BALLPLAY, TN- In the aftermath of one the noisiest, startling nights of the year, community organizers are expecting a high turnout for Canines Anonymous, a chapter of the multi-national dog support community for PTSD support. While support is offered year-round, certified therapy dogs like Winnie, the poodle, spend the early weeks of July treating pups who are shell-shocked from July 4th fireworks. “They come in asking ‘who’s a good boy?’” said Winnie, “and it’s our job to say, you are! Yes you are! So good, so goooooood! Yesyesyes!”
In the basement of St. Roch’s Catholic Parish, over bowl water and kibble, traumatized dogs relive the nightmare of booming fireworks displays, and Winnie is there to make sure they all feel safe and free from judgement. New members typically keep to themselves, but Fish Taco, a shar pei still wearing a bright orange thundershirt, broke into his story immediately.
“They locked me up, man,” Fish Taco explained. “They said I was growling, and damn right I was. The shit was going down everywhere, and they brought kids, man, defenseless kids! I would’ve given my life at that cookout, instead they locked me up. And they wonder why I drink so much out of the toilet.”
The diminutive Voldemort, a chihuahua in a spiked collar, faced a similar conundrum when she was placed in a dog carrier and forced to attend municipal fireworks with her family. “The explosions were overhead, non-stop, for hours, and something inside me just told me to run,” said Voldemort, shaking violently. “I chewed a hole in my carrier, got my front legs out and I booked it. They said they found me sleeping in a pile of ice cream bar wrappers the next day.”
After staying quiet the entire session, H. R. Fluffinstuff, an affable bulldog, broke down during his turn to speak. Between sobs, Fluffinstuff, admitted he couldn’t rescue his human, who strode bravely out onto the deck to view the fireworks carnage while Fluffinstuff cowered under the bed. “I tried everything,” Fluffinstuff said, “I tried barking, whining, howling, but I was paralyzed. She just put on some bug spray and went out into no-mans-land with a smile on her face! I just- I just…”
Fluffinstuff just shook his head, unable to continue. Winnie helped the bulldog calm down by feeding him snausages one at a time. “I want everyone to remember our W.O.O.F. steps,” Winnie told the dogs, “Remember? That stands for 1) wag your tail, 2) obey your human, 3) offer your belly for skritches, and finally, 4) feed yourself. You are all good dogs. You are very good dogs.”