I’m a big party pooper when it comes to Diwali. I actively discourage the buying of crackers and we do not buy or burst crackers on Diwali/News Years. When I was a child I did burst firecrackers and enjoyed it too. But I haven’t bought or burst a fire cracker for over 13 years, so I think I’ve paid my debt. Many children in schools today are made more aware of the hazardous conditions of workers in the Indian firecracker industry and the illegal use of child labour to keep up with the demand. Now that we live on a Naval base, technically one is not allowed to burst crackers from a personal safety point of view, not really a security stance. But quite a few people ignore this rule and burst crackers although I feel the intensity is far less than in the civilian world. Why do the firecrackers sound louder these days than they did when I was a child? Perhaps I’m growing old…
Although I’ve never been in a war zone or had bombs and rapid gunfire going off around me, I think it would sound a lot like Diwali – without the colours and women and children dressed in highly flammable clothing. But I’m human, I’m accustomed to the crazy ways of my species. But my poor dog at home and the thousands of dogs living on the streets probably do think that once a year a war breaks out in their neighbourhood.
Dogs hear some sounds 40 times louder than humans. For our Abroozi’s first Diwali when he was 5 months old, he didn’t pay any heed to the crackers going off around him. But now that he’s two and a half years old he is unmistakably petrified of the random, unpredictable loud bangs and hisses. As a child you fear nothing. But as you grow older there is so much more to fear, you know far too much about what can go wrong. And it’s the same with dogs. I’ve been reading about some fatal reactions to Diwali crackers and it is very distressing to imagine being in a situation where everything that you have learned and all of your life experiences cease to make sense.
Some dogs take refuge under beds, sofas, in cupboards. Others howl and bark incessantly. Our little boy was very distressed if the three of us were not in the same place when the crackers were going off, perhaps he felt we would be safer if we were all together. So when I was in the kitchen and my husband in the bedroom, Abroozi was desperate to keep us all together. He didn’t bark or whine but he was crouched very close between us and breathing rapidly.
There’s plenty of articles in newspapers about how to keep your dogs safe during Diwali and lessen the trauma they face. The worst thing you can do is to console your dog by petting him when he is distressed. This just reinforces his fear, and validates it. One must just go about the day as normal and project a calm energy. But I would not to leave your dog at home alone. Another good tip is to close all the windows, put the air-conditioning on and the TV loud to drown out the noise of the crackers going off.
While the western world “Occupies” their respective money making meccas, the dogs in India are out the night after Diwali, barking in to the wee morning hours, taking revenge for the firecrackers. They are trying to rally the cows for a ground surge and the crows for aerial bombardment. “Home Minister P. Chidambaram criticized the dogs for planning attacks that had an element of surprise: ‘Dogs know that such crackers are burst only on Diwali and New Year’s Day, and they can prepare well in advance. It’s wrong if they launch their attack without informing the human beings.'”
Here’s our Abroozi taking refuge under the covers…