Hot Air Balloons and Dogs: A Surprising Menace


Spotting a hot air balloon on the horizon is a magical moment. It's a charming scene, unless you happen to be in the flight path as one of these graceful giants ascends or descends. The serenity is interrupted by sudden loud bursts of sound as the balloon operator hits the propane "blast valve. " I can speak from experience when I say that it's an unexpected and scary noise, since balloons pass right over my house frequently in the warm months.

Last summer I was working in the yard with Millie and Olive nearby when a hot air balloon seemed to appear out of nowhere. The blast valve went off when the balloon was just above our tree line, and the sound was so startling that both of my dogs took off running to escape it. The sound continued, and because I couldn't get to them quickly enough, Millie ran beneath the porch to hide from it and Olive cowered in a corner. It took hours for the two of them to want to go back outside, and for days afterwards they warily searched the sky for more "monsters."

I considered the hot air balloons that passed over a beautiful nuisance in my neighborhood until Jennifer Mertens walked into Life on the Leash over the weekend. She was looking for help getting the word out about a petition she started after her beloved Goldendoodle Teddy was struck by a car when he was frightened by a low-flying hot air balloon. Her scenario was similar to ours; Teddy was outside and the sound of the blast valve scared him so much that he ran through the electric fence and was hit by the passing car. (A neighbor's dog also took off running but made it home safely.)

Jennifer hopes the petition will force the balloon operators to stop landing within our township, which would keep them from flying low over residential areas and scaring young children and dogs. The hot air balloon/dog issue isn't a problem specific to our little area of the country, though. Many years ago I went for an early morning hot air balloon ride in Arizona, and as we gained altitude over a suburban neighborhood the back yard dogs we passed over barked at us like crazy. We were low enough that I could identify breed types. I cringed for the dogs, who were clearly frightened with nowhere to hide, and for their neighbors who were probably still asleep at 7 AM on a Saturday.

As much as I enjoy seeing the balloons on the horizon, I don't appreciate them hovering around homes and putting animals in jeopardy. You can't understand the impact one of these giants has on an animal unless you've seen it for yourself.

Have any of you ever had an encounter with your pet and a low flying hot air balloon? Tell us in a comment.

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