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Local Column

Akst: Fido and fireworks don’t mix

I love fireworks. I love their colors, their patterns, the noise, the smell and the fact I have all my fingers and toes.

Let’s put it this way: growing up, we used bottle rockets as hand-held missiles. I was lucky.

I also was spoiled, because my family owned a small property just outside the city limits of my hometown, where it was legal to shoot fireworks. It was away from nearby residents and had water. You couldn’t ask for a better location.

Not to go too non sequitur on you, but I also love my dog. Louie, a large-frame yellow Lab/Great Pyrenees mix, is an 85-pound lump of love. He is the most chill dog I’ve ever known. On Wednesday night, out for his last walk, we watched people down the block shoot off some Roman candles. Louie watched for a couple moments, yawned and continued on his way.

I’m lucky again, because many pets cope well with fireworks. They’re loud, startling and smelly. Also, many people who want to shoot fireworks (as opposed to seeing a municipal show) might do so in a dense neighborhood.

Hence a dilemma: How to enjoy fireworks without making your pet frantic or exposing him/her to danger or injury?

To state the obvious and then get it out of the way, generally it’s illegal to shoot fireworks within city limits unless you have a special permit. So if neighbor A wants to blow up $500 worth of fireworks in the front yard, but neighbor B’s dog is on the verge of a breakdown, neighbor B has the law on his side.

“Fireworks are popular at many different types of celebrations over the summer months. While you may have the urge to include your pet in the festivities, don’t,” writes Niccole Schreck for petfinder.com. “More pets are lost around the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of the year.”

That happens because pets freak out and escape from yards, parties and parks. Most of these terrible circumstances are preventable.

“Animals that are frightened and stressed may hurt themselves and possibly escape if left alone, and the results can be fatal,” agrees Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, writing for about.com. “Frightened animals running loose are in great danger of being hit by a car or other accident.”

Here are some tips for making sure your pet gets through the Fourth of July as well as possible:

Make sure your pet wears a reflective collar with up-to-date ID tags. Better yet, make sure he/she is microchipped. Take a photo of your pet today, just in case.

Don’t intentionally exhaust your pet Saturday, particularly if he/she is sedentary, is in ill health or if the weather is too hot. However, if your pet gets good exercise Saturday morning, he/she might snooze through most of the Saturday night booming.

I always feel weird writing what should be incredibly obvious, but sometimes people just get ... absent-minded. So, be sure to keep all charcoal, sparklers and any other fireworks well out of your pet’s reach. Getting burned is an obvious danger, however ...

Chemicals in fireworks are poisonous to pets. The toxicity varies by the type of firework and how much the pet eats. If you see your pet eating fireworks, don’t induce vomiting, experts say. Instead, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680, or visit the nearest emergency veterinarian.

If you’ll be away from your pet Saturday night, leave your pet indoors, with water, in the smallest secure area the pet is comfortable with. An interior bathroom is good. If you have a comfortable basement, that can be really good because it’s much quieter. Make sure the pet has a couple of chew and snuggle toys.

Soothing, classical music at low volume could help your pet deal with the anxiety caused by the explosions. It certainly won’t hurt. Classical music never hurts.

On Sunday, if fireworks were shot close to your home, do a yard check early to make sure your pet isn’t injured by any leftover debris or unfamiliar objects.

• Jason Akst teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University. He also serves as Executive Secretary for the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association. Learn more about NINA at http://ninaonline.org. You can reach him at jasondakst@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @jasonakst.

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