It’s been 21 years since I hung up my tape recorder and ended my career as a broadcast journalist. I’ve been to a couple of war zones, covered a serial killer or two and responded to countless disasters both large and small. Most stories have faded from my memory.

But there is one that comes back to me every Independence day. It’s about a call I received early one  July 5th from the saddest woman I’ve ever talked to. Through her tears she was imploring me to tell her son’s story so that others wouldn’t make the same mistak160701 GSDe.

Her son had gotten some admittedly illegal fireworks and was planning to spend the evening setting them off. It was fine, as his beloved German Shepherd wasn’t the least bit skittish about loud noises. The son had set off a few, taken a break, and then went back to it.

But this time, he changed his M.O. He lit the big M-80, and then threw it across the yard. The Shepherd thought they were playing fetch, and tried to retrieve the explosive. The results were horrifying and resulted in euthanasia of the beloved dog.

This was not some irresponsible dog owner who left his dog in a hot car, or chained to a tree. This young man loved and cared for that dog every day of its life. The fellow simply didn’t realize his little buddy couldn’t know the difference between a tennis ball and an M-80.

So…as you think about your K9 friend this holiday weekend, please remember that it’s not just about the noise. Never, ever throw fireworks in the presence of a dog. Bottle rockets blow up high in the air, safe from doggie jaws. But throwing a firework or other explosive that will blow up on the ground looks way too much like playing fetch.

I still hear the mother’s voice.

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