The family of a frightened dog who was critically injured when darting from fireworks last weekend is hoping others will take heed of their animals' safety before using pyrotechnics this July Fourth.
Dwight, a 1-year-old greyhound living with his family in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, was in the backyard late Saturday night with owner Lenka Perron when startling fireworks went off in the immediate neighborhood.
"Out of nowhere our entire backyard was brightly illuminated, and there was, like, a succession of cannon blasts that felt like it was coming right from our backyard," Perron told TODAY. "It was sudden, it was severe, it was clearly beyond what you would purchase from your local store."
In a matter of seconds, Dwight — who Perron said has roughly a 20-inch chest — squeezed through a 6-inch slat in the gate and took off in a state of panic. "I equate it to watching a human being with a great deal of adrenaline actually lift a car," said Perron.
Dwight was gone for only a few minutes, but in that short time he was sprinting so fast that his paw pads were torn off. Perron and her daughter followed bloody paw prints to locate the dog, and when they grabbed him, Dwight collapsed, covered in his own blood, feces and urine.
The family took Dwight to a veterinary clinic, where he received a chest X-ray that showed he had broken ribs. The vets speculate that Dwight suffered damage when squeezing through the gate, and that he was hit by a car on a major road nearby.
Dwight has since been transported to an intensive care unit, where he's being treated around the clock. Perron said a tube has been surgically inserted into the dog's lungs, which are hooked up to a machine helping him breathe. His prognosis will be dependent on how Dwight's lungs perform when weened off the machine. His paw pads, bandaged up and changed daily, will require months of recovery and restricted activity.
Perron spoke out about Dwight's trauma in a Facebook post, which has since garnered more than 73,000 shares.
"I'm being bombarded and overwhelmed by people around the world that are sharing their personal stories about what their animals are going through," Perron said.
Pet experts told TODAY that the percentage of lost pets tends to increase around July Fourth because animals take off when frightened by loud sounds. Animal behaviorists suggested some safeguards you can implement to ensure your pets' safety, including blocking exits, closing curtains from flashing lights and even using anxiety vests that help pets feel snug and secure.
Though Perron doesn't know who set off the fireworks and has not heard from the person or people responsible, she said local laws regulating fireworks were violated and that she intends to file a police report.
"We all want to have fun on the Fourth of July, but we have to start considering the type of fireworks that are being manufactured today and how it's impacting both animals — whose hearing are 100 times more sensitive than humans — but also people with PTSD," Perron added. "We have to know our local ordinances. (And) we have to have a serious conversation about whether fireworks this dangerous can even be permitted to be sold to us."