Shortly after dinner fireworks tonight, an explosion went off with such power that our entire house shook. We all jumped, Ken, me, and our terrified dog, Moxie. It’s been a rough year firework-wise with constant war-like explosions going off every night from sundown until the wee hours as well as sudden bangs startling us any time of the day. Moxie, an old and somewhat traumatized dog to begin with, has spent a lot of time cowering and shaking in the pantry or trying to climb into the bathroom in the only room without windows in our house. No amount of CBD-infused calm chewies is enough.
I’m a gal who startles so easily that I jump up and scream regularly when Ken suddenly appears without me first hearing him coming. Unfortunately, Moxie and I are far from alone. Millions of dogs and humans in America and wherever else this noise-centered barrage happens are freaked out and exhausted from being freaked out. My friends who are veterans tell me how this is an excruciating holiday stretch for many suffering from PTSD. Listen to what a Chicago veteran has to tell you about how traumatizing fireworks — many of them off-the-chain illegal — can be for both veterans and other survivors of gun violence.
Some of us shaken by these sounds can trace back our responses to our own histories, but some of us can likely just tell you, like the good-boy (or girl) dogs all around us, it’s just how we’re made. The sudden and repetitive firecrackers and other horribly-loud and sudden sounds can trip a relatively calm nervous system into fight/flight or freeze responses. I remember how fireworks put my daughter, from babyhood on, in a state of terror that led us indoors to soothe her with books and music while we held her and prayed for the insanity to stop.
And let’s say a word about why it feels like insanity, but first, let me clarify that I love the big and beautiful colors, swirls, designs wonderful firework displays give the dark sky and us to behold. It’s the excessively loud and constant booming that we don’t need up and down all the rural roads where I live or across just about every street in my city and so many others this time of year. I may be in a minority here, but why, oh why, are these so available for people to spent hundreds, if not thousands (which is surely what some of our neighbors spent) on these every year in tent mini-cities of fire power that spring up each late June? Why not instead focus more on community firework events rather than the craziness that makes our neighborhoods sound like war zones for days?
In my future old codger/demented crone voice, I say to you, “It sure wasn’t like this when I grew up.” But a lot of that was due to where I grew up: New Jersey definitely had its flaws, but it was illegal to buy anything more than sparkles and those cool snake things you lit and watched uncoil. I just looked it up, and it’s still illegal to buy or possess firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and more (see here, friends). In Kansas, along with a lot of the country (check this out), just about anything goes, and sadly enough, this is also true of a lot of firearms.
But right here, right now, for so many of us — including many who have served our country and survivors of gun violence and other trauma — are struggling, suffering, and encased in panic, fear, pain, and stress. I’m especially disheartened by the City of Lawrence’s decision to move the community fireworks display from the river banks, where it’s been for decades, to the county fairgrounds, which are right next to our humane society (yep, it’s only thirty minutes long, the humane society is aware and planned for it, but still….).
But the real issue is so many people loading up their cars and trucks with explosives and setting them off all around the 4th, and in the country, sometimes for a week or two afterwards. So please, for the sake of so many dogs and so many humans — not to mention other critters who are likely just as freaked out — please stop.