Our little male dog was always utterly terrified of fireworks, thunder, any loud noise, but fireworks were the worst, they'd send him to his bed to shake for hours. It was a dreadful sight, and we tried everything to comfort him, but nothing worked. Our little female dog wasn't afraid when we adopted her, but followed his lead - if he was so afraid, there must be something to fear, and she became terrified of fireworks herself.
One day I was watching the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, and he spoke of distracting a dog when they are afraid. I thought - how do I do that? I decided to get my dog a new toy, and keep it until the night of the fireworks. When the first one went off, I reached behind the couch cushion, brought out the new toys, and handed them out. He didn't know what to do - his fear was telling him to rush down the hall to cower in his bed, but he had just been given a new toy - he compromised by taking his new toy into his bed, and huddling with it there. Over time, we've worked on distracting him with retrieving whenever there's a loud frightening noise. He's a crazed retreiver dog.
Last night I was overjoyed when the first very loud firework exploded, and he rushed into the livingroom, grabbed his newest toy, brought it to where I was at the kichen sink, dropped it at my feet, and stood eagerly waiting, tail waving, ears up. He has learned to associate fireworks with play. It brought a lump to my throat and the sting of tears to my eyes - his terror was gone, as if it had never been.
If a 10 year old dog, (that's 70 in human years,) can learn to get over a life-long fear, can't we do the same?