Terror in the Forest

I’ve never been a huge fan of fireworks.

When I was a kid, I saw someone accidentally start themselves on fire with a firecracker on the 4th of July.  Fortunately for that kid his dad was close by and was able to smother the flames before he sustained more than minor burns, but when you see someone’s clothes start on fire while they shriek in terror and pain, it definitely leaves an impression on you.

My dislike of fireworks and related noise makers has increased over the years.

Fireworks are so incredibly traumatic – to veterans, to shooting victims, to domestic violence survivors, and especially to animals.

I used to have this beautiful dog named Nina.  I had gotten her in the spring and knew she was a bit neurotic, to say the least, but she mostly seemed OK home alone with the other dog for short periods of time.  A couple of months after I got Nina, I went to a friend’s house for a 4th of July dinner and didn’t get home until well after dark.

By then the neighborhood was like a war zone.  I walked up my driveway and heard strident whining so I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes: Nina was on the roof over my front porch.  I rush into the house and see that in her fear of the fireworks she broke through a glass window trying to escape, but then got trapped on the roof of the porch.

As I coaxed her back in the house, I realized she was bleeding in multiple places from breaking through the window.  I rushed her to the animal emergency hospital.

The animal hospital on the 4th of July was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen.  An entire lobby full of bleeding and hysterical dogs who had injured themselves trying to get away from fireworks.  That was the last time I ever went anywhere on the 4th of July.

A friend’s dog broke out of her house during a 4th of July holiday and was never seen again.  The 4th of July is one of the deadliest days of the year for animals.

Flash forward fifteen years or so and I’m noticing that the fireworks in my neighborhood are getting worse and worse every year.  They last at least three days.  They go off from dusk until after 1:00 in the morning.  They’re in the street in front of my house.  They are in the church parking lot that borders my back yard.

The fireworks are so bad in my neighborhood the windows shake and I spend a good part of the night wondering if someone is going to set my house on fire.  And no one in our house gets any sleep, between the noise and the impact on the animals.

This year my roommate and I decided to take the dogs out of the city on the holiday.  We rented a great little cabin at the base of Mt. Hood, in the national forest.  We were totally surrounded by forest and still we heard fireworks.  Lots of booms.  People are so into their fireworks they are risking a massive forest fire.  What the actual hell?

My roommate spent most of the night laying on the bathroom floor comforting her hysterical dog, ruining what was otherwise a great trip.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as it would have been if we had stayed in the city, but that was no comfort to her poor dog.

It’s not just my imagination that the fireworks are getting worse.  I read an article that over the last twenty years as fireworks have gotten safer, they’ve gradually been legalized in all but three states.  And with legalization comes more extensive usage.

Just  because people are less likely to start themselves on fire now that doesn’t actually make them “safe”.  They can still start a fire.  They can still trigger PTSD in veterans and others.  And they can still make a dog go through a window.

And by the way, no amount of Xanax or Benadryl helps with the level of trauma this creates.

As I write this on July 5th there are still fireworks going off  near my house.  Do we really need to torture people and animals all weekend to celebrate a holiday?  Can’t we do better?

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