Michelle Vu can’t bring the Party with her to Fourth of July celebrations.
Party is Vu’s 3-year-old female pit bull mix. And the dog hates fireworks — so much so that last year, as Independence Day revelers put together spectacular sound and light shows from noon to midnight in Vu’s neighborhood, Party broke out of her yard. Party was found inside a neighbor’s closet, still hiding 12 hours after she disappeared.
“We were really afraid that we might have lost her,” Vu said.
The day after Independence Day typically is one of the busiest of the year at the Nebraska Humane Society, said Pam Wiese, the Humane Society spokeswoman.
Most days of the year, the Humane Society sends about a half dozen lost dogs home with their owners, she said. In the days leading up to Independence Day, that number slowly climbs but almost never exceeds 10 a day.
The day after the Fourth, it more than doubles. Last July 5, owners reclaimed 20 dogs; the year before, 26, Wiese said.
The shelter doesn’t see the same increase in cats, for a couple of reasons, she said.
Felines don’t react to fireworks the same way as dogs. They find places to hide and return after the fireworks stop. Dogs try to outrun the noise and can easily become disoriented and lost, Wiese said.
Once on the loose, unleashed dogs are reported as strays, but leash laws don’t apply to cats.
If they have proper identification — something that is important no matter the time of year — dogs can be returned to their owners without ever having to go to the shelter, Wiese said.
Even better protection for fearful pets: Keep them inside, she said.
“You may be out with him at a barbecue and, if somebody leaves the gate open, he may dart out because of the noise,” Wiese said.
But sometimes leaving a dog inside, even in a secure basement or laundry room, isn’t enough. Veterinarian Greg Trost said he gets 10 to 15 calls a day this time of year from owners whose dogs are stressed by fireworks. Often, he recommends over-the-counter medications that can induce drowsiness, such as Benadryl or Dramamine, to calm the canine.
If that doesn’t work, Trost uses a tranquilizer to make a dog groggy or put it in a semi-sleep.
“They’ll get a little wobbly,” he said. “So you definitely don’t want to leave the dog unattended.”
Vu has devised her own strategies to keep Party and her other dog, Sushi, safe this holiday season. She walks them in the mornings to ensure that they are well-exercised.
Before she leaves the house, she turns on classical music to mask the explosions outside. But ultimately, Vu is just waiting out the fireworks season, watching her dogs as they dart in and out of closets.
“I’m constantly stressed out because my dogs are stressed out,” Vu said. “But you just deal with these things.”