Did You Hear That?

A shoe came hurtling out of the open closet door like an RPG on its way to destruction. Wisely, I waited before investigating. Good thinking. Two more pieces of flying footwear came zipping by and bounced off the wall. That was the cue a thunderstorm was on its way. Long before the first rumble of thunder, Ty sensed the approaching storm and took action. Her modus operandi was to take refuge in the closet and kick out any items which prevented her from huddling as deep as possible in its comforting depths. Her predictions of approaching storms were more reliable than the National Weather Service.

At any gathering of Beardie folk, the subject of noise sensitivity is sure to come up sooner or later. The majority of the time, t-storms are the culprits that provoke reactions. But not always. Beardies have also been known to be freaked by lawn mowers, motorcyles, gun shots, fireworks and so on. We finally had to block the dog door at a friend’s house where we were riding out a category 4 hurricane to keep our boy Crispin from courageously sitting out in the storm. Was he bothered? Not him! But when we returned home and my mother turned on the vacuum cleaner, Crispin leaped up in terror and dove under the bed. Different strokes, as they say.

No Beardie I’ve ever known had a more violent reaction to thunder storms than Kendra. She was out in a run when a sudden bombastic clap of thunder came out of nowhere. She cleared a six-ft. chain link fence like a scared gazelle and streaked for the safety of the house. Not that she felt all that safe in the house when a storm struck. The sound of things crashing woke me one night when a storm was blustering about. Kendra seemed to believe higher was safer and had climbed up on the bureau beside my bed, knocking over a tower of books and magazines which slammed to the floor and a tall mirror which plummeted on the bed inches from where I was slumbering. In keeping with her higher is better idea, another storm sent her climbing on the kitchen table and into a cupboard just above it. But the crowning touch had to be when I opened the fridge door and she leaped in and curled up on the bottom shelf like a furry roast.

Not all reactions to storms entail shivering, hiding or pathetic behavior. Laurie Lo’s Spunk feels obligated to chase the tempest away by barking and challenging it to battle.

No owner wants to see a beloved Beardie quivering like a bowl of Jello whenever a storm strikes. Suggestions to alleviate the problem have been tossed around for years. Rescue Remedy and a variety of herbs have been used – successful for some, for others not so much. Crating the dog or playing loud music to drown out the stormy sounds are also possible aids. However I’d advise skipping the 1812 Overture. Another idea was DAP spray (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) which is reputed to calm nervous canines. When Aline Brisendine’s Beardie, Travis, started reacting to storms, she played a recording of rain and thunder very, very softly, increasing it in volume gradually as he became accustomed to it. Some people have advanced the theory that dogs react to the difference in barometric pressure during a thunderstorm rather than just the noise itself.

Not all that long ago, someone came up with the Thundershirt and hundreds of dogs stopped shaking during inclement conditions. While it might not be the answer for all frightened fidos, it has made life more pleasant for many panic-stricken pets. It may have evolved from the discovery dogs feel more secure when the body is covered in wrappings or even old t-shirts (how appropriate!).

My present gang seem to take storms in stride. Heaven only knows we get enough of them in Florida! There’s no quivering, quaking or hiding. However, if a storm strikes at night, I might have a few furry bodies sharing my bed – but that’s just to protect me, of course. So how do your Beardies react to thunder storms?

Alice Bixler, Bearded Collie Club of America