’s Dogs Vow To Keep Their [expletive] Together During 4th Of July Fireworks.”

“Though we recognize we have not always demonstrated the most poise and self-control on this particular holiday, we want to assure everyone that this will finally be the year we don’t completely lose it and freak out upon hearing the booming of distant fireworks,” the article quotes Duchess, a 6-year-old cocker spaniel, as saying.

Ha! Good luck.

For most dog owners, the problems will start right around July 4. For me, they’ve already begun.

The occasional distant fireworks at night around my home have already warned my dog: Fourth of July is near. And he is not happy.

When I arrive home from work every day, Melo races down the stairs to greet me with the same level of enthusiasm no matter what. It’s one of the reasons we love dogs so much — that unconditional love. He shakes in excitement as I strap his harness on to go outside. Later in the night, when I ask him if he wants to go out, that excitement starts up all over again.

Only nowadays, once I open the door, he looks outside and shoots me a look that says, “No thanks!”

Yes, starting a few weeks before Fourth of July, my dog decided he no longer would like to risk stepping his paws outside once the sun sets. This leads to several ridiculous scenarios. When he fails to go out the front door, I take him to the back. This leads to better success and I can usually get him to at least step out a few feet to take care of business before he pulls to go back in. Sometimes he doesn’t even want to step out at all. Then I resort to picking up his 33-pound body and carrying him toward the street, so he at least has to walk back to the door.

I can only imagine what my neighbors must think if they look out the window and see me carrying my dog.

Usually he’s still excited about the idea of going outside. He’ll race down stairs to where his leash is. But sometimes, he doesn’t even want to go that far. Instead, he’ll turn around and head upstairs, at which point my wife blocks his path and ushers him back down.

A few days ago, when I went to take him out around 8 p.m., he still didn’t want to go out. It wasn’t even dark yet!

I wish I could say this all goes away after the Fourth of July. But if the past two summers are any indication, these late-night shenanigans won’t end any time soon. This drags on through July and maybe by some time in August my dog will once again brave a nighttime walk through the neighborhood.

Until then, I’ll do my best to quarantine him during the inevitable Wednesday night fireworks display.

Photo caption: Melo during firework-free times. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister) 

The author is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected].

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