It isn't easy to avoid fireworks on the Fourth of July. After all, they fill the night sky in just about every neighborhood.

But there are grown-ups, pets and kids who would, if they could.

Patti Neumann's balcony overlooks the Inner Harbor and she and friends will be there watching Baltimore's fireworks display tonight. But Bogart, her 7-year-old Wheaten terrier, will wait downstairs, thank you very much.

"He doesn't mind thunderstorms, but when fireworks start, he starts shaking uncontrollably," says Neumann, founder of CityPeek, a tourism Web site. "So before we go upstairs, I will turn the television or the music on really loud to shield him from the booms."

Theresa Sachs of Bel Air says her 7-year-old son Keeghan loves to watch fireworks. It's the listening that's too much for the boy, who has a form of autism.

"He saw fireworks on TV and wanted to go watch," she says. So she and her husband fix him up with industrial-strength headphones or a Walkman playing music and park far from the field where fireworks are launched. "He absolutely loves it," said Sachs.

Sarah Weddle of Mount Airy acknowledges that fireworks bring people together in a celebration of patriotism. But beyond that, she says, they are overrated.

"Fireworks create a massive cloud of smoke - pollution - that I think a lot of people just choose to ignore," she writes in an e-mail. "Let's celebrate America by creating more pollution! I am just not sure it is worth the environmental cost."

Pat Schwartz, a grandmother from Glen Arm, has hated fireworks since a traumatic experience at age 8.

She and her sister finished off what she describes as a huge watermelon on the Fourth and immediately became sick. "We brought all that watermelon back up as we sat side by side on our back steps, and I can still see it," said Schwartz, who blames the noise of the fireworks for making a bad situation worse. "Love my country, though," she adds.

Reggie Greenberg of Westminster has a list of the top 10 reasons why she hates fireworks. Among them: "If you tell people you hate fireworks, they think you're a killjoy."

It seems that pets suffer most on the Fourth.

"When people are watching the fireworks over the harbor from the third floor of my Butchers Hill home, I will be in the bathroom with the radio on loud trying to stop my little dog from jumping out of his skin or out the window," said Ellen Reich in an e-mail.

Holly Hosler of Pikesville returned home from the Inner Harbor fireworks last year to find her basset-beagle mix, Leslie, on a closet shelf, still hiding among her husband's T-shirts. "We still don't know how she got up there. It would have been interesting to witness."

Ann Coleman of Hampden tried to tranquilize her pit bull-lab mix, Stella, last year but all that did was make the poor dog stagger clumsily around, trying to escape the noise.

"I felt so bad, I'm not doing that again," says Coleman. Fireworks are frequent in Hampden, so now she simply takes Stella outside to assure her that there is nothing out there her mistress needs to be protected from. "She just wants to know where this thing is so she can tell it to go away."

There is one group that can't escape the fireworks even if they have sensitive ears or troubling childhood memories - the newly commissioned midshipmen at the Naval Academy. They will march onto the academy athletic fields, where they will be "ordered" to enjoy the Annapolis fireworks.

"The plebes may wish they were with their families," said a 2009 graduate, Ensign Mark Dodge. "In four years, they will look back and realize they were."

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