fireworks and triggers

I am exhausted to the point of misery today. There’s a simple cause: my neighbors set off fireworks for hours last night, and my dog reacted by climbing under the covers, curling her sixty pound body tight against me, and whining anxiously. All. Night. Long.

My dog arrived in our house with many noise sensitivities, and I’ve worked hard to help her overcome them. If the fireworks had been limited to bangs and booming noises, I think we would have been fine, but these fireworks involved loud whistling sounds. None of my efforts had prepared my dog for a night when the sky screamed at her.

Triggers tend to be like that. You put all this work into desensitizing yourself to one situation, then go into a different situation and are crushed to find yourself at square one again. It’s not how we think our brains work. Making things even more confusing, sometimes our brains do make those leaps, generalizing a skill so that things suddenly feel easy. It’s confusing. I know how to handle that when it comes to dog phobias, but when it comes to changing my own habits, I often feel like I’m fumbling in the dark.

Every person approaches moderation in their own way, often through the lens of some former experience. My former experience with intentional behavior modification comes from fooling around with force-free dog training in my spare time, so when I approached moderation, it was with a metaphorical pocketful of dog treats, and a determination to be as kind to myself as I’d be to the fluffiest, wide-eyed puppy. At the very least, it gives me things to think about. Sometimes, it even has practical applications, and I think has helped me make real progress in some key areas.

For now, though, I am off to take a nap. Because chances are that tonight will be even worse, and I’d like to be functional enough to lend my dog what comfort I can. Before I stagger toward bed, I’ll take a moment to be grateful for one thing: with sobriety as my new normal, I’m able to be more present. All. Night. Long.


P.S. Today is the Fourth of July, which I tend to think is probably the least favorite holiday of most American dogs. Or at least the 20% of them with severe noise phobias, anyway. For those looking, I really like this helpful guide: http://illis.se/en/nine-ways-to-reduce-firework-and-thunder-phobia-in-dogs/

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