Greetings Bored Surfer! Welcome to a special Halloween edition of BLOG blog.
To create the modern holiday known as Halloween, follow this recipe:
Take the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sowen), add some other European harvest festivals (including, but not limited to the Romans’ Pomona). Flavor with religious overtones from Pope Gregory III by attaching it to All Saints Day and All Souls Day, but still maintain the overall death theme. Sprinkle in some community gatherings to involve the whole family. Toss in the practice of using sweets to buy protection from the miniature miscreant Mafia. Then commercialize extensively to sell lots of candy, costumes, candy, decorations, candy, horror movies and, of course, candy.
What’s a pet to make of all this? Hopefully, not much. Halloween, in its current incarnation, shouldn’t be scary for man or beast. Even if the barrier between life and death is at its thinnest, and the spirits can walk among us on that night, they will not get far before going into a sugar coma from all the tiny candy bars. Here are some tips to help your pet cope. As a nod to both a nervous disposition and the holiday theme, I shall temporarily dub your pet “Spooky”.
Leading up to All Hallow’s Eve, you may feel the need to decorate your house and yard. For the most part, pets are not affected by this. Be aware that things that make sudden noises as well as things that move unexpectedly may startle Spooky. And strobe lights are annoying, even if you don’t have photosensitive epilepsy. Plan your pet’s trips outside accordingly. Don’t set up your awesome Halloween display in the spot 3 feet from your door where Spooky tends to urinate. First of all, if something shifts in the wind or a motion activated device goes off, he may be startled and avoid that spot. This increases the risk of biological incidents in your house. Secondly, you don’t want your Halloween decorations to be contaminated.
You may also be tempted to dress Spooky in one of the many adorable costumes that are available. This can lead to fantastic photo ops, but only if she is amenable to it. Some dogs (and the occasional extremely tolerant or attention starved cat, rodent or reptile) don’t mind wearing clothes and a few seem to actually enjoy it. Most, however, do not like stuff on their heads. If you decide to decorate Spooky, watch him for signs of stress, such as keeping her head and tail down or pawing frantically at the costume. If that should happen, you need to be willing to abort the mission without getting the perfect picture.
Keep Spooky in mind when you make plans for your Halloween merriment. Depending on the age of your kids and Spooky’s stress level, you may consider taking her along when going trick or treating. After all, there may be a fair amount of walking and most dogs enjoy walks. If you are accompanying grade-school kids, you and Spooky can walk along and wait on the sidewalk while the kids go up to doors. This is fine, as long as he is not startled by lots and lots and lots of small children running around, carrying foreign objects (such as candy receptacles and costume props), the occasional 12-foot tall skeleton that dances to Elvis tunes, and potentially, other dogs. Also make sure that the poo bags don’t get mixed up with the candy. If Spooky is overwhelmed, take her home immediately and set out again with the kids. If your kids are still in the baby/toddler age group, you already have your hands full, so it’s probably best to leave the dog at home.
Many pets react strongly to the doorbell. Some run and hide. Some run towards the door, often noisily, and may present a trip or escape hazard. And some dogs bark and bark and bark every time they hear it. This can be problematic if you have a lot of foot traffic at your house on Halloween. Luckily, there are ways to work around it, and give Spooky (and you, by extension) a little peace of mind.
If Spooky has a tendency to rush the door, either to excitedly greet people or to make an escape, you will want to keep her contained. (You can’t risk him bolting out the door and running across Route 15 with all those Orinco trucks speeding past). You can use a leash or a baby gate or keep her in a crate, whichever is the most comfortable for him and easiest for you.
You can create a safe place where Spooky can spend the evening in relative comfort. If you have already done so using the Thunderdog guidelines (from my October BLOG blog), congratulations, you are ahead of the game. If not, it is not too late. A quiet room (preferably away from the front door) with toys, snacks, comfy resting spots and maybe some species appropriate pheromones (Adaptil or Feliway) should help to decrease Spooky’s anxiety.
If all this seems like too much, you do have a couple other options. You can, weather permitting, keep Spooky indoors while someone sits outside on the porch or in the driveway to hand out treats. Or you can set out a dummy holding a bowl of candy and let people help themselves. If you less popular (or mildly repulsive) candy, like those orange and black wrapped peanut butter kisses, or raisins or Good & Plenty, you will only have to fill the bowl once. Or you can just make your house appear very uninviting by turning out the lights and putting up signs like “Trespassers will be prosecuted” or simply “No Candy”. Normally crime scene tape and chalk outlines scare off most solicitors, but in this case it may be mistaken for a seasonal decorative display.
One final thought: Don’t forget to keep candy out of Spooky’s reach. Yes, some of it can easily be replaced when it goes on clearance, but that won’t make up for the ever-so messy gastrointestinal ramifications of Spooky eating all your candy. Too much candy is not good for anyone, but it can be toxic to pets. If you need a refresher course in overindulgence, please read (or re-read if you are a regular Bored Surfer) the February BLOG blog. Wait a minute. I have included 2 references to my own work and only one to that of the magnificent Mr. King. I may not be his number-one fan, but such an oversight could be construed as quite arrogant. I offer a humble apology in an attempt to avoid a gypsy weight-loss curse.
Hopefully you have gleaned some useful information to help your beloved Spooky cope with the upcoming festivities, as well as a few fun-size snickers. Join me in November for the next installment of BLOG blog.
From all of us here at Best Care – best wishes for a Fear Free Halloween!
Dr. Debbie Appleby