Acquired: Other (stray, given dog by friend etc.)
New Jersey, United States
Posted February 26, 2014
When my boys were small, they wanted a Dalmatian and their Dad found someone in the newspaper who was looking to place theirs. You could tell he was a mix from his wide chest, muscular build and the shape of his head, but it didn't matter as he was a sweet dog and seemed perfect.
Pongo lived outdoors at the time, and we tried to get him to accept living indoors but he panicked and wanted out, so we set him up in the barn right outside the back door and he was happy there.
He was great with the kids, loved us as much as we loved him and everything was great until the first time no one was home and a thunderstorm came. It turned out Pongo panicked whenever he heard loud noises like thunder, fireworks, or (we lived on a farm with woods behind it) gun shots. One day, I came home from work during a storm and found Pongo gone. He had broken the lead he was attached to and took off. I called the police and the local shelter, and nothing, We drove around looking for him and found him up the road, sitting on someone's front porch.
Thinking this was an isolated incident, we got a new lead and that was it until the next time. Another storm came sometime later while no one was home, and he was gone again. I realized it had to be the thunder because other times it just rained, and he was fine. Over time, we bought everything from heavier leads (which he snapped), to a harness (chewed through) to a tow chain (pulled until the huge bolt that attached it broke out of the beam it went into) and nothing worked. He was so powerful that nothing could hold him. It got to the point where the shelter knew us when we called them. Thankfully, they adored Pongo and didn't charge us for picking him up.
One thing I noticed was that when we were home and a storm came, all I had to do was go outside and stay with him or talk to him through the window, and he would calm down. A friend, hearing of this told me to try homeopathic sedatives. I thought this might work and picked some up. To test it, when a storm was on its way, I gave some to him inside a piece of bread and waited inside. I watched through the window and as the thunder started, he whined and paced a little, but didn't yank at the lead or try to get away. This ended up being what worked for us, and Pongo eventually was able to handle the noises without any help at all.