I used to look forward to the annual day off from work and the get-togethers it inspires. Now, I dread the 4th of July. It was the wedding anniversary of my grandparents, married 67 years, but both are gone now. It’s also the time of year when animal shelters see the greatest influx of strays.
The sound of fireworks elicits such unadulterated panic, even well-adjusted dogs and cats often flee their homes in terror. In the weeks following July 4th, shelter populations swell to unmanageable levels; stressed animals fill every available kennel, and then some. Shockingly, many are never reclaimed. The aftermath is predictable and devastating.
This year, my anxiety is building earlier than usual. We live 25 miles from the fire currently raging near the Los Alamos National Lab; residents of the community have been ordered to evacuate. The shelter where I volunteer — Espanola Valley Humane Society — has already taken in approximately 100 companion animals from evacuees forced out of the area.
The shelter’s current dogs and cats are being moved to foster care to make room for the evacuee pets, and with the holiday weekend just days away, I’m wondering how much more we can accommodate. For so many reasons, I desperately hope New Mexicans will forgo fireworks this year.
My dogs are microchipped, collared, and ID-tagged, but they’re also skittish and easily unnerved. If they somehow escaped our property, strangers would have no luck approaching them. Even if they were friendly, Mike and I would no doubt go tearing after them ourselves.
The thought reminds me of the story out of Joplin, Missouri — the town ravaged by a deadly tornado last month. When Star, a terrified Border Collie suddenly fled the property, owner Johnna Hale bolted after her into the storm.
Family and friends searched frantically for the woman and her dog, but for nine days there was no sign of them. The pair was finally found, buried in rubble, Johnna’s arms clasped tightly around her beloved Star. As LifeWithDogs reports, “The two had taken their final journey together.”
Whether brought on by acts of nature or acts of humans, terror happens. Tragedy too. So no lecture, just a reminder: Prevent what you can.