How I Made My Dog Afraid of Thunderstorms

For the first 12 years of my life, I slept peacefully through the majority of thunderstorms. If I ever awoke, it was during a strike so violent everybody in the house was awake, and huddled in my mother’s bed.

With half an eardrum in one ear and no eardrum in the other, the idea of a thunderstorm being frightening seemed silly. Why would pretty flashing lights with next to no sound be scary? As long as there was no thunder, storms seemed like a ridiculous thing to fear.

Summer 2005, however, would change this idea for the rest of my life.

Almost one year after my left eardrum was repaired and half my hearing was restored, the horror of strange sounds hit me.


I initially thought the scariest part of my summer was finishing a pet sitting job at the house next door. Every day I was there, I heard new sounds like moaning pipes and creaking floors, which reminded me of horror movies and haunted houses. Terror initially gripped my heart when I ran back home right before dinner, trying to outrun any ghost that could follow me. Nothing, it seemed, could be scarier than that house.

After the pet sitting job ended and summer got warmer, my fear of haunted house noises was quickly replaced by nightly episodes of thunderstorms. Every time even the slightest flash of lightning danced through the night, I could not sleep. The sound of thunder would smack me awake and seize hold of my body. Each sound wave started in my eardrum and radiated through my shoulders before racing down to my toes. Thunder had a level of volume I had never experienced until I had an eardrum, and the newness of it frightened me. With especially bright lightning strikes, I screamed bloody murder, overwhelmed by the extremeness of the stimulation.

In my fright, I did not realize how much Daisy, our family dog, was absorbing my feelings and making them her own. Already having sensitivity to unusual noises, Daisy’s fear of thunder was cemented in my first summer with an eardrum. Before that year, Daisy only whimpered during thunderstorms, and saved her trembling fits for when my dad tried using a click collar. Watching me tremble and cry, nonetheless, was enough to teach Daisy that yes, thunderstorms were meant to be feared.

As the summer changed from June to July, then July to August, Daisy and I began to huddle together when the thunder started to crash. Either I would find her in the hallway, and carry her into my bed, or she would run to my bedroom and jump beneath my covers. By the summer’s end, we were the thickest of thunder buddies: prepared to take on any storm, as long as we were together.

My fits of screaming, shaking, and crying continued for several more summers as my surgeons worked to restore more of my hearing and my right eardrum. Daisy came to my side the moment she heard even the slightest rumble. We curled up together on any cushy surface we could find, and waited for the storms to pass.

Though thunderstorms began to frighten me less after summer 2012, Daisy was still afraid. The moment she heard rumbles—even those too low for the human ear—she would run to find me before anyone else. Until she was by my side, nothing could bring her comfort during the storms.

Mom tried it all: blankets, thunder shirts, taking Daisy into her own bed. None of it made a difference. Daisy wanted the one person who understood and exhibited her fear of thunder even if it meant waking me up at 2 A.M. to try hiding in my pillows or under my arm.

This past summer, Daisy unexpectedly lost her fear of thunderstorms. Though I no longer scream, cry, or shake when they pass, I still cannot sleep through them and long for the company of my thunder buddy.

At age 14, however, Daisy has also lost a significant amount of hearing. Rumbles that once shook her into submission now go unnoticed, and she sleeps peacefully through the night. A part of me is saddened to see her enter the world of deafness—a place I feared more than thunderstorms as a child.

Yet, I must admit some of my selfishness in feeling sad for Daisy. When she cannot hear the thunder, the fear I partially put into her fades, and she can live more happily than before. I want to hold her through summer thunderstorms one more time before her inevitable demise, but I also love her too much to inflict my own anxiety on her unnecessarily. She has carried enough of my hearing-based fear in her lifetime. It’s time to let her sleep.