I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July celebration. Sadly for Happy things did not go that smoothly this year as in years past. Up until this year, Happy has reacted to fireworks like a little pro sitting calmly at our feet while the neighbors set off their various sets of fireworks and firecrackers that at times lasted until 1 or even 2 in the morning. But this year for some reason things were different.
Happy’s 4th of July misadventure began early on the evening of the 3rd when we took him outback for his regular before bed outing. Happy was starting his routine of marking his favorite spots when several loud booms from a neighbor’s yard left Happy frozen. The smell of smoke that quickly filled the yard only increased the sense of panic that overtook Happy who made a bee line for the porch door who once inside headed straight for bed. Completely forgetting his bedtime milk bone, which was clearly out of the ordinary.
Because he was so nervous I moved his bed closer to mine so he would be more comfortable. But in the dark I could hear his labored breaths, and when I turned my light back on I could see that he was shivering with fear from each gunshot like boom and the strange flickering of color lights that made its way into the room. My Mother feeling sorry for Happy, held him for a while and before going to bed I had her put Happy on my bed. This seemed to help him for a few moments, but as soon as the light went out his breaths once again came in heavy gasp and I could now feel the strong twitching of his little limbs.
Realizing that Happy was too nervous to remain in a dark room I headed to the living room and called Happy to join me on the sofa. But he was too petrified to move. It was not until he heard his Grandpa call his name that he came rushing to the sofa and hugged my Father before curling up in my arms with his nose pressed close to his Grandpa. It was nearly midnight before Happy felt secure enough to go to bed.
The next morning Happy seemed to be his usual cheerful self and it seemed like the only side effects would be the sleepiness my Father and I were experiencing from our late night comforting job. That was until the evening of the 4th when we took Happy out for his usual pre-bed outing and once again a boom, swoosh, boom caused Happy to head straight for the door and back to bed. While nervous, Happy seemed to be better off than the night of the 3rd because it only took him a couple of hours to head off to bed. His breathing seemed more relax even though from my window you could hear the crackle and pops, and the colorful display cast its weird shadows. While I struggled to sleep from the constant noise and lights, Happy now seemed oblivious. His breaths were soft and measured so I assumed that all was well.
But in the morning my hopes were dashed as Happy, who usually ran for the door the moment he heard the word outside, remained a frozen lump on the sofa. It took a fair amount of coaxing to get him outdoors, and after a few seconds of sniffing the air to determine if the frightful scent of burning embers was gone. Clean and fresh once more, the smile returned to his little face and he ran about giving his yard a satisfied sniff before heading in for breakfast.
Perhaps all would have been fine, if we had not decided to do a little yard work, I do not know. All I know is that Happy came out to do his duty of keeping watch, but it happened that that morning a neighbor was having a toolshed built, and a few seconds latter the pop, pop, pop of a nail gun broke the silence. Instantly Happy took off like a blur for the porch door. Standing on his hind legs he waited with the most pitiful face to let in.
From that fateful moment, Happy seemed to view the backyard with dread. Looking upon his previously pleasant domain as the set of a horror movie complete with an invisible monster that stalked his every move. The mere mention of outside was enough to send him running for his bed. There to stay until he was confident we had changed our minds or he was lifted off his bed and carried like a limp rock to the backyard. The moment his legs touched the ground he would instantly make a beeline for the porch door. And no amount of calling would deter him from his desperate attempt to make it back into the house.
We were stunned. What had happened to turn our adventures pup into a trembling bundle of fright who fled from his yard as if it were on fire? Was it the sight and sounds of the nearby fireworks? It might be, yet this was his fifth 4th of July with us, and he had never demonstrated such fear? Was he afraid of some animal? A few weeks earlier a nesting hawk had haunted our backyard. More than once it had swooped out of a shaded corner and headed in Happy’s general direction until it saw that I was only a few feet from Happy.
Not knowing the cause, we were uncertain what to do. It was clear that Happy needed to go outside and mark his territory, but something had traumatized him to the point that the fear of stepping outside was greater than his physical need to empty his bladder.
Finally my Father decided to try bringing Happy out back with his leash on. Accompanied by most of his family, Happy reluctantly made his way into the yard. Every few feet he would pause, sniff the air and beg to brought in. The sight was heart breaking, but we knew that Happy needed to overcome his fear before it took such control of his puppy heart that he feared even to leave his front door. To our relief Happy seemed to find a bit of security hiding behind a garden box. It was a small victory, but it gave us hope that eventually our usually adventurous pup would conquer his fear.
And I am glad to say that while his body language tells me that he is still afraid, this morning for the first time in days, Happy cautiously walked up to the back door, and without the aid of the leash went outside. He kept to the corner of the yard. Avoiding the open space in preference for the house or fence. But the pride on his face when he came back in was as valuable to us as if it had been a million dollar check. Reminding me how true the words are, that there are some things worth far more than money.