As a kid I loved this holiday. Our whole neighborhood would gather together starting in the morning. The dads would set up all of the picnic tables in one yard, and the moms would start bringing out food. All of us kids would be running around excited about the day ahead. The dads would cook breakfast on the grill (which in and of itself was fascinating), and during the few years when we had a neighborhood duck, sometimes a few of her eggs would be mixed into the scrambled eggs.
Later in the morning we would all walk downtown to the parade – lots of sirens, school bands, Shriners in their little cars – the usual fun parade stuff.
After the parade, we would commence playing games – softball with the dads playing along, maybe “jarts” or badminton, or a water balloon toss. By now the moms would usually be sitting in their lawn chairs chatting while all of us kids ran around being crazy.
The dads would gather around drinking beer and laughing a lot sharing stories about who knows what.
Later in the afternoon we would have the big group picnic with multiple grills going to cook all of the hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats. The moms would bring out potato salad, baked beans, jello salad, corn on the cob and of course watermelon. We would have watermelon seed spitting contests and sometimes a few of the older boys would get a little rowdy and start throwing the rinds up onto the roof. The older boys also typically had some firecrackers that they had been waiting to sneak off and start messing around with too.
When it started to get dark out we’d spray on our mosquito spray and bring out the boxes of sparklers for all of us kids (and a few of the moms too). We’d run around doing all kinds of silly moves with one in each hand. Then we’d have ice cream and smores before heading off to the fireworks. We walked to the park where the fireworks were held, and in those days a lot of people walked, so there were throngs of people and it was easy to get lost or separated. Our neighborhood group consisted of close to 20 kids ranging in age from teenagers to toddlers so we had to keep track of each other. I’m not sure who thought of it, but we since we were carrying blankets to sit on we would string them together and hold on so that we created a large snake-like line of kids weaving through the crowd along the sidewalk and into the park. We’d find a nice spot to spread out our blankets and wait for the fireworks to start. The little kids would sit in the laps of some of the older sisters just in case the noise and flashes of light were scary.
Ahh yes, fond childhood memories of the 4th of July…
Fast forward 50 years and now I dread the holiday. It is a tortuous hellish weekend for several of my dogs and in turn for me too. I have to pump some of them with anti-anxiety supplements or in the more severe cases actually sedate them with prescription drugs. These same dogs all have thunderstorm anxiety which means that summer in and of itself can be a tricky time, but the 4th of July is the mother of anxiety producing events for my dogs. I turn on classical music and run fans to try to dissipate the outside sounds as much as possible and hand out treats like candy in an attempt to make it a more positive experience.
Not surprisingly, the anxiety ridden dogs cannot be cajoled with treats. Even with the anxiety meds on board, they sit and shake or pace and look at me as if I’m supposed to be able to make it stop. It is heartbreaking. I sleep in the family room so that they can all be near me, and by near me I mean on top of me, and for a few that means on top of my head if possible.
Over the years I have had multiple dogs with thunderstorm and firework anxiety starting with my Whippet in 1980, so this is not by any means a new experience for me. What is different now is that it seems that people start to “celebrate” with firecrackers and actual fireworks days before the 4th of July.
It started here last night. A full blown fireworks display in either one of the city parks, or the fairgrounds – it was hard to tell for sure. All I know is that it was a professional display with lots of flashy bright and loud fireworks.
It was the last day of JUNE for crying out loud!! But it was a Friday, the first day of the holiday weekend so I’m assuming that means this year there will be fun for all every night this weekend AND on Monday and Tuesday since the 4th falls on Tuesday this year.
Great. I’m not going to get any sleep for the next 4 nights and my poor dogs are going to be traumatized on a nightly basis.
I get it that people want to celebrate, and I get it that not all dogs have firework anxiety and that the world does not revolve around me or my dogs. So celebrate away people, I’ll just be hunkered down in a dark corner surrounded by my frightened dogs, doing my best to comfort them while we wait it out.