In late November, I received a WhatsApp voice note from a Trinidadian woman. Her tortured, tearful voice gravely related the following:
“On Divali night 2021, one of the holiest nights to the Hindu community, my beautiful German Shepherd, Kora...she was suffering. My dog knew no fear...except for fireworks. And every year of the eight years that she spent her life with me, she would be reduced to a ball of terror and pain because of these fireworks. And every year I would take her into my bathroom and hug her and let her know she is safe. But there is no way I could block out those sounds.
"But what made it worse this year is that she was already ill...she was already weak. And the stress of these fireworks...even after I tried to explain to the neighbours multiple times...'There are old people in the house, there are animals who are afraid.' They looked at their own pets and just continued setting off these things. And all I could do was just helplessly hug my dog. As she vomited all over. She was so scared she wouldn’t stop trembling.
"And then one day later I woke up to find her dead. No hope at all of recovery. Nothing I could do. No way I could save her.”
Another heartbreaking WhatsApp voice note, sent by a man, said: “My last dog had died from cancer and I was not ready to have another one. But somehow I ended up with this little black and brown dog who turned out to be the most loyal and loving companion anyone could ever hope for. She was with me for about three years.
"One day I discovered that she was going to be a mother and she carried her pups very well until one New Year’s eve when people were setting off fireworks...just having fun, I guess...totally oblivious to the harm that they were causing. She was a very sensitive dog and while giving birth, she suffered a heart attack and died. Her name was Niko.”
While there are those who may laugh at the above accounts, or even vow "for spite" to set off more fireworks when the time comes, thankfully there are also those who think deeply about their actions and are moved to change.
The following account was relayed to me by someone who used to sell fireworks: “When I sold fireworks I was driven by a lot of things...money for one. It is a huge, multi-million-dollar business. We saw a niche and that was it... not giving thought to anything else.
"At that time aspects of my personal life changed and I started seeing things differently...even where fireworks were concerned. I met up with a friend who had two dogs. Spending time at her home one Old Year’s night, I saw fireworks’ impact on the dogs. She used to sedate them and put them in her air-conditioned room.
"The dogs were one thing...her father was another. He suffers from dementia. That night he was so confused, I started to see it in a different way.
"I began reading up on effects of fireworks on animals. I paid attention and backed out of the fireworks business. I tried to get my partner at the time to stop but it was too great for him.
"This will be my second year of having my own pets. I will keep them inside. They are uncomfortable even with thunder. I will consider sedating my dog. I don’t want her to be traumatised.”
How can so many people take pleasure in (and spend up to tens of thousands of dollars on) something that causes such untold terror (sometimes to the point of death) to other living beings?
“They are beautiful,” most might respond. Well, there are lots of beautiful things in existence that don’t sound like a war zone.
Do sellers of fireworks and the Attorney General have dogs or other pets at home? If so, do their pets suffer when fireworks explode unforgivingly, for nights on end, from December way into January, and at other "celebratory" times of the year? Who could witness or even hear about such terror and continue to allow its cause to persist, unregulated?