It rained two and a half inches yesterday, most of it in a brief rain-slashing, wind-moaning storm that was so intense that the dogs and I sat on the couch looking out the window in a state of disbelief. I believe at one point I said “Holy S*^#!”
It reminded me of the night I drove home in a lightning storm. (Check out the video of a lightning storm in Texas, taken from above by an astronaut.) Lightning bolts struck repeatedly to the right and left of my car as rain drops pelted down like squishy bullets hitting my windshield. Finally one bolt landed so close to the car that the entire world went blank and weird. When I shook my head and came to my senses, the car was stopped as if I’d parked it in a parking lot. But the engine kicked in when I turned the key, and I was able to drive again, barely breathing, hands clenched on the wheel.
When I arrived home I was desperate to sleep. There had been loud thunder storms for several nights running, and I’d slept only a few scant hours in the last three days. I stumbled into the bathroom, cursing the relentless noise of the storm, and took a half of the sleeping pill I use when I travel and can’t sleep. It worked. The next thing I knew, sometime around dark-thirty in the morning, my Border Collie Pip pawed at my face. I have a crystal clear memory of her as she walked out of the room, looking back repeatedly at me like Lassie warning Timmy about the danger in the well/barn/garage/swamp. I remember thinking, the question still as sharp as a needle in my mind, “Why is there smoke rising off of Pip’s fur?”
I unfolded out of bed and shuffled behind her, gradually realizing that the entire house was full of smoke. Lots of it. I called 911, and heard “Get out of the house immediately. IMMEDIATELY. Do not go back inside no matter what.” I gathered the dogs, grabbed the car keys on my way out and ran outside. I put the dogs in the car, drove the car away from the house, and then stood at the far end of the driveway awaiting the firemen.
That’s when I realized I basically had nothing on. There I was, standing in the driveway pretty much naked, awaiting the volunteer fire department, who I knew was made up of my neighbors, the neighbors of my neighbors, along with their sons, uncles and grandfathers. As I heard the sirens approaching the farm I realized I had a choice: Stand semi-nude while a dozen or so guys I sort of knew descended on the farm, or risk my life going back in for some clothes. I went for clothes. I know, not the best choice, but then . . . I mean, really, what would you have done? (FYI, lightning had hit the house, there was an electrical fire in the basement. I owe the Black Earth Fire Department more than I can say, and I will be forever grateful for their quick response. Not to mention Pip (aka Pippy Tay), who well might have saved my life.)
True story, really. I haven’t thought of it for years, until the storm last night reminded me of how loud noises are often signals to us mammals that we are in danger. Dogs are no exception, and I always feel for them this time of year, when both thunderstorms and fireworks terrify so many of them. July 4th fireworks will start soon, and the thunderstorms are in full force. Dogs need our help, because they don’t get to watch the weather report and learn the storm will be over soon, or that fireworks are for eliciting fun rather than frantic fear.
Here is link then to a brief summary of how to help your dog on July 4th. It includes cautions against taking your dog out to the fireworks in the park. (I’m amazed how many people do this!) I should add here that just because a dog is fine with loud noises one year, she might not be the next. As a matter of fact, thunder phobia develops most commonly around the age of three and often gets worse as the dog ages without treatment.
If relevant to you, please check out the section in the Reading Room about sound sensitivity, including treatment options for thunder and firework-phobic dogs. Pip, by the way, developed thunder phobia after the house fire. I used counter conditioning and thunder shirts for two seasons with Pip and her symptoms decreased by about 90%. Like a lot of dogs, she began to lose her hearing at the age of twelve or so, and then slept blissfully through the worst of storms forever after. Perhaps one of the few advantages of getting old? One more quick comment of importance: Please please take the advice of well-educated veterinarians, and never give your dog Acepromazine for sound phobias. Ace is a sedative that acts to suppress movement, but doesn’t alleviate anxiety. In some cases it appears to worsen it, which makes sense. If an animal is frightened but unable to move, will it feel less afraid? Umm, probably not.
By the way, why not do prevention for dogs before they become phobic? Maggie pays no attention to storms right now, but I still give her “thunder treats” after thunder to prevent her becoming phobic in the future. No guarantees it will work, but why not try it?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: “Back on the farm” is the relevant phrase here, because we just returned from a lovely long weekend on Walloon Lake, Michigan and a brief overnight to Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is car and motorcycle free–only horses and bicycles are allowed as transportation. It’s simply impossible to imagine what it’s like to be on a busy street with no cars, until you are. It’s heaven, including perhaps my favorite part–the clip clop clip clop of horses pulling tourists, garbage, food for restaurants, and anything else that needs to go from A to B that is too heavy to carry.
Almost all the horses leave the island in fall (I assume that some stay, since there are about 400 residents who live there year round). Here’s a video on their trip onto the ferry that takes them to the mainland for the winter. I was struck by how intently they focused on the ferry, ears all pricked forward, and yet how calm they were while being loaded.
Of course, when on the island I looked at every horse I saw with a careful eye, and never saw a horse that didn’t look in good condition. I expect that the ones driven commercially are in fine hands, although I have to admit feeling sorry for the horses that are rented out to anyone who signs a waiver. I worked at a riding stable in Arizona when I was a teenager, and we never would have let a novice take a horse out of the stable without a guide. I expect the horses on the island are carefully vetted for calm and resilient personalities. Bless their big, huge hearts. Anyone ever worked a team on Mackinac? I’d love to hear if you have.
Here’s a team delivering supplies, among the endlessly gorgeous gardens all over the island:
A few more images, including butterflies munching on banana slices in the Butterfly House.
And finally, what can one say about a store that sells “lilac products” along with knives and cannons? I find myself thinking about other eclectic stores. Organic vegetables and Hand Grenades? Crystals and Switchblades? Any other combinations on your list…?