Canine Noise Fears: A Cautionary Tale
Yesterday through our neighborhood email list, I received a note about a lost dog. For some reason, I didn’t receive the plea for help from the dog’s owners, but another neighbor realized the oversight and forwarded it to me. She knows I adore dogs. (That’s putting it mildly.) She knows I frequent the roads and trails nearby. Today, I found the lost dog while on my morning walk with Lilly. I was excited to be the hero, until I realized he was dead.
Call me naive (or more likely in shock), but when I first saw his beautiful buckskin-colored coat, I thought he was sleeping. I figured since he’d been scared, since he’d been missing for a day or two, maybe he was hungry and tired. Maybe that’s why he didn’t hear us coming up the road.
Regular readers know that Lilly isn’t always friendly to strange dogs, so I made a hasty retreat. We ran home (quite a ways) the best we could. I figured that I’d drop her off, grab a better leash and some stinky food and go back and get Mr. Lost Dog. I figured he could stay with me until I could reach his family by phone.
It didn’t dawn on me that he was dead until I returned and started calling his name and he didn’t move. He wasn’t bloody. He wasn’t visibly injured. He indeed looked like he was sleeping. His big, sweet, block-head resting.
There he was, down an embankment, laying on his side in the weeds and grass. I inched my way down the slope. Flies covered his eyes and his lips. I started to cry.
I climbed back up to my car, drove home and made the call. I probably should have taken a moment to write a little script so that I could deliver the news well, but I didn’t. I simply explained who I was, where I lived, that I’d seen the email, that I’d found him, and that I’m sorry to say he’s dead. There was a lot of crying on both ends of the phone line.
Make no mistake that finding his body, for me, is the equivalent of finding the body of a dead child on the side of the road. There are tough lessons here, so stick with me.
The note about his disappearance bothered me … a lot. For privacy and copyright reasons, I won’t publish the text of the email, but I will explain that he escaped his chain link pen during a thunderstorm out of fear. The note included his name, but it also used the word “stupid” twice, including that he answers to “Hey, stupid!”
I often joke in emails and in conversations about Lilly being silly or nutty or mentally ill, so I can only assume that calling a dog who fled in fear “stupid” was a joke, meant to mask worry and stress. Unfortunately, if people don’t know you, such banter can come off as mean or uncaring. So, my first thought, as the mother of a noise sensitive dog, was “That poor dog was left out during a storm.” My second thought? “And, he’s the stupid one?”
Let me be clear on where I stand: No dog should be left outside during a thunderstorm. It’s reasonable to assume most, if not all, dogs are afraid of loud claps of thunder. Even if they don’t run away because of it, the stress of exposure when they are outside and (likely) alone is unnecessary, if not cruel. Noise impacts their health and well-being. Period.
Our Prevention Strategy
Because of Lilly’s extreme noise sensitivity, I’ve worked VERY hard to prevent full-on noise phobias. In addition to never being left outside when we’re not home, she is always protected during storms (and fireworks season) by being crated in the basement as soon as the sky starts to rumble.
She’s so tuned into the process that one roll of thunder brings her immediately to my side. We walk together, with Ginko, to the puppy treat jar, and the three of us head straight for the crates. We’ve repeated this process so many times that it’s nearly a default behavior. If I don’t move fast enough, she’ll open the basement door herself and head downstairs without me.
Is she hiding? Maybe. But, I think the pattern is simply well established where she knows *that* noise marks a time to retreat to her crate.
Since Ginko was home with us 4 years ago when lightening struck our home, which was very loud, he’s much more sensitized to storm noise. He doesn’t completely freak, but he does bark in a way that says he’s nervous.
Benefit of the Doubt
So, considering the devastating news, I’m inclined to give the dog’s family the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t know he was afraid of thunder. Maybe it was an accident he got left outside. Maybe it was just a fluke that he made a run for it. I truly am sorry for their terrible loss. The whole thing breaks my heart.
However, I’d like to get my hands on the @#$@#$ who hit him and didn’t stop to help. What kind of human trash can collide with a dog on a road and not report it, not try to help, etc? If the dog was that scared, he probably ran wildly into the road (less than a half mile from his home). It’s likely the driver could not avoid him, but still … stop the darn car and do something. Don’t just leave him on the side of the road. No living being deserves that.
It’s been a tough day for me. I’m hoping his family got him before today’s storms came in. It may sound silly to some, but the thought of him laying there in the rain rips me up. I wanted to go sit with him until his family could get him — both so that they could find him faster and because I didn’t want him to be alone. They said it wasn’t necessary.
If he wasn’t so big, I would have moved him myself.
I’ve had a hard time working today because the sight of him haunts me, but what haunts me more is that he died because he’s afraid of loud noises. The sky went kaboom. He ran. He’s now dead.
So, that’s the story of this sweet boy. Learn the lesson, please. Take canine noise fears seriously! Protect your dogs.