Well, the Sullivan animal family survived the most dreaded of holidays. Since 1 am the morning of July 5th, 2020, I've been planning for July 4th, 2021- it was that bad. Was it going to be sedatives, stall confinement, trailering for hours upon hours as in years past, or a combination of all three? I’m not going to sugarcoat my opinion here in the face of anti-patriotism- it's definitely my least favorite holiday- and I'm catching on that this is true for many animal owners.
The independence holiday did not overly concern me until 2016. Stella, my young warmblood mare, and I were new to the rural neighborhood outskirts of Ellensburg, WA. Luckily, I was home the evening of July 4th, 2016, because without any warning whatsoever, the next door neighbors set off the largest private fireworks display that I had ever seen less than 100 yards away. Stella absolutely lost it. The proximity of the cacophonous booms and bright visual stimuli was just too much, and I held on to her lead rope like a little girl holding onto a wild kite in a torrential wind storm. For hours, I flew my warmblood kite until the neighbors commenced their celebration. Ever since that 4th of July, it's been a tremendous burden to safeguard my horses during this holiday.
Now five years later, in the not-so-rural outskirts of Missoula, MT, it's much worse. Last year I loaded everyone up around 9:30 pm and drove I-90 until 1:00 am to flee the overwhelming COVID bored, hyper enthusiastic displays. See this picture above? If you follow the tip of the University of Missoula tower straight up and back, between the firestorm of fireworks, is where my horses and I live. My scaredy, cat dog is just as bad as Stella, but weighs 1,310 lbs less and is easier to handle and stash is a dark corner to shake ferociously. His fear and Stella's panic brings me to tears.
It's so sad, and terrifying, and frustrating to watch your animals suffering in a war zone of fireworks. On top of that, I feel full of guilt and embarrassment towards friends and family that I have to leave them. I want to spend the holiday evening eating, drinking, playing games, and enjoying the displays, but for the foreseeable future, I'm going to be relegated to driving more highway miles, or managing deeply sedated horses, or unloading them at other facilities with concrete bunker stalls! We've even talked about making it a tradition to take everyone up to a horse camp in the woods each year.
For those of you with herds that simply pin their ears, swish their tails, and go on chewing their forage on the 4th, I'm immensely jealous. I know it's my problem and not my neighbors'. I won't get mad at them. My only wish is that neighbors still talked to one another so there was some degree of predictability, or planning, or just plain understanding about livestock and pets.
On Inauguration Day 2021, Andrew and I were gone. We had a new college student feeding for us. She had told us that she would be working late one night which happened to fall on Biden's Inauguration Day. When she came to put horses in a 9pm, she couldn't find Stella! Somehow she finally located her TWO PASTURES away from where she had been. Stella had jumped not one, but two, four foot fences to try to get away from fireworks that a neighbor unknowingly set off.
!!!! IF I HAD ONLY KNOWN !!!! I could have made other arrangements! Luckily my very expensive, irreplaceable horse was ok. There was only one broken plastic insulator that needed to be replaced, but what if my horse had broken her leg or gotten kicked by the neighbors' horses- who is to blame? Do I solicite the neighborhood through the annual newsletter? Maybe a Facebook post? Knock on doors? How do I communicate that I just need to KNOW when fireworks are coming? I don't want to stop anyone from using them, I just want to know.
When I was in Ellensburg in that rural neighborhood, I made an agreement with that neighbor that they would confine their fireworks display between specific hours so that we didn't have to drive around all night long. They would call us when they were done, and we would return. Now that was a nice neighborly thing to do. How do we start a movement of neighborhood sharing and planning around fireworks whether it be the Fourth of July, or New Year's or Inauguration days? That is my new task.