Q: I dread Halloween because my dog, Bruiser, is afraid of the costumed trick-or-treaters. He cowers from children who aren’t wearing masks and barks ferociously at those who are, sometimes scaring them to tears. I want this year to be different, but I don’t know what to do.

A: Costumed children can look like monsters, especially when their masks prevent Bruiser from making eye contact with them and reading their facial expressions. He undoubtedly becomes even more frightened when the children, high on sugar, squeal for joy and charge into his home to grab another fistful of candy.

You’ll need to protect Bruiser from all this. Seclude him in a back room with his favorite chew toys and some soothing music or television for distraction. Dim the lights and plug in an Adaptil diffuser to fill the room with a calming pheromone.

If you don’t think that will be adequate, talk with his veterinarian about an anti-anxiety medication. Give it to Bruiser a couple of hours before you expect the children to arrive so it has time to get into his system and start working.

Be sure Bruiser wears an identification tag on his collar in case he escapes from the back room and bolts out the front door. A microchip provides additional assurance that you’ll get him back if he runs away.

Keep Bruiser away from the candy, most of which is toxic to dogs. Stash any leftover candy where he can’t reach it. The most worrisome treats are chocolate, licorice, sugar-free candy that contains xylitol, and lollipops or other candy with an undigestible component.

Monitor Bruiser around your Halloween decorations and light cords so he doesn’t become entangled or chew on them. If he shows interest in your corncob decorations, remove them before he eats them. Don’t put candles in jack-o’-lanterns; dogs can singe their hair or even topple the candles, starting a fire.

And, have fun!

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Q: Why are black cats associated with scary witches and Halloween?

A: During Medieval times, black cats were reviled because people suspected they helped witches perform sorcery. People also believed witches could transform themselves into black cats. So, anyone who crossed paths with a black cat expected to be cursed with bad luck.

In 1233, Pope Gregory IX condemned black cats and sanctioned the torture and burning of them. Two centuries later, Pope Innocent VIII instructed inquisitors to burn cats along with their witches.

In 1649, England’s King Charles I was arrested and charged with treason the day after his beloved black cat died. Soon after, he was declared guilty and beheaded.

In both Europe and America, people who feared witches and witchcraft punished or killed those who kept black cats. They also burned black cats alive on bonfires.

On the other hand, some cultures have revered black cats. In ancient Egypt, people welcomed them into their homes to court favor with Bast, the cat goddess. Today, many people around the world believe black cats bring good luck and prosperity.

If you have a black cat, keep him or her inside on Halloween. If you don’t have a black cat, consider adopting one of these alluring but under-appreciated felines from your local shelter or rescue organization.

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Lee Pickett DVM practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Click here to ask her questions for her weekly column. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Lee Pickett DVM practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Click here to ask her questions for her weekly column. The opinions expressed are her own.