A Bedford-Stuyvesant pet store cannot keep enough canine cannabis on its shelves to satisfy a rush of desperate pet owners, willing to try anything to comfort cats and dogs terrified by an onslaught of illegal fireworks and July Fourth celebrations.
“Our CBD sales for dogs and cats are crazy,” Alex Bird, manager of Who’s Your Doggy, says. “All our distributors are out of stock.”
The panic over potentially fatal pet stress has New Yorkers buying up cannabidiol and sedatives at record rates, according to Bird and Who’s Your Doggy owner Tracy Klonowski.
The Bed-Stuy pet store, which has been in the borough since 2006, has seen sales of Pet Releaf Edibites and Super Snouts hemp oil increase 112 percent, spurring Who’s Your Doggy to triple its CBD orders during the holiday season, Klonowski and Bird say.
Even so, the pet store can’t always meet demand of pet owners looking for any means to comfort their terrified terriers.
"We don’t have a single pet oil in stock and I don’t think we’ll be able to order them any time soon, unfortunately,” Bird says. "And that’s pretty rare to run out before the Fourth of July.”
Bird and Klonowski say they’ve grown to recognize the look of a dog owner who can’t take the fireworks anymore.
“They look so tired,” Bird says.
"It’s just their face,” Klonowski adds. “I know what they’re looking for.”
Among those reaching for canine cannabis is Reshma Sapre, 49, who lives on the Lower East Side with her 8-year-old rescue dog Koli.
Koli, a Beagle mix and retired therapy dog, has gone gray with anxiety over the “nonstop” fireworks that blast over his home every night and has taken to hiding in the bathroom, says Sapre.
“Nothing is working,” Sapre says of a regime that includes CBD, calming supplements and a pressure wrap called a ThunderShirt.
"You’re watching them just become sick,” Sapre says. “It’s hard to watch.”
Sapre is infuriated by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to mount a multi-day Macy’s firework display amid the uptick in illegal use, which she argues puts more than pets at risk.
“It’s like sensory abuse at this point,” Sapre says.
“This isn’t just about the animals,” Sapre adds. “A lot of people have pets as emotion support pets. Their emotional support system is under duress. It’s just chaos.”
Jessica George, 34, is a pediatrician who lives in Bed-Stuy with her husband, 2-year-old son and Lady, a 4-year-old pitbull mix whom she says went from being a sweet, lazy dog to a shaking, shivering mess when the fireworks started.
"It seemed like she was going to have a heart attack,” George says. "It was horrible.”
George spent many sleepless nights watching Lady suffer, but now she relies on a sedative — a drug called Trazodone — to keep Lady calm at night.
"Her being so upset and agitated affected my sleep more than the fireworks,” George says. "I’ve never seen her in that physical shape."
Shannon Little, a Bed-Stuy social worker in her late 20s, has a 2-year-old potcake dog named Amber whose anxiety has been getting worse as the fireworks have continued to blaze.
"It was really, really bad,” Little says. “I’m used to fireworks, but this year is like a lot.”
Little and her husband have tried to distract Amber, but with little success they’re now considering medication and a ThunderShirt.
"It’s hard with dogs, you can’t rationalize with them,” Little says. "We pretty much don’t know what to do."
The duress fireworks cause can prove fatal for cats, prone to developing urethral obstructions from fear, and dogs with noise phobia who can jump out of windows when panicked, according to Dr. Natara Loose, Bushwick’s visiting veterinarian best known as “The Neighborhood Vet.”
Loose has seen requests for pet stress treatments multiply fiftyfold with three or four clients asking for advice every day, she says.
The Brooklyn vet tells her clients to consider creating some kind of soundproof space where dogs can go during fireworks, arguing the CBD market is not thoroughly regulated and ThunderShirts provide only about 20 to 30 minutes of relief.
But even this isn’t a perfect solution, Loose admits.
“Sadly, usually getting a pet comfortable and going to these safe zones can take weeks to months,” she says.
“I get the normal celebratory want around July 4th,” Loose says. “But it has been going on for over a month with no end in sight and my heart breaks for these poor terrified animals.”
The dangers of extended duress may be why Who’s Your Doggy is seeing record sales in another surprising product: pet carriers.
Many of Klonowski’s clients tell her they’re either shipping their pets out of state or packing up their homes and fleeing the city themselves because of the fireworks, she says.
“I had several people leave Brooklyn because the dogs can’t handle it,” Klonowski says. “They’re getting out of dodge.”
Dog owner Emily Sperber, 33, left Crown Heights for Westchester in the beginning of April with her wife, 10-month-old baby and Luna, a 35-pound “mutt of mutts” she adopted from Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.
Even in Westchester, limited firework displays have made a wreck out of an otherwise goofy dog, spurring Sperber to buy a slew of CBD treats and a ThunderShirt, she says.
“We just do what we can to keep her comfortable,” Sperber says. “But she won’t go outside, she won’t eat, and she just cowers and shakes.”
Many members of the animal rescue’s Facebook group say they’ve left New York City just to help their animals cope, among them the owners of Luna’s sister Frankie, who fled Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Sperber says.
“[Frankie] was just a whimpering, shaking mess at all hours of the day,” Sperber says. “She was just scared all the time.”
Sperber must now grapple with what will happen when her office reopens in the fall and she’ll need to return to New York City. If the fireworks haven’t stopped by then, Sperber may need to leave Luna behind.
“We’re really kind of stressed out about what’s that going to mean,” Sperber says. “I never in my life thought I would think so much about fireworks.”