A Natural Reaction

Like the Grinch, I hate noise.  

My detestation for din is rooted in an awareness of what it usually portends.

There are a lot of loud sounds in the natural world: a pond full of enthusiastic frogs, an energetic waterfall or the crashing of ocean breakers. But these are still relatively pleasing to the ear. Noise is a word that, to my mind, usually describes something man-made: an un-muffled car or motorcycle revving its engine, a loaded logging truck using compression to slow down for a corner, a monotonous jackhammer, Ted Nugent’s screeching voice or, of course, gunfire. I suppose there are a few natural sounds that could rival man’s machinery—a major earthquake or perhaps a volcano going off. But, like the sources of anthropogenic racket, these are the upshot of highly destructive processes.

Being the adaptable, accomplished noisemakers they are, sometimes people can be conditioned to thinking they actually enjoy things that should be unsettling to their senses—a burst of firecrackers or a Ted Nugent concert. But most animals are naturally stressed or panicked by the nerve-racking report of a high-powered rifle or a bombardment of blasts. It’s not just that they have keener senses; they instinctively know that such noise spells danger.

A lot of dogs experience extreme anxiety from fireworks or the blare of gunfire, often because they have an intimate or innate understanding of their destructive capabilities. We adopted an older dog from a shelter in Montana whose mortal fear of firearms must have been the result of someone using her as a target in her earlier life. Keiko would tremble every time she heard a gunshot; she’d seek shelter and would be inconsolable until the shooters had called a cease fire.

One winter morning during duck hunting season, a crazed, relentless volley of shots was too much for her. She ran off, and though we looked for her everywhere for weeks, we never saw her again.



11 thoughts on “A Natural Reaction

  1. I’m all too familiar with this anxiety and we’ve tried everything from rescue remedy to thundershirts! [by the way a combination of the two mentioned does calm them a little] We’ve even heard of dogs jumping off high balconies [Easter in Greece is hell for dogs suffering from noise anxiety]. I’m sorry to hear about Keiko. I hope he has at least found a friendly shelter.

    • Thanks Marina, Keiko was diabetic so all I can think is that she found a hollow log to hide under and quickly died from shock. The hardest part has been not knowing. People don’t seem to think about the animals when they go out and make noise. I haven’t heard of thundershirts, what are they?

      • http://www.thundershirt.com/

        I have heard nothing but good things about this. My dog gets terrified when there is thunder and we are going to pick one of these up and try it. As for noise don’t forget about the little thug wannabes and their boom, boom, boom mobile earthquakes that they drive around in. It is disgusting that our society tolerates this garbage. Of course they tolerate the wholesale torture and slaughter of animals so this isn’t too much of a stretch.

      • It’s a kind of vest [as you’ve probably already seen from the link]. We’ve tried it and especially if combined with a couple of spays of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, it works. It definitely calms her down [the trembling doesn’t disappear entirely but she may even fall asleep after a while, something that was impossible without the vest!]. This is the healthiest way I’ve come across, so far [pills have side-effects, no matter what some vets say].

  2. Thank you and thanks for all the info about the vest and remedys to help calm down animals upset by fireworks and gun shots. If people lived more peacefully, maybe they could live in peace themselves…

  3. I also am sorry to hear about Keiko. One of my dogs, an Afghan Hound, Azadi, who was 8 1/2 at the time, got loose one day (she loved to run), ran over to a mushroom farm and was shot for going onto the property.

    My next pup will be conditioned to noise like fireworks and thunder. I’ll feed her to loud tapes of thunder, play with her during and so on. One thing I have learned though– we all tend to try to make them feel better by soothing them and talking baby talk– in actual fact, we are nurturing the anxiety.

    Also, I’ve had dogs from early puppyhood who were also terrified of gunshots– they were never abused with it, but they’d just shake.

    Some years back we had a lightning bolt hit a 100 ft. ponderosa pine in our field. I thought a bomb had gone off. I looked out and my horses were running with shards of wood following them– very close to the house.

    The top third went straight up like a rocket, the middle third exploded over 5 acres, and the bottom third was on fire. The top came straight back down and rested against the bottom.

    From then on, when there was thunder, my dogs would look at me like, “See? We told you it was dangerous!” 😉 Now, almost thankfuly, they are deaf and don’t even look up.

    • Thanks Diane, I’m sorry to hear about Azadi. It really gets me when people are so quick to shoot a dog! How hard would it be for them to find out whose dog it is, get ahold of them and tell them that their dog is running at large, etc. I’ve certainly done that for a lot of people whose dogs I could have just shot (but of course never would).
      Your idea of conditioning your next dog makes sense. We adopted Keiko from a shelter when she was about 10 years old, and she had a morbid fear of gunfire/fireworks already ingrained (from having been shot at by a neighbor, most likely).
      Our current dog, Honey, doesn’t seem to have had that kind of negative experience (we adopted her when she was 11 months old). Being a lab, she has a lot of genetic “memories” of gunfire being a positive thing (it is associated with the only time her breed ever got to go out of the pen and run around after wildlife).
      The lightning strike close call you described must have been an amazing sight! We had a bolt hit a hemlock tree at the top of the hill here, and like the pine in your field, it sent shards for hundreds of feet. But it was raining too hard at the time to start it burning.
      Your dogs are pretty smart about knowing that thunder can be dangerous (but also thrilling;).

  4. Thanks, Jim.

    When I got home and found out that Azad was out of the yard (she could jump any fence– I was sure that one was high enough– it wasn’t), I jumped in the truck and went looking for her. The new neighbours waved me over and told me that they saw her run onto the mushroom farm, heard the shot, and heard her scream.

    It’s bad enough to shoot a scraggly dog that was maybe a stray, but what kind of person shoots a blond Afghan, and with a .22 too. It would not have been quick.

    Long story about what all happened but Azadi’s death ended up saving the lives of that guy’s family. I’ll send you the story, Jim.

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