Hours before the hail and boom of fireworks started Tuesday, Mickey Zeldes gave her dog a sedative and wrapped the 6-year-old golden retriever in a snug vest to ward off the canine panic attack she knew was coming.
Sure enough, Brandy got the shakes and started panting and pacing as fireworks and firecrackers went off in Petaluma to mark the Fourth of July.
While many humans revel in the holiday cacophony, their best friends tend to experience it as the apocalypse, said Zeldes, supervisor of Rohnert Park’s animal shelter.
“Dogs don’t like loud noises,” she said. “For them, the world is ending.”
Around Sonoma County, many dogs howled and cowered as their sensitive auditory systems — four times stronger than a human’s — recoiled from the buffeting by Independence Day’s abnormal noise. Some also ran away, according to Zeldes and other animal services officials.
Rohnert Park’s shelter was filled nearly to capacity by the arrival of nine dogs over the holiday weekend, a number “far higher than usual,” Zeldes said.
By Wednesday, two canines had been reunited with their families and the rest were pictured on the shelter’s Facebook page, along with all the other creatures in residence.
Sonoma County animal control officers brought 16 stray dogs to the shelter between Sunday and Tuesday, with more likely to arrive by week’s end, said John Skeel, director of Animal Services. The shelter also posts photos of the dogs it has collected on the Sonoma County Animal Services website.
The number on Wednesday was fairly average, Skeel said, but July 4 is always a fright for dogs.
“Dogs bark, they get agitated and often run away in fear,” he said.
More U.S. canines run away on Independence Day than any other day in the year, dog whisperer Cesar Millan said on his website.
“It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises,” he said, noting that fireworks differ from other loud sounds like thunder.
“Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes and burning smells,” Millan said. “The typical Fourth of July celebration can be overwhelming to them.”
He recommends taking dogs away from the holiday hubbub or having a travel kennel at home for the dog to seek refuge. Medication can be effective, Millan said, as long as it is administered while the pet is still calm.
Zeldes gave veterinarian-prescribed Xanax to Brandy and encased him in a ThunderShirt, a snug-fitting pressure wrap that relieves canine anxiety similar to swaddling an infant.
“It helped,” she said.
Workers at the Rohnert Park and county animal shelters were busy Wednesday scanning the new arrivals for the microchips implanted in all licensed dogs and tracking down the owners.
For information or to check on a missing dog, call Rohnert Park Animal Services at 707-584-1582 or Sonoma County Animal Services at 707-565-7100.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.