If you were to ask Willow what her favorite holiday was, I believe she would say Thanksgiving… Yes, definitely Thanksgiving.
As far as her least favorite holiday, well… it’s a tie between New Year’s Eve and 4th of July. Why?
The all-mighty fireworks, that’s why.
It is hard to grasp how scary these joyful celebrations can be for a dog (or cat). But if we can, for a moment, forget that we know what fireworks are and try to experience them from a different point of view, perhaps we could see them as what they are in their simplest form: sudden, rumbling, unexpected, loud explosions with bright flashes of light. Most animals (and quite a few humans) don’t find much fun in that.
While some dogs and cats could care less about fireworks (bless them), many of them spend the night(s) in constant stress and panic. You know the statistics already, more pets go missing on July 4th than any other night of the year.
Below is a list of the top five ways I have found to give Willow and her feline sister Leeloo a more peaceful night. I dearly hope something in this list will be helpful to you and yours.
Willow’s Top 5 Serenity Tips
1. Get them dog-tired
Exercise and mental stimulation in the form of any activity your dog (or cat) enjoys will be fundamental in helping them start the day off right so they don’t have an abundance of energy in the evening to focus on fear and stress. Make sure it is something they enjoy and does not send them over threshold. A long play session at the beach, a good hike with friends, scenting games, chasing after their favorite toy, learning a new trick or anything else you got, bring it.
2. Take the edge off
There are many great holistic ways to help your beasts feel a little more relaxed. I have listed my favorites for you here:
- Canna Companion- a unique blend of Cannabis sativa strains, frequently referred to as hemp, designed to enhance the supportive benefits of the Cannabis plant while minimizing the ‘high-inducing’ concentrations of THC. I give Willow one capsule with each meal (twice a day) and make sure to feed her dinner an hour before the fireworks start. For Leeloo, I open a small capsule formulated for cats and sprinkle some on her food twice a day.
- Treatibles- a different way to provide your pet with the calming benefits of hemp and CBD oil can come in the form of yummy chews, drops or gel capsules. I am especially keen on Treatibles when I have run out of my Canna Companion and can quickly pick some up some chews at my local shop. My wallet is especially grateful for the chews, since the capsules and oils can get a little pricey.
- Jackson Galaxy/Spirit Essences Solutions- A flower essence solution you can add to your pet’s water or food or spray in the room or bedding. We use Stress Stopper for any stressful situation, from trips to the vet and especially on 4th of July. I add it to their water and make sure and spray some around the house. They have many other super helpful solutions for different behaviors and situations.
- Thundershirt- Willow’s Thundershirt has been a staple in helping her feel comfortable and safe during stressful situations, especially when she was a baby and well into her adolescence. We still pull it out for any situation we know will be stressful for her or if we know we will not be able to get away from the fireworks. I am in the process of familiarizing Leeloo to her own Thundershirt now. Cats are a little trickier, but they deserve just as much support and protection.
- Zuke’s Enhance Calming Functional Chews- I simply love this new line of functional supplement treats Zuke’s created. The Calming chews have passionflower, valerian and chamomile among other natural remedies wrapped up in a yummy chicken or peanut butter bite-sized treat that I can offer to Willow throughout the day to help ease any stress and nervousness.
3. Give them a safe space
Prepare your home to be a safe haven for your dogs and cats. Close all the windows, close the blinds or draw the curtains. Get some soothing tunes going, I like to play either some gentle nature sounds with music, light classical or my favorite, Through a Dog’s Ear CDs. They now have a portable player called iCalm for dogs or cats! I also get some portable fans for the bedroom and main livingspace Willow and Leeloo will hang out in and set them on medium to high. Not only will the fans keep the air moving, they will also help drown out any outside noise from the festivities. I open the closets in case they want to go cuddle up somewhere dark, quiet and cozy. Just in case, make sure your pets are wearing their identification on a collar, updated microchip etc. On occasions when we can’t get away for the 4th, I have Willow wear her bright orange harness on top of her Thundershirt. The harness has another set of identification tags. You never know, life happens, and collars slip. You want to give your dog or cat as much of a chance to get back home safely should they find themselves lost.
4. Find your own zen
If you are opting out of the festivities and hunkering down for the night with your pets to keep them company (thank you, you are amazing), make sure you do whatever it is you need to take care of you first. Go to a yoga class, or go for a nice run. make a list of movies or shows to catch up on. Cook up a comforting meal or order take out. Light some candles, pop open some wine, meditate, dance in your underwear… do whatever you need to feel your best, because your beasts will need your calm and reassuring touch. Be patient, gentle and kind with them; remember that they don’t know what is going on or the why of things. This is the part where you have their back.
5. Hit the road Jack!
Though #5 is really our #1 way to avoid stressful nights of fireworks, I know it is not always possible. Whether you load up the pack into your car and taka a nice long drive or you plan ahead and trade celebrations and the Star Spangled Banner for a tent under the stars, hitting the road to a place far away from danger zones is (in our opinion) the best way to help your animals cope. We like to get away, especially since fireworks are allowed in Petaluma, and kids start their partying two days before the actual 4th. For the past three years, we search for a quiet, peaceful campsite on Hipcamp, order ourselves some Fireside Provisions and pack a kit with everything I listed on #2 (just in case). This is my kind of celebration of independence anyway, who needs the fireworks and fairgrounds, give me the true meaning of 4th of July: a celebration of this beautiful place and the freedom to spend a night with our loved ones however we choose.
Whatever you choose to do, we wish you a safe and comfortable night filled with peace for your dogs and cats and a very happy holiday to you!
Here’s to starry skies and fireflies,
Nat + Willow