Soothing Ruffled Fur: A Bedtime Story for Dogs

I came up to read Felix a bedtime story, to find him at his open attic window gazing out at the chilly night.

I scooped up a duvet and wrapped it round him. There was no need to ask why he was there: the fireworks were lighting up the night sky. While the trend is for great big displays, there are still those who buy trolley loads of explosives from the supermarket, to let off in small municipal back gardens. And no matter their source, they fill the sky with bling.

Why?  We all know the story. Once upon a time, in 1605, in fact, a naughty man named Mr Fawkes was arrested whilst guarding insane amounts of explosives planted in a cellar beneath the House of Lords. His plot to blow up a busy parliament was foiled.

While the story still has as many holes in it as a sieve, and  conspiracy theories abound, it fitted the purposes of the time admirably. Mr Fawkes and his friends were Catholic. No wonder they were so frowned upon. Bounders.

So loyal subjects of King James built fires to celebrate his deliverance; and gradually the anti-Catholic feeling grew until little boys in the 18th century were making money by asking for a penny for an effigy of Guy Fawkes which, rather shockingly, was thrown onto the fire to be burnt.

Fireworks were banned for long stretches, for public safety; starting in 1682 after violent anti-catholic scenes, and continuing with subsequent bans under James II.

But these days the bangs and cracks of fireworks puncture the damp November night, and the smell of gunpowder is on the air.

And while Felix loves it, there are others who are less enthusiastic.

Macaulay is acclimatised to bangs and cracks for a most unusual reason: his doggy walks take him within hearing of the Sandhurst Military Academy’s manoeuvres training ground.

Thus, his happiest times are spent nosing around in the undergrowth whilst explosives detonate crazily nearby. Well: within a three-mile range.

Fireworks are not a problem.

Bond, however, is new round here. The small cat gets most agitated: along with most of the local animals. Clover, my sister’s collie, shakes uncontrollably at the sound of fireworks.

And for them, there is a new way to tackle that perennial terror, thanks to our caricature of an English actor, Simon Callow.

We all love Simon Callow. Is there anyone more bluff, and irrepressible, and ebullient, than our affable thespian? Who better to read A Christmas Carol, or  to be an acclaimed Sir Toby Belch, than this man who, in ‘Being Shakespeare’ undertook to play Shakespeare’s characters and the great man himself ?.

And who better to soothe our pets, in a ground barking- I mean, ground breaking new technique.

The first bedtime audiobook for dogs has just been released. And it’s free: a virtuoso piece of publicity by More Than Pet insurance. There I go again, publicising them. Doh.

One simply plays “Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale’ by Laura Quinn, to one’s pet. Every night, working up to November 5th and beyond if necessary. The story was written in conjunction with pet behaviourist Karen Wild.

The story is based on Real Science. Something to do with  “a number of proven animal psychology techniques, communicative signals, bioacoustics and years of scientific research into dog behaviour to capture a canine’s attention and help it relax when in a state of stress”.

And miraculously, it will calm your loved canines. They will adore the story so much that they simply won’t notice Armageddon outside.

I shall play it to my dog for experimental purposes, of course. And I may experiment by using it on the cat.

Pour yourself a glass of something; park your pet on a nearby comfy cushion; and enjoy.


50 thoughts on “Soothing Ruffled Fur: A Bedtime Story for Dogs

  1. Love this. I had one dog that loved fireworks, another that yawned through it and one who shivered. With the one that shivered, I found that putting the telly on helped alot, along with wearing a jacket indoors to keep the body wrapped coccoon like. It’s a tough night for all four footed friends!

      1. Have you seen the biographical movie, Temple Grandin? Temple had autism and went on to earn a Ph.D. (which she used to help cows).

        Like many with autism, Temple always and only spoke directly ~ never by using euphemisms or oblique remarks.

        If you can get your hands on a copy, I expect you’d enjoy it immensely:

        Emmy winner Claire Danes stars as Temple Grandin, a brilliant young woman coping with the stigma of autism at a time when it was misunderstood. With the support of her loving family, Temple dedicates herself to learning and becomes a famed animal behaviorist. Her passion for animals gives her a unique ability to understand them, and she fulfills her love of education by teaching about autism and the most humane ways to treat livestock and pets.

        Anyway, in the movie, when Temple is “overstimulated” by people, places, or things, instead of freaking out, she self-medicates by getting in her SQUEEZE machine. It helped her feel safe . . . and cocooned.

      2. I expect cocoons might work with kittens . . . but not very well with cats.

        Dogs are pack animals, easily placated by snuggling with the rest of the pack. Most cats are far more independent and don’t like to feel constrained by costumes, blankets, or over-exhuberant hugs. Unless THEY initiate the hug . . . or find the cocoon on their own.

        Perhaps a Cat House? A box with a blanket tucked up inside. And a stuffed catnip mouse to chew on.

  2. My Black Lab, Evie, was petrified of fireworks, She was very old and died while we on were vacation, My neighbor called on the 5th of July to tell us she died with a smile. Somehow, I’ve always thought she was glad to be rid of neighbor fireworks on Independence Day.

    1. Aw, there is nothing like a black lab. So placid. So sorry she’s not with you any more. k.a., but as you say – no Independence Day fireworks to endure this time. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  3. Eh… what? What? Oh, sorry, I must have dozed off. Why am I suddenly kicking myself behind the ear?
    Lovely tail with a nice ending.
    I am always amazed that fireworks haven’t been outlawed in UK as they are here. They really do traumatize pets. This year instead of getting a special licence as they normally do, our local sports club did a lazer display. Sadly, it fell short, so maybe they’ll be back to fireworks next year.

      1. So, Herbert Hound prefers Ezra Pound . . . and rolling around in the yard rather than listening to rolled “r’s.” 😀

        I expect that Macauley would rather listen to you or Phil reading The War of the Worlds. And Clive? What reading matter appeals to cats of a certain age? I’m guessing, since Clive and Al get along famously, that The Cat in the Hat would be just the thing . . . especially on a rainy day. 😉

  4. I heard about this the day after Hallowe’en- when the Irish do fireworks. Poor wee Jake was a shivering wreck, clambering into the smallest spots he could find, and being sick 😦

  5. We have fireworks up the kazoo here in the Lowcountry, both those done by the towns and cities as well as the privately purchased being blasted all night in the neighborhoods. I feel sorry for all the pets as fireworks are done for January 1st as well as the Fourth of July.

  6. Dear Kate, Callow’s voice, so deep and vibrant, nearly put me to sleep. Stanley and Teddy’s tale is endearing. I can see that the words chosen by the author call forth from a reader a deepness of tone that might well sooth dogs—and perhaps cats as well. Peace.

      1. We do. There is a festival called Diwali which is coming in few days is celebrated with lighting candles and fireworks.

  7. The clip wouldn’t play for me – argh! And I’d poured myself a glass of red and dogs were on their pillows and everything! We aren’t allowed to buy fireworks over here.

    1. Oh, gracious…I believe there is more than one link to it on YouTube, Julie, and so it may be worth trying again. I suppose you are reduced to drinking your glass of wine without Mr Callow!

      Good that fireworks are not around there. I’m sure your dogs are happier as a result.

  8. Jazz used to go mad on New Years’ Eve/Day. And, she lived so many years that it became frustrating, because I was like “Can you not remember this from last year? I mean, seriously?”

    1. I know what you mean. No matter how much you try to cushion them they are just irrevocably terrified. Poor souls. This evening we were playing the opening credits of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ – you know, the bit where the plane is flying over the mountains – and it is accompanied by that percussive drum beat which is very like fireworks.
      Bond shot off the bed and fled….

  9. In anticipation of our Fourth of July fireworks this year, I looked for new ways to soothe and comfort my afraid-of-loud-noises dog. It seems there are albums of music written specifically for the purpose, with a lot of animal psychology to back them up. I was too cheap to buy a whole album but found a website that played one of the songs continually. I left it playing in the back room, near Annie’s crate (aka “hidey hole”). It may have soothed her a bit, but I now hate the song!

  10. I wasn’t sure that I knew Simon Callow, but as I read further I realized I did know the voice. I heard a few moments of this recording yesterday on the radio! First time I’d heard of the new “doggy bedtime stories” and I think it’s just so much fun! I don’t think there are too many animals not disturbed by fireworks, but the background on why Macaulay does well is so interesting! He’s an old trooper at heart! 🙂

  11. It’s interesting to hear how different pets react to fireworks. It seems that cats and dogs are most likely to be affected. I find that Budgies don’t tend to be in the least bit bothered by fireworks – they probably equate them to a bad thunderstorm, tuck head into feathers and sleep it off (with one eye open of course). If you want to spook a Budgie all you need is a torch – just shine the beam on the ceiling above the cage. Because they have no understanding of what it is, they are scared by it. Not something I’d recommend doing for fun – just noticed it when I was surfacing with the torch after searching under the table for missing items due to polterchild activity 😉

  12. I came back to re-read this post, Kate because it leads off in so many enticing directions, one after the other, in quick succession, that it’s rather like watching fireworks. Only not nearly so noisy. It took a repeat visit to digest it all. Thanks!

  13. Fireworks and conspiracy theories aside, I must focus on the loving sentiment of the ‘first friend’, remembered on a cold winter night. Beautiful story- perfect narration- especially like the camera cut aways to the dogs ‘listening’ to the tale…

    Thank you for sharing this one Kate!

  14. Our old lab chow mix, Roxy, was very afraid of fire works but she always fell asleep during this story when I played it for her and it was the same around the fourth of july, in spite of the fireworks. Roxy crossed over the rainbow bridge 2 years ago . Her best friend , Poppy Lou still listens to the story every now and again and now shares her nap space with her puppy friend Amy. I wish there were more stories like this to play for them because I would prefer some variety , they however seem fine with having only one story option.

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