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For pets, think 'fearworks'

Senior writer

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Holly has always been a little different than most dogs but one common feature she does share is a fear of noise.

In the season of thunder and fireworks, the 10-year-old black lab can be found cowering in the bed of her owner’s pickup, a place Donna Rutherford said her dog feels the safest.

link Christina Calloway: Staff photo

Veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Bartlett comforts Homer, a mixed-breed dog who stays in her clinic. Homer has extreme anxiety and a noise phobia. Bartlett said it’s especially hard for Homer this time of year with the sounds of thunder and fireworks scaring him.

“When (her son) was in high school he found her and he took her to school with him every day,” Rutherford, a city employee said. “She went every single day with him in his pickup. She never left, she stayed right there by his pickup.”

Rutherford said after Wednesday’s storm, Holly took off and was right there in the pickup. Rutherford said she does what she can to comfort her dogs during this time of year, but there’s only so much she can control.

“As long as she’s with somebody, she feels pretty good,” Rutherford said.

With the July 4 holiday approaching, the sounds of fireworks can be heard rumbling through most neighborhoods in Portales but pet parents have another name for them — “fearworks.”

Local veterinarian Kathryn Bartlett isn’t asking people to cut down on their celebration but she feels pet owners, especially ones with high-tempered dogs, should know to calm their animals who fear loud noises.

Bartlett says it’s typical for dogs to bark, hop fences and run away when they can’t bear the sounds. In worse-case scenarios, Bartlett has seen dogs jump through glass doors and windows out of fear.

She says the noise phobia is common in dogs but some pets have it worse than others.

“They absolutely panic and can hurt themselves,” Bartlett said. “We’ve known dogs who can run for days and days.”

One idea Bartlett suggests is crating dogs if they are used to being crated. The secure space will calm them and prevent them running away.

Other ideas include leaving the radio or TV on so that it helps drown out the noise.

In extreme cases, Bartlett said dogs can be sedated or given medication but she advises pet owners to try her other tips first.

“There’s probably a chemical imbalance that doesn’t make them respond appropriately,” Bartlett said.

Retired dog trainer Paula Shipp of Portales said dogs and cats have heightened hearing, which is why the loud noises terrify them.

She suggests taking precautionary measures before the big firework show on Friday so if an animal does run away, finding them won’t be as hard.

“A lot of animals disappear during the holiday because of the fireworks,” Shipp said. “It puts them at greater risk when you leave them out.”

Shipp suggests putting them in an area where they feel safe and agrees with Bartlett that if the animal is crate-trained, to crate them for the evening.

If the dog will be outside, she suggests owners take a current picture of their dog and get their ID tags updated.

Portales Animal Control officer Adam Aguilar said after a thunderstorm, Animal Control can receive about 20 calls on average about missing dogs.

He says microchipping an animal helps but is only effective if owners keep the information on the chip up to date.