I’ve never disliked fireworks before. Of course, I’ve heard of pet owners and dog lovers being frustrated with them, and of course I’ve seen dogs who are terrified of the repeated barrage of explosions that must feel like the end of the world. At midnight as the year turned, thanks in part to my own stupidity, I got a new reason to not care for that type of celebration.
Not being one for celebrating anything (okay just kidding), I went to bed early on New Year’s Eve. Right at midnight, I heard Bonnie get up and shake her collar. Bonnie is not exactly house trained, so when I hear her get up, I let her out to pee right away to avoid an accident. Not really thinking about the day, and not hearing any fireworks at that moment, I went to the door to let ole Bonalon out. She came rushing to the door like she does when she has a really fully bladder, and instead of thinking: hmm, maybe something else is going on, I opened the door like I’ve done a hundred times with her and Hooch, and away she went. I have replayed that moment over and over, thinking that if I’d just reached down and touched Bonnie’s back, I would have realized that she didn’t have to pee, she was terrified. But I was dumb. Bonnie bolted. And then of course since it was midnight, the cacophony of fireworks really took off.
I spent the next hour and half walking up and down the road and trails by our house, calling for her. I was so overwhelmed with fear for my girl that I felt detached. This didn’t seem like a real thing. I ran over and over all of the scenarios I could think of in my head. I texted all of the neighbors I knew– apologizing for the late message– and asked them to keep an eye out. I thought about taking the rest of the adults on a run to see if we could find her. I woke poor Shawn up and paced and shed some useless tears and then went back up and down the road calling for her. I got back on Facebook so fast your head would spin, and posted in the mushing community posts to keep an eye out.
Shawn finally convinced me to stay at the house and wait a little bit. I lay on the couch and tried to read, hopping up every time I heard a squeak or a noise or a shift of movement outside. Every time, it was just the other dogs, settling into their straw or coming out for a pee.
I fell asleep for about 30 minutes, and then an alarm I’d set for 3:30 went off. The fireworks had totally died down now. Hooch was with me inside. I brought her out to pee (on a leash), and the second we stepped out, Hooch’s ears perked up towards the back of the cabin. I knew immediately from her stance and her look that Bonnie was there. “Bonnie,” I called, and a form picked itself up stiffly from under a tree.
My good girl. I felt so terrible. That old lady shouldn’t be sleeping out in the woods. So scared and without me with her. I really let her down. I knelt and opened my arms and the poor old lady came over to me. I hugged her so close. I brought her in and she tucked herself into her favorite dog bed, gratefully. I tucked myself into the bed with her and pet her until she closed her eyes and slept. I promised I wouldn’t let her down like that again.
Things happen. I like all of my dogs to be comfortable being off leash, especially at home. Now I know that for Bonnie, that doesn’t work during fireworks, or probably thunder.
Poor ole girl has a sore shoulder that I’ve been nursing back to health. I think she took herself on a long, terrified run, trying to escape the noise. Maybe she off-roaded, and tripped in the woods. Maybe she just ran too hard and too fast. It’s hard to know.
I was lucky she came back after only four hours. I know people who have had dogs escape and be gone for days, even weeks. Bonnie is a smart girl and she knew her way home, and she knew I had a comfy couch and dog bed waiting for her, and I was fortunate that she was able to calm down and remember those things.
Bonnie has been getting a ton of TLC and comfy rest. She’s calmed down from the shock of the fireworks, and is getting back to her happy, half-smile, food-barking self. I love that sweet girl. Even though the first four hours of 2018 were stressful, I think it’s good to start the year with a reminder of what I have to be grateful for: having my wonderful four legged friends safe and happy at home.