Happy Fourth of July!


Thunder ShirtAlthough I enjoy the Fourth of July, I always have an apprehensive air on this holiday. Being in the amputee community has afforded me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. Unfortunately, far too many of my friends have been inducted into the community because of a firework injury. The brilliant lights and joyful booming that have become a family tradition for so many can quickly lead to catastrophe. Last year there were 11,400 firework injuries in this country, with far too many resulting in amputations.  Please be careful and respect the blast. The colorful and whimsical packaging can be deceitful, fooling many into believing that the product inside is safe.

I have been honored to do some volunteer work in our military hospitals since my amputation. It was during these visits that I learned and saw the debilitating impact of Post Traumatic Stress on our returning soldiers. Please know that fireworks are not only physically dangerous if handled improperly, but the sound can trigger PTSD, especially for our individuals who have served in combat. If you have a neighbor who was active military, I implore you to speak with them before commencing the booming festivities. Providing a little warning that fireworks will be set off can thwart a full-blown flashback attack.

I have always loved watching the firework display from my Mom’s porch, but at times the sounds of her dogs barking and howling muffled the bangs from the fireworks themselves. Her dogs, like so many, have trouble dealing with the sounds on the Fourth of July. No amount of reprimanding and physical reassurance ever helped them calm down, and she almost resigned herself to a night of puppy anxiety each Fourth of July.

A few years ago she mentioned her dog’s reactions to the fireworks when she was at the vet, and was shocked that he had a non-medicinal solution. (Her dogs have a slew of health issues so minimizing pharmaceutical consumption is appreciated.) The doctor recommended trying a weighted anxiety vest for the dogs to keep them calm.  Although she wasn’t convinced that the vest would do the trick, she figured it was worth a try.

The next time the fireworks started launching, my Mom dutifully dressed both dogs in their new weighted vests. As soon as the vest was put on the dogs started to calm down. They barked a little but quickly calmed and left the room. For the first time since she became a dog owner, we were able to both hear and see the fireworks from her window.  While we were watching the display, her dogs were quietly laying at the foot of her bed, seemingly undisturbed by the sounds.

I don’t know if a weighted anxiety vest will work for every dog, but I do know that it works for my Mom’s. It was heartbreaking, and frustrating, watching her dogs become frantic and scared each time a firework was launched. Finding a non-pharmaceutical product that works to calm them has allowed my Mom to enjoy her Fourth of July. I wanted to share the information about the vest because I know that her dogs are not the only ones who have suffered because of fireworks.

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