Exquisite Collaboration Poem: WILLIAM IS A CAT

william the cat
William, a self portrait

WILLIAM IS  CAT

William is a cat.
A companion to his humans, the mayor of his neighborhood, the center of his own universe.

William is a cat who hides his scat.
He’s not sharing and that’s that.

His tiny turds of kitty poo-poo, all speckled with litter,
Dropped into baggies. Hip hip hooray!

William the cat keeps to himself most of the time,
but his heart is big, he cares deeply, and is a true friend.

The son of Prince William
He’s a gentle fellow, soft as a marshmallow.

William is a very intelligent cat
He knows that while the birds are off limits the mice aren’t.

William is happening and all knowing, just as a cat should be.
Any further input would be redundant and superfluous.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS
Zeina
Al
Anonymous
Joanne
Daniela Gitlin
Crystal Hayduk
Mickey Cherry

(William’s portrait provided by Zeina Salame)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM
Earlier this year,  I took an Impro for Collaborating class with Theresa Robbins Dudeck through the Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, OR.  One of the participants, Diane, talked occasionally about William. Most of us just assumed William was her partner, until one day she talked about William using his litter box. “William is a cat?” someone asked, and we all had a good laugh about it – and then met William, the cat, via Zoom.

What better way to capture the moment of collective, spontaneous delight than with a collaborative poem! The prompt, of course was “William is a cat”. Contributors could include the phrase if they wanted it wasn’t required. And just for fun, I asked a few non-classmates to add a verse.

This is for you, Diane! xo

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: TIME FOR THE CROCUS

Image courtesy of Penny Higgins, PaleoPix

 

TIME FOR THE CROCUS

I broke my ankle
On Saturday before last
And now I just sit

There’s no community
To show me I’m not alone
Where’s the love gone to?

Testing
Testing
Testing

Ones and zeros dash
Across a liquid surface
And pixels conform

Looking like seeing
One you can do with eyes closed
Different result

The air teases warmth
Confusing us with snowflakes
Time for the crocus

Upside down lighthouse
Hermit crabs walking on clouds
Tide pool reflections

Shuffles slowly past
Heavy burden on his hunched back
Tenacious tortoise

Instructions for life:
Explore possibilities,
Surf the waves of change.

*     *     *     *     *     *

THE POETS

Jane S
Justin Rielly
Jackie Dishner
Kay Ross
Catherine Valleroy
Anne Waterman Murphy
Joanne

THE ARTIST

Penny Higgins, PaleoPix photography

*     *     *     *     *     *

THE POEM

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry comprised of short lines that don’t rhyme but work together to create powerful imagery. For this Exquisite Collaboration, participants were asked to write a haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable structure. The following prompts were offered for inspiration.

– exploration/discovery
– joy/happiness
– fear
– technology
– community

You’ll notice that one of the verses doesn’t follow the haiku format. That’s the test entry I did to make sure the form worked before the prompt went live. I forgot to delete it from the contributions but when I saw it I realized that it still worked as part of the collaboration.

I’m trying these days to embrace mistakes as creative gifts. This was one of those mistakes.

The Dead of Winter (flash fiction)

Image by Elisabeth Lescaudron from Pixabay

The results are in for the finals of the NYC Midnight 250-word Microfiction contest. While I didn’t place, I am absolutely thrilled – thrilled!! – to have been part of this experience. Here’s my round three story, followed by the judges feedback, in it’s entirety, links to my rounds one and two stories, and some thoughts on the contest.

THE DEAD OF WINTER
by Joanne Brokaw

Rachel lay awake listening to scurrying behind the aging farmhouse walls, the sound of nesting mingling with the bitter wind howling across the plains, destroying everything in its path. She sensed tiny life drawing nigh, and it brought her comfort.

“I’ll get the poison from the barn,” William said when he heard the scratching.

“Please don’t. I can’t sleep and it keeps me company.”

“I’ve warned you, wife. The delicate of heart have no place here.”

“Then I’ll catch it and release it into the forest before the first snow.”

“Poison, winter freeze. What do I care. It’ll soon be dead either way.”

Rachel crafted a small wicker basket for a trap, baited it with cheese, and quickly captured a pregnant little mouse. William sneered when he saw the animal cupped gently in his young wife’s small hands, then offered to wring its neck.

“It deserves a chance!” Rachel cried, tucking the mouse into her apron pocket before flying out the door and into the darkness. An icy wind tore at her skin. She ran to the edge of the forest, collapsing to her knees before an inconspicuous cross marking the grave of the sickly infant recently dispatched by her husband. As the mouse escaped her pocket and scampered towards shelter in the nearby underbrush, Rachel felt a heavy hand upon her shoulder.

“There’s no room for weakness on the prairie, wife,” William said, then bashed her skull in with a rock.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE JUDGES FEEDBACK Continue reading “The Dead of Winter (flash fiction)”

The Power of Creativity (And Breakfast For Dinner)

 

There’s a moment in season one, episode eight of “WandaVision,” when Agnes (played by Kathyrn Hahn) and Wanda (played by Elizabeth Olsen) are engaged in a fierce battle of magical power. (I’m trying not to give anything away.) After revealing a secret about Wanda’s true identity, Agnes chides her with this line:

“You’re supposed to be a myth, a being capable of spontaneous creation. And here you are making breakfast for dinner.”

I know almost nothing about Marvel comics or these characters (which didn’t stop me from enjoying the show). But the condescension that drips from Agnes’s voice as she throws this line out to Wanda hit me right in my creative gut. Continue reading “The Power of Creativity (And Breakfast For Dinner)”

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: AN ODYSSEY OF PHOENIXES

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

AN ODYSSEY OF PHOENIXES

I used to be in too much of a hurry to notice the little things, but now I am more intentional and focused and thankful for nearly all of it–even the stuff I wouldn’t choose, for it all contains a lesson.

I used to be together, but now I am scattered, lonely, alone.

I used to be the happy, hopeful mother of two living children, but now I am a grieving, sorrowful mother who has lost one of them.
I used to be hopeful but now I am cynical.
I used to be hopeful but now I am resigned.
I used to be a garbage can collecting all the sin, but now I am a refrigerator that has to stay plugged in.
I used to be good looking but now I am old
I used to be a public frog but now I am nobody
I used to be moldy, but now I am cold-y.
I used to be tan, but now I am not.

I used to be troubled but now I am better.

I used to be an empty rain-catch but now I am a reliable well.
I used to be busy doing, but now I focus on being.
I used to be young and ambitious but now I’m older and wiser.
I used to be the guy saying ‘stick it to the man’, but now I am a safe, careful part of the establishment machine.
I used to be a scientist, but now I am an experiment.
I used to be the one who asked the questions, but now I am the one who knows the Answer.
I used to be unsure, but now I am aware that I don’t have to have all the answers.
I used to be opposed to opposition, but now I am content embracing hugs.
I used to be too old for this shit but now, thank heavens, I am a child again.
I used to be young, wild, and free but now I am old, wild, and free.
I used to be a guitar but now I am a trombone.

I used to be timid, but now I am fearless.

I used to be burning, perhaps not the fire, but the wad of documents, flaked edges aglow, the light hypnotic, paper on the verge of becoming ash, a supply of memory, the inked word shrinking into nonsense as they were consumed; but now I am rising, a spark gleaming in the air, the cascade of heat shimmering above the coals, the searing chronicle of the blaze.

*********************

THE CONTRIBUTORS Continue reading “Exquisite Collaboration Poem: AN ODYSSEY OF PHOENIXES”

A Whispered Agitation (flash fiction)

photo in public domain*

Last fall I entered the NYC Midnight Microflash Fiction contest. In January, I made it through the first round, and last night I learned that I’ve made it through to the next round! Here’s the story that moved me to the finals. At the end is some of the judge’s feedback.

Assigned genre: Historical Fiction
Action that had to be included: bricklaying
Word that had to be included: step
Time to write the 250 word story: 24 hours

A WHISPERED AGITATION
by Joanne Brokaw

Martin filled his trowel with cement, slopped the mortar onto the growing barrier, and topped it with a brick. “You’ll not see that neighbor again, Emily.” More slop. “She’s an agitator.” Another brick.

Emily knew enough to remain silent when her husband was mid-tirade. His word was law, by God, and she best not forget it. But while her lips were quiet, her spirit was not.

Days earlier, that neighbor, Clara, had returned from visiting cousins in Auburn and whispered to Emily rumors of a coming women’s rights movement.

“Can you imagine?” Clara marveled. “To have the vote?”

“That’s preposterous. Surely you’re mistaken. ”

“No, Emily, there’s to be a convention next week. We will be heard.”

For days, dreams of equality girded Emily with confidence. She sewed a new dress; Martin accused her of putting on airs. Her request to see the household ledger was met with icy silence. But it was her utterance of the word “suffrage” that prompted Martin to build the wall.

“You think we don’t know what our wives are up to behind our backs?”

Slop. Brick.

Emily spied Clara on her porch, her black eye and swollen lip visible even at a distance. Clara quickly turned away.

Slop. Brick.

Emily decided. With Martin distracted, she slipped away, donning her bonnet as she walked determinedly to the train station. She stepped up to the ticket counter and pushed a few pilfered coins towards the agent. “One fare to Seneca Falls, please.”

**************************

The judges had some nice thing to say about the piece and gave specific, really helpful suggestions. Here’s what they had to say: Continue reading “A Whispered Agitation (flash fiction)”

The Pleas of the Leaves (or how writing fiction is just improv on the page)

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

Last November, in an attempt to push myself to try new creative things, I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest.

This is a fiction contest where, at the designated start time, participants are sent their assignment, which includes the genre they are supposed to write in, an action that has to take place, and a word they must include in the story, and they all write a story. The top writers in their groups move on for two more rounds, until a winner is crowned.

Oh, and did I mention participants have 24 hours to write their story?

Here’s the thing. I don’t write fiction. OK, well, I do, sort of. As part of my “write like a mad scientist for the first draft” practice, I often will ask friends for three random words, set a timer, and then use those words as prompts to write anything that comes to mind during the designated free writing time.

Often, it’s some weird story that comes from out of nowhere, something that if I was trying to write it would never appear. I just “Yes And” whatever comes out (improv has improved my writing as well as my life), and I rarely edit those mad scientist drafts. They go into a file I pull the out once in a while and think, “This would make a great story,” panic at the thought of having to actually write the story, and promptly put it all back in a drawer. I do, however, share them with my besties and creative cheerleaders Roberta Gore and Carrie Anne Noble, two accomplished fiction writers.

“You do write fiction, Joanne,” they keep telling me, but I still disagree.  To me, a fiction writer plots story lines and crafts characters and pays attention to themes and irony and other literary devices. I just splash something on the page and leave it to fend for itself.

My non-fiction career? Not a problem. I can pen a fabulous feature story, spin a delightful humor column, muse poetically in an essay. I have a few awards to prove I’m pretty good at that.

But making stuff up and creating worlds? Not really my thing. (Except on the improv stage. Are you noticing a theme here?)

So anyway, back to the contest.

The contest entry fee was $25, and every participant receives feedback on their piece, whether they move on to the next round or not. That sounded like a good deal to me.

Here’s the wrinkle: I thought I had entered the Flash Fiction contest, where entries had to be 500 words or less. When I saw the assignment I realized I actually entered was the Micro Flash Fiction contest, where entries were limited to 250 words.

Oh boy. Continue reading “The Pleas of the Leaves (or how writing fiction is just improv on the page)”

Recharge Your Creativity: January 2021

It’s a new year so let’s kick it off with the return of Recharge Your Creativity nights!
Join me on Monday, January 18, 2021, from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm ET/US, for an evening of writing prompts and playful exercises designed to spark ideas and recharge your creative spirit.
This is a low key, high support workshop. No writing or artistic experience is necessary, and sharing is optional.
This is a free/pay what you want monthly drop in event. Prompts and themes change monthly.
For more information or to register, visit
or

The Story of You: a new creative project for 2021

photo courtesy of jplenio via pixabay

As we enter into this new year, I have a confession about 2020: once I got over the initial “lockdown put the brakes on everything” depression, I thrived creatively in isolation.

The “aha” moment came when the bird landed on my head and ushered in a mindset of magical possibility. After that, it was far easier for me to do big things even though I was confined in a small box. Maybe because I controlled the box and the box could take me around the world with just the click of a mouse, a sort of pandemic TARDIS. Having the freedom to just do something without needing to find a host or get permission allowed me to…well, just do shit. Whatever shit I wanted to do.

Workshops! Collaborative poem projects! Virtual create space for other writers!

Notice anything? I didn’t do this alone. You were there the whole time.

And with that, I am going out on a limb to say out loud that I’m starting my next book, tentatively titled “The Story of You: A Creative Journey.”

Once upon a time you did not exist.
Then one day something happened, and viola!
There you were.
Then some more things happened, and are happening, and will happen soon,
Until one day, in the blink of an eye, you will be no more.
That is the story of you, in a nutshell.
But when you crack that nutshell, out spills an avalanche of those things that happened, and are happening, and will happen soon.
Those things are the heart of your story.
They explain who you are.
They define why you are here.
They show where you came from.
They guide where you are going.
They create what you will leave behind.
Inside the nutshell is the story of your journey.
And that is the real story of you.

I’m telling you this because throughout 2021, you can help me work through ideas by responding to prompts and answering questions and playing games and participating in reflective exercises. If you want to stay updated, make sure you’re on my mailing list. You can find the sign up on the home page of my website. http://joannebrokaw.com/index.html

While I can take this journey alone, it’s more fun with friends. And let’s be honest: while I am confidently at the starting point, I have no itinerary or road map. If I don’t take someone along for the ride, I may just sit in the parking lot with the engine idling.

So we’re going on a fun, introspective journey together, my lovelies, starting soon. No seat belts required.

Here’s to a new year that overflows with beautiful things.
Happy creating!
Joanne

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: Our Hope For The New Year

Earth sunrise greets astronauts aboard the International Space Station; taken Apr. 8, 2015. Courtesy NASA free images.

a note on the final poem of 2020:

For this final exquisite collaboration project of 2020, almost 40 people from around the world contributed one sentence expressing a hope for the new year. These sentences were then sorted to create the following poem that, despite everyone contributing independently of each other, echoed common themes of peace, health, and the desperate desire to hug again.

I want to thank everyone who participated in these poems this year. Facilitating these gave me a creative purpose during the pandemic lockdown and put into action what has been my writing motto for more than 20 years:

Connect. Inspire. Change the world.

May your 2021 overflow with all things beautiful, and may we have many more opportunities to create magic together.
xo
Joanne

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

our collective hope for the new year Continue reading “Exquisite Collaboration Poem: Our Hope For The New Year”

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: THE POWER OF PEACE

THE POWER OF PEACE

If we all treated each other and the planet with kindness and respect,
Then there would be no need for war,
And the world would be at peace.

If you recall, a hooded stranger ran up to me in the street.
Then I greeted them warmly, and asked them to join me at the community faire.
And the world sang joyously at our arrival.

If the skies burn and the storms rage and the winds rush and the seas churn
Then no human life will have the privilege of comfort and safety
And the world will laugh and dance to celebrate the new life to take our place.

If I could climb to the top of the apple tree
Then I could breathe in fall like the starlings and the last of the butterflies
And the world would hurt a little less.

If they told me to go home and make crafts with my daughters
Then I’ll craft my ambition to show them what’s possible
And the world, doubters and believers alike, will watch me rise.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Kay Ross
Coriander Rainbeaux
Maur J DeLaney
Carrie the Bat
H.H. Wood

The poets hailed from Hong Kong; Rochester, NY; and Pennsylvania.

THE ARTIST

The video presentation of the poem was created by Crystal Hayduk, who also provided the poem’s title. She hails from Michigan.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

For this poem, each participant wrote three lines that together form one stanza or thought.
Line 1 began with the word “If”
Line 2 began with the word “Then”
Line 3 began with the phrase “And the world”

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

Five Minutes From The Funny Farm: Free Writing Like A Mad Scientist

This morning I hosted a Zoom Creative Space with some friends – a dedicated time to write, paint, sew, create, whatever anyone wanted to do, but in the virtual company of other people also creating.

I haven’t been writing myself lately; for most of the last two years I’ve been focused on helping other people capture their own creative energy. I needed this time  just as much as I wanted to facilitate the time for other people. But since I’m not actually working on anything at the moment, to get started I asked my Facebook friends to give me three words to use as free writing prompts. The first three words offered – from Chris Stoker, Yvonne Ransel, and Larry Ploscowe – were:

Breathe
I
Whoa

Here’s what I mean by “free writing”. I’m taking those word suggestions and, with as little editing or thinking as possible, writing for an allotted time (in this case about 45 minutes with a few breaks), and then letting it settle to see what might come out. The goal is simply to write – what I write is irrelevant.

I call this the Mad Scientist draft – anything is possible and everything is allowed. I love being a creative mad scientist.

Full disclosure: I’ve gone back and done a wee bit of tweaking before I posted this – mostly taking very long run on sentences and turning them into slightly less long run on sentences, and fixing some typos (I’m sure I missed a ton). But keep in mind this is still a very rough draft of…something. I’m being creatively vulnerable here because I want to encourage you to create without fear, to turn off that internal editor and let words flow however they want. Worry what it means later.

I had fun with this. I hope you have fun reading (or watching the video). And for the dozens of people still posting word suggestions, I have an idea to use all of them so stay tuned.

OK. Ready? Begin writing.

* * * * Continue reading “Five Minutes From The Funny Farm: Free Writing Like A Mad Scientist”

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: STARDUST DREAMS

Photo courtesy Pixabay

I am an imperfect beast
I am here to solve more problems than I create
I came from bigger places
I am going somewhere worse, hand basket free.

I believe hand baskets are for sale, but I can’t afford them.

I am dandelion fluff and dewdrops
I am here to enchant and to vex the minds of small mice
I came from the edge of the meadow where the pine trees nod
I am going to the midsummer fair to buy milkweed and maple sap

I believe in stardust and salamanders.

I am a masterpiece in progress,
Working on my canvas every day.
I came from the earth, the stream, the stars, the wind.
I am all those things now, and will return to their pure forms once again.

I believe we are all connected to each other and our universe.

I am me, soft, old, pliable, feminine me.
I am here to pave the way for the next generation of dreamers to become believers.
I came from the stars and to the stars I will return.
I am going everywhere and nowhere.

I believe we are on the edge of a great discovery that will change the world for the better.

I am different things to different people but to myself I am just me.
I’m here because my parents created me.
I came here from another state.
I don’t know where I’m going as long as I’m going and hopefully it’ll be fun.

I believe that someone, somewhere will eventually answer any and all questions we really need the answers to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Lori B. Duff
Carrie the Bat
Mindy Wells Hoffbauer
Jan Heverly. Writer.
Mickey Cherry

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

For this poem, each participant wrote five sentences, one each in response to these questions:

Who am I?
Why am I here?
Where did I come from?
Where am I going?
I believe…

Everyone participating responded to the same prompts without knowing how the others responded and how (or if!) the verses would work together as a whole poem. The goal was for participants to turn off their internal editor and reflect for a moment on their own moment in existence. The end result, posted with almost no editing offers a glimpse into our interconnectedness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

Exquisite Collaboration Poem: LOVE IN THE GLOAMING

Photo courtesy jplenio on Pixabay.

IN THE GLOAMING

The head – too full: the heart must open,
Its reddish hue pumps forward still.
Years pass; The heart grows fonder.
And as memories fade
the dusky pitch glows.
Nighttime creeps in.
It gives up
reason.
Hope.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POETS

Rick Hughson
Sara Moore
Andy Pacher
Mickey Cherry
Fred Dean
Wayne Dunbar
Coriander Rainbeaux
Rene Wazowicz
Stephanie Siuda

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE POEM

This group of contributors helped me experiment with a format called a Nonet – a nine line poem in which each line has a specific number of syllables, starting with the first line, which has nine syllables, and counting down to the final (ninth) line, which has one syllable.  Unlike our other poems, each contributor got to see everything that came before their line.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Exquisite Collaboration Project is based on the Exquisite Corpse, a technique created by Surrealists in the early 1900s, in which participants add to a work one bit at a time, with no one seeing what the previous participants contributed. The goal is to encourage non-writers and artists to embrace their creative selves in a safe, supportive, “you can’t fail” environment.

Click here to read the series of Exquisite Poems done during the Covid lockdown along with other collaborative projects.

To learn more about my workshops, visit my website.

To be part of future poem projects, follow me on Facebook @joannebrokawwriter  for prompts or join my mailing list by filling out the form on my website.

5 ways to keep your dog happy this Fourth of July

My dog Bandit, getting ready for the Fourth of July. (c) Joanne Brokaw 2016
My dog Bandit, getting ready for the Fourth of July. (c) Joanne Brokaw 2016

(Note: this article originally ran in 2016 on my Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com. It has been slightly updated here.)

While humans are celebrating Independence Day with picnics and fireworks, many of our dogs are freaking out over the crowds and loud noises, sending many dogs under the bed – or over the fence and down the road, until they’re lost. Or worse.

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, here are a few tips to help keep your dog safe and stress-free.

1) Don’t feed Rover picnic food. While he might really enjoy a burger or a hot dog (or other things he can steal from your plate), changes to your dogs diet can cause stomach upset. And upset stomach = anxious dog. Not only that, some of the picnic fare is dangerous for dogs, like onions, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners found in candy and gum. If you insist on bringing him to the family gathering, make sure he has plenty of water and a cool, quiet place where he can retreat, and that you keep a watchful eye on well-meaning folks bent on giving the doggie a “treat”.

2) Leave the dog at home. While we like to think that our dogs want to be with us 24/7, the truth is that most dogs get anxious in large crowds. Don’t believe me? Just for fun, find a large crowd of people and then get down on all fours and crawl around for a while. It’s hot, it’s confusing, and it’s probably stressful, especially if there are going to be fireworks. He’d be much happier at home, with a nice Kong toy filled with a treat, the shades drawn, and the couch all to himself.

3) Prepare ahead for the fireworks. Some vets estimate that almost half of dogs are spooked by loud noises, like thunder or fireworks. It’s not something to blow off; dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans and they’re also affected by the electrical changes in the air from thunder and stormy weather. Yelling at the dog, or closing him in a room by himself without actually addressing the problem, can make it worse.

If you need immediate help this weekend, try a Thundershirt, which helps “swaddle” your dog by applying even pressure on his body. You can also use calming aromatherapy scents and oils, like Canine Calm, that you can spray on a dog’s bed or apply to a collar. (Check with your vet before applying oils directly to your pets, as some can be irritating to the skin or in some cases toxic). You can also talk to your vet or trainer about pheromone collars.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your vet about medication; just make sure you give it to your pup well in advance of the fireworks so it has time to take effect. The one I’ve used in the past with Bailey takes about four hours to kick in, but once it does she’s sedated just enough that she really doesn’t care about the noises but not so drugged that she can’t function.

4) Prepare for the worst case scenario. No one wants to think about losing their dog, but a scared dog reacts without thinking, and can bolt in a crowd, run into traffic, jump a fence, chew through a screen door, or otherwise do whatever he can to get away from the scary noises. Make sure your dog is safely in the house this Fourth of July, is wearing a collar with tags, and is also microchipped. If he manages to get out, you want to make it as easy as possible for him to be identified and returned to you. The longer he’s away, the more traumatic the experience.

5) Get ready for next year, now. It’s never too early to think about the next thunderstorm or fireworks display. Help desensitize your dog to loud noises with programs like Victoria Stillwell’s Canine Noise Phobia Treatment or Through A Dog’s Ears [now iCalmpet.com], music “psychoacoustically designed to support you and your dog’s compromised immune or nervous system function”. I  used it often and find very helpful. In fact, I keep a CD in the car for rides, and music on my phone, just in case. You use these to slowly desensitize your dog to loud sounds or pair the music with the feeling of being calm, so it won’t work overnight. But it’s not too early to make a commitment now to give your dog some long-term relief.

And if you don’t already have a relationship with a positive-methods dog trainer, now’s the time to find one. Dog training isn’t just about going to puppy classes. If you have a trainer that knows you and your dog, when a problem arises throughout the dog’s life you can call on her to help address the issue quickly and positively. My dogs are older, but I don’t hesitate to call my trainer with questions, especially since I have a very squirrely Border Collie and a reactive Retriever/Pit mix. We’re always working to help the dogs be less anxious and to get along better with each other. I promise: a well educated, positive method trainer will change both you and your dogs’ lives.

Here’s hoping you and your pups have a healthy and safe holiday!