We’re at the beginning of a weekend that should be dedicated to barbecues, beaches, bike parades and birth-of-independence observations. This July 4, however, we get to do none of the first three, and the fourth has been obscured—wordplay intended—by the continual blasts of illegally ignited fireworks that terrorize our pets as well as military veterans and others who suffer from PTSD.
Reports of blasts have been reported this year since Mother’s Day. Those of us with pets have relied on them for comfort through isolation, illness, loss, sleep deprivation and everything else. Now, it’s our turn to comfort them and protect them from freaking out and running away.
“I’m so thankful my almost 15-year-old girl is deaf,” Nadine Akers said. “She used to hide in the bathtub and shake for hours. Nothing helped very much. I usually stayed with her till she’d fall asleep.”
Out of curiosity, I asked a few Long Beach residents what they do for their pets every year to prevent fireworks freakout aside from what’s on the lists on social media. Dedicated pet people get ambitious and creative when it comes to the well-being of their cats, dogs and rabbits. My absolutely favorite idea came from dog companion Steffen Cook:
“One technique I stumbled across was that some dogs feel soothed by warm water,” he said. “So, depending on your dog, run a deep, warm bath; get in with them; and hold them against your chest until they relax. This worked for a Westie that I knew 20 years ago.” Caveat: Probably won’t work with the cat.
A few pets, cats in particular, reportedly had less of a reaction than their owners do. My own get all pupilly in the eye, put their ears back, and then go back to doing whatever they were doing, usually napping. Anne T. Johanson-Wright’s cats head for the darkest corner under the bed.
“But that doesn’t help me, who was just dozing off,” she said.
“My cats get scared for the first few booms of the night but are pretty chill after that,” said Valerie Osier, our breaking-news-and-a-lot-of-other-stuff-reporter and cat mama. “But they often scare the crap outta me.”
As anticipated, about a third of the suggestions involved veterinary-grade CBD oil or treats infused with it or other ingredients viewed as calmative. Others fought fireworks with fire, or at least ambient sound. One woman bought three very loud electric fans to muffle the popping noises. “It works pretty well,” she said.
“Someone told me once to cover my bedroom window with egg crates to make a more soundproof situation,” South said. Sounds worth a try, but you’d have to eat a lot of omelets first, and it leaves vegans with no DIY resource.
“I’m so fortunate to have a room with no windows,” said Aostara Kaye. “I play loud music, turn the fan on, provide a comfy covered den to hide in, herbal treats—those are my RX for both myself and my dog. I also want to get some soundproofing for the window of my guest room, since there’s actually a bed in there and that would be more comfy than us crashing on the floor of the windowless room. I sure wish Ford [Motor Company] would start producing those noise cancelling dog houses they prototyped! Me and the dog would be sleeping in one together.”
That sounds pretty cozy to me at any time. Kaye is also looking into soundproofing her windows herself with commercially available panels. Those can help if your only windowless room is the bathroom or a walk-in closet and the noises are bugging you as well. We’ve installed double-paned glass on ours, and it helps. Some.
Taqwa Gilani also turns on a loud fan [fans are going to be as hard to come by as toilet paper in a pandemic pretty soon] and the TV. She provides her dog a little self-space bolstered by calming supplements. But next year, she wants her dog to be as ready as she is.
“I’m going to desensitize my pups before next year for sure because this is no way to live,” she said.
Desensitization training has been a practice with military dogs—trainers will expose a dog to gradual rises in a stimulus, usually gunfire sounds, until the animal is no longer reactive. Several human companions are also preparing for boomsdays to come.
“I’ve used positive treat training and successfully calmed firework fear in two dogs,” said a woman with the evocative name of Kara Bearz. “Whenever we hear a firework, I get happy and excited and give the dogs a treat. It changes the association from scared to knowing if they come to me, they get a treat. It can take a while for dogs who are really scared—our first dog would shake violently before we started doing this—but with patience, time\ and consistency it works.”
Tealeye Cornejo is taking a free online training course with a private Facebook group called Canine Learning Academy, and dog companion Sasha Rosenthal has made a science out of it.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research on this recently,” she said. “The sedatives don’t help with fear—they just make them less able to react. Can you imagine how helpless they must feel?”
Rosenthal believes that medication should be a last resort after you’ve tried everything, including behavior training, but she has particular regard for densensitization.
“You can actually systematically desensitize your dog through training, depending on the dog and the severity, of course,” she said. “Just five minutes once or twice every day, listen to audio of fireworks and give them highly valued treats, very gradually turning the volume up. Also, if you have to go out at night, bring treats with you and treat your dog immediately after you hear a firework. They will learn to associate fireworks with treats instead of fear. When they hear a firework, their first thought will be ‘I get a treat! instead of going into panic mode.”
If you have the patience and desire, Rosenthal recommended a free, detailed blog and an accompanying e-book titled “Dogs and Fireworks: 30+ Proven Techniques to Eliminate Noise Phobia.” If you want to be proactively pet protective, it’s worth a glance. Mother’s Day 2021 will be here before you know it.
Long Beach Animal Care Services has been closed to the public for months but not to animals. Besides grappling with quarantine and fireworks-addled runaway pets, they’re also contending with kitten season. Need a cat? Of course you do—you just might not know it yet. Take a look at these terrific videos.
The final one features two lovely dogs whose owner died and left them without a home. If you can provide them, they’ll thank you forever.
Midnight and Shadow
If you can see the bottom of the kibble bag:
West Coast Toyota of Long Beach bought $3,000 worth of pet food last month to deliver to people in need in our community. If anyone you know is in this position, take a photo of the food you give to your pet, and include your name, contact information and a brief description of your work situation to [email protected]. Fix’n Fidos will deliver the food to you or arrange for you to pick it up.
Helen Sanders CatPAWS offers, through specific private donors, e-gift cards for people struggling during the crisis to buy food for their pets. The CatPAWS Spay/Neuter Fund, also privately funded, has vouchers available for anyone not able to go to the shelter for them. They also accept donations.
Pets of the Homeless‘ home page gives a self-description as the only organization focusing only on providing food and care for pets belonging to homeless people. Businesses and other organizations across the country receive in-kind donations of food and other needs that the dogs and cats’ human families can pick up at outreach locations. The following Long Beach businesses will accept your donations:
Trendi Pawz, 3726 E. 7th St., Long Beach
Belmont Heights Animal Hospital, 255 Redondo Ave., Long Beach
Paw Shoppe Pet Center, Inc., 6416 E. Spring St., Long Beach
Food and supplies are available at Beacon for Him Ministries, 1535 Gundry Ave. Long Beach, Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.; and at Christian Outreach in Action, 515 E. 3rd St., Long Beach, Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. Donations will be gratefully accepted at these locations as well.
Just fur fun
Annual 4th of July Tiki Pawty for Dogs: Saturday, July 4, all day., Joyful Paws Pet Hotel and Daycare, 1701 Fashion Ave., Long Beach, $6, RSVP at 562-684-8610. Available to boarded furry guests only.
Some humans who live in areas where illegal fireworks noise is unbearable opt to board their pets for the most intensive days. If your pet already has a reservation or you’re planning to make one, RSPV for this fun event. Dogs will enjoy a day in the pool with pupsicles and puperazzi to snap photos. Cats, of course, are welcome but likely wouldn’t enjoy the pool; however, they’re entitled to a Tiki photo. Of course, no fireworks will mark the festivities.
New-Dog Basics Classes: Saturdays, July 11–Aug. 15, 4–5 p.m., Trots Headquarters, Long Beach, $395 for the series, inquire at [email protected]. Address given out after registration.
Are you one of the wonderful humans who gave a new dog a new home during the pandemic shut-in? You love the doggie but not some of their habits? These dog psychology classes are just the right thing: walking, boundaries and other necessary things to know. Animal behaviorist Jo Stanford does such a good job of guiding you through a dog’s mind that pretty soon you’ll be staying off the couch, too!
Benny’s 3rd birthday celebration and fundraiser: Monday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. Register online here.
Last year, The Scratching Post published a story about Benny, a little cat who, at a year old, had apparently been through some awful abuse and yet kept his sweet disposition Benny was brought to Long Beach Animal Care Services in 2018 with a shattered jaw and other trauma-related injuries. Long Beach resident Beverly Leifer’s heart went out to him when she saw him, and it wasn’t long after that her arms also reached out and brought him home, forever. Last year, Benny and Bev both vowed to give back to the community and had a birthday bash like no other to raise money for the shelter and to Helen Sanders CatPAWS, the feline rescue that paid for Benny’s surgeries. This year, undaunted, the two have planned a virtual celebration that’ll be virtually awesome. This year, funds will go to CatPAWS again and also to WISEPlace, an Orange County center that empowers homeless and abused women. Benny hopes to help abuse victims across species lines. More details are available here.
Help wanted, help given
Long Beach Animal Care Services has spay/neuter vouchers available. They’ll take a healthy nip out of the cost of a procedure. Residents of any of the five cities served by the shelter—(see above)—can telephone the general number at (562) 570-7387 to request a voucher.
The Spay/Neuter Project of Los Angeles (SNP/LA) is back in business for free and low-cost spay/neuter services, and they’re extending the hours of their vaccination clinics. Beginning June 18, the San Pedro clinic, located at 957 N. Gaffey St., will give shots every third Thursday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Call (310) 574-5555 to see if you qualify for services.
Adopt, adopt, adopt
The following pet-related businesses regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions, but as of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.
- Bunny Bunch
- Cat Cove
- Friends of Long Beach Animals
- Fix Long Beach
- Foreverhome Pet Rescue, Inc.
- Feline Good Social Club
- Helen Sanders CatPAWS
- Jellicle Cats Foundation
- Kitty Katchers
- Live Love Animal Rescue
- Long Beach Animal Care Services
- Long Beach Spay & Neuter Foundation
- Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
- Seal Beach Animal Care Center
- Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
- Stray Cat Alliance
- The Little Lion Foundation
- Zazzy Cats
- Zoey’s Place Rescue
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