While many people are looking forward to enjoying the Fourth of July with barbecues and fireworks, the holiday will be a lot less fun for animals. Dogs are easily frightened by the sound of fireworks, and their owners make an effort to calm their nerves.
But what about the dogs that don’t have someone to, say, give them a set of headphones and an iPad? That’s the unfortunate reality for many dogs in shelters this week, who will be in a panic wondering what all that commotion going on outside is.
Luckily for them, there is one group of volunteers who have taken up an unlikely new holiday tradition.
As the Fourth of July approached last year, the workers at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, in Arizona, braced for the inevitable panic the scheduled fireworks show would cause.
“Shelters can be a very stressful place for animals,” Jose Santiago, MCACC’s public information officer, told The Dodo. “When you add the loud noises of exploding fireworks, that makes them even more anxious.”
“We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to make this night as calm for them as possible?’”
The solution: call on volunteers to show up to the shelters on the Fourth of July to keep the dogs company, an event they called “Calming the Canines.”
It was an amazing success: hundreds of people spent their holiday comforting the dogs.
Kids read storybooks, others brought instruments and played music. The volunteers went all out to make the shelter a safe space for the dogs as the fireworks started.
“We also had volunteers walking around spraying a bit of lavender oil [which promotes relaxation], and had classical music playing through the speakers,” Santiago said. “All of those things, in combination with the volunteers, really helped.”
He explains that dogs react strongly to fireworks because of their sound perception: “Dogs in particular can hear noises at a much louder decibel than we do,” Santiago told KJZZ. “During any festivities where fireworks are going off the dogs can hear them louder, closer than the average person can and it can make them uncomfortable… They’re unfamiliar with what that sound is.”
But the volunteers’ soothing efforts made a huge difference, completely relaxing the dogs.
“We could see as people talked to the dogs and stroked their fur, their eyes were getting heavier and heavier,” Santiago told The Dodo. “Many would lay down right at their kennels’ edge and fall asleep. That right there speaks volumes to how important the human touch is for those animals.”
Santiago also hopes that the bonding will inspire people to give the dogs a good home.
With the 2018 event a big success, MCACC repeated the event on New Year’s Eve (when there were also fireworks going off) and will do it again this Fourth of July. Calming the Canines, it seems, has become a real tradition.
“We’re so grateful to the community for their help with this,” Santiago said. “They’ve proven that when we put the call out, they’ll step forward time and time again.”
So if you’re in the Maricopa County area and are looking for some Independence Day plans, consider stopping by to play a song for a frightened dog—it could make all the difference.
“It was so so awesome because the dogs absolutely love the attention and were focused on the people and not the fireworks going on outside,” Amy Engel, an attendee at last July’s event, wrote on Facebook.
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