Dogs and storms don't mix 

Ranger Rich

Another lightning season is upon us, bringing the crack of thunder that scientists say is created when air around the lightning bolt becomes super-heated (60,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The air then rapidly expands and creates an atmospheric shock wave that wakes up God and tells the Creator it's time to take the Apostles bowling, which is the sound we hear.

Footnote: Last Saturday night, God bowled another perfect game, capping it with a ball that went into both gutters, bounced off the ceiling, kicked off the Pepsi machine and, as he chuckled, still knocked down all 10 pins. This caused Bartholomew, who takes bowling seriously, to turn to the Savior and ask: "Are you here to bowl or are you just gonna #@*& around?"

Pardon me for a moment as I get struck by a bolt of lightning.

Seriously, this is not about whether the apostle Luke brings his own bowling equipment because he thinks the rental sandals smell funny. No, it's about thunder and how our beloved dogs react to it just as their ancestors, the wolves, did tens of thousands of years ago: They pee on our carpets and wedge themselves under our beds.

Take my own dog, Moose, who, in his latest death struggle with thunder — before I could get him out of the garage's chain-link pen and into the house — chewed on the metal fence and broke off his upper left canine, or "fang" tooth. Now, when he raises his lip, he looks like the runner-up in an Alabama beauty pageant. (The winner, according to Alabama state law, must have both fang teeth intact.)

Experts say about 30 percent of dogs fear thunder and fireworks. Some French poodles have been known to hide under a bed. For eight years. Other dogs pant, drool and run in circles. Some run to a bathroom and cower behind the toilet, where most of us with any formal education found ourselves a few weeks ago when we heard Tom ("I Say Send Them All Back to Mexico. And Their Chihau ... Chewowa ... Their Little Dogs, Too") Tancredo is running for governor.

Here are some actual things experts say might ease dogs' anguish:

• Thundershirt. A $36 dog jacket. According to its designer: "Thundershirt's gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs." (If it doesn't work, at least your friends can say, "Hey, Bob, there's a beagle in a sportcoat behind your toilet.")

• Herbal remedies, including "Calm Down," which contains an actual herb called cramp bark. This was tested unsuccessfully on Tiger Woods, who humped his caddy's leg and then nipped at a TV commentator.

• Play soothing classical music. A study showed that Grieg's Piano Concerto can calm a distressed dog. (Sadly, in the same study, a Norwegian elkhound named Chet was forced to listen to Lady Gaga's "I Like It Rough" and chewed off his own foot.)

Mostly, though, the secret to calming your dog lies in training. Use a tape recorder, softly at first and gradually louder, to play the sound of thunder while rewarding your dog with treats for calm behavior. I did this with my dog, and proudly report he is still scared of thunder and weighs 348 pounds.

Speaking of big dogs, villager Pat League, who sits on the board of our Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, had a bit of a problem with her 140-pound Newfoundland, Gus, during fireworks and thunder.

"He'd absolutely freak out, and then he'd stuff himself between the couch and the chair," she says. "He'd get his head into that small space and he thought he was hidden, even though about 90 percent of him was sticking out."

But for months, at the first sign of a storm, she talked to him in a calm voice — "Gus, it's only thunder" — and today he seems much better.

That's more than I can say for my dog, who, at the first hint of a storm, races across the room and rams his head into, well, a certain part of my body.

Let's just say I'm glad Moose does not have antlers.


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