Nobody loved to watch fireworks more than I did. Back in the early to mid-sixties, every July Fourth I would take a blanket and walk to the beach with friends. There were two small beaches in our little town, and the one across the bridge was the best place to lie down on those blankets and just look up at the sky for the best fireworks show ever. At least, that is how I recall them.
The whole town would gather and “ooh” and “aah” at every explosion of color and bright lights. It was done in a controlled manner and always over the water, so there was never a chance of sparking a fire anywhere. Sand and water; that was it! The professionals who did it made sure it was all done safely so everyone could enjoy the show. My parents would get me a box of sparklers and insist that they were right there to ensure my safety and the safety of others nearby. The wonder years were filled with small-town fun without fear.
Unfortunately, now it is a build up of anxiety, not so much for me — although I don’t like the noise or worse, the potential for fires — but for a lot of seniors and most animals. The controlled shows are brilliant and a wonderful tradition for the birthday of our country. If done with the utmost care and limited to an area that does not tempt fate, it still brings me my fond memories. But with people who do not follow the law and think it’s fun to set off these powerful fire dangers themselves, I find myself stressed out the entire holiday weekend. I’m not quite sure what happens to usually law abiding and conscientious people on the Fourth of July to make them think that unprofessional use of these dangerous items is OK. Just think back to the horrific fires last year.
Seniors with pets are a double whammy. I have spoken to many who are just as worried, if not more, about their animals than themselves. Some tips for this week (and throughout the summer) may help minimize their tension and yours this holiday. If you are going out to a fireworks display, leave your pets at home, since unfamiliar places and crowds can add to their fear, and there’s great risk of them becoming spooked and running away. Put on the television or music to help minimize the noises. Keep sparklers away from curious pets who may try to chew them. Just like humans, too much sun, heat and humidity can be dangerous to animals. Keep them inside when it’s extremely hot. Make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water when outdoors. Know the signs that a pet may be overheating.
Common sense, but worth repeating: Never leave your pet in your car when it’s warm outside. Vehicle interiors heat up much faster than the air around them, and even a short time in a locked car can be deadly.
Always check the outside of your property for fireworks debris before allowing pets outside, even if you didn’t set off fireworks yourself. With the wind around here, debris can make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat. That goes for food left over from parties. Check both your yard and home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets, such as food skewers or plastic utensils that missed the garbage bags.
Never apply the same sunscreen or insect repellant you use for yourself onto a pet, as it can potentially be toxic. There are pet-friendly sunscreens and insect repellants available. Consult with your veterinarian about which product would serve your pet the best.
I am as patriotic as the next one, and we all enjoy a red, white and blue celebration as well as the warm and fun days of summer. Let’s go back to the days when we could all watch these miraculous shows without fear. As for Grandpa and me, we can always enjoy them on the television as they go around the world in all their splendor. Be safe, and have a very happy fourth!
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.