It’s the 4th of July, and I am dreading everything. I dread the week before the 4th of July, and the week following as well for the same reason: Fireworks. I hate them. I hate them so much.
Seems melodramatic, doesn’t it? A little weird? After all, who doesn’t like fireworks, right?
Fireworks play a role in some of my fondest childhood memories. My family and I would go and watch firework displays every year. I wasn’t overly fond of the booming sound of the fireworks, but the pretty colors and sparkles exploding in the sky more than made up for it.
We would return home to continue the festivities by setting off more fireworks at our suburban home. My brother and I would take turns running around the yard waving our sparklers, while my mom and dad would light bottle rocket after bottle rocket into the air. We loved it.
When I got older and moved out of my parents’ house, I kept the same traditions. The 4th would come around, and I’d go to every firework show I could, dragging family and friends alike with me. I had so much fun. Doesn’t everyone?
I can’t recall what specific incident made me realize how dangerous and irresponsible fireworks are. I wish I could. I suspect it had something to do with the cats.
Cats & Dogs Are Like Potato Chips, You Can’t Rescue Just One (Or Eight)
In my early-20s I found myself, for the first time, with a steady job and decent income. The stability that those things provided allowed me to begin my life as an animal rescuer. I started by caring for some of the feral cats in the neighborhood. I continued by taking six additional cats into my household, bringing the total cats living with me to nine.
And although I had lived with cats and dogs my entire life, I found that my new role as provider to these animals changed me in a way that my previous experiences hadn’t. I grew more aware of the animals living on the streets, and of the emotional needs of the animals that I brought into my home. I became aware of fear.
Fear. Of all, it’s fear that gets to me the most. I cannot stand to know/hear of/witness an animal in fear. It tears at me.
Fear is what makes Dezzi, who has been living with me for 15 years, still run and hide when a thunderstorm rolls in. Fear is what makes Joee come and sit beside me when she hears a loud noise outside. And fear is what makes Loki hide upstairs when company comes over. As much as I try, I can’t eliminate every ounce of fear in their lives.
Mostly because I can’t talk to them in a language they’ll understand because I can’t speak dog/cat.
The Language Barrier
See, dogs and cats live in a world that wasn’t designed by them, and they can’t communicate with the people who did. I can’t, for example, sit Loki down and explain to her that the company coming over are friends and that she doesn’t have to hide upstairs until they leave. I can’t tell Joee that a slamming car door doesn’t mean certain doom, and neither does a thunderstorm.
It isn’t just dogs and cats I can’t talk to though; I can’t speak to any animal.
I can’t explain what windows are to the birds outside so that they don’t fly into them. I can’t tell red-tail hawks not to eat plastic because it can make their stomach explode. I’ll never have the ability to speak to a family of raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, or any other animal about the dangers of living in this world.
For instance, I can’t explain to the animals that humans light up fireworks for (no reason) “fun.” I can’t explain to them that the loud booms aren’t a threat to them or their children. I can’t tell them that the safest thing to do is to stay put. I can’t explain anything to the animals — I wish I could — and their lack of understanding intensifies their fear of things in our world.
When I sat down to write this article for the 4th of July, I planned to fill it with facts and stats about fireworks, things like:
- More companion animals go missing/run away on the 4th of July than any other time. These animals can get hurt, end up in the local pound, or worse.
- Backyard animals are also at risk. A colder spring this year has caused a late breeding season, and many (birds) chicks are still in the nest, unable to fly. If they are startled out of the nest early, there is a higher risk of injury or death. Diurnal animals will be settled in the nest for the night and not expecting bright lights or loud noises.
I was going to tell you about fireworks animal safety (make sure to check the area for bird nests before setting off any fireworks and clean up any residual material from the fireworks, so no animals try to eat or make a nest out of it), that type of thing. There were plans to tell you about making sure your companion animals are inside in a safe space for them during fireworks. I thought that I might even post that infographic that has been going around showing tips for keeping dogs/cats safe and anxiety-free on the 4th of July- you know the one, with suggestions like “give them a chew bone,” and, “lock them in a dark and quiet room.”
I was going to give you a bunch of stats and facts about fireworks. Instead, I’ll ask you to remember that not everyone loves fireworks. In fact, many are frightened to death by them.
If fireworks aren’t safe for dogs and cats, then they aren’t safe for the other animals either.