Dog Blog

Monday, December 19, 2005

Save a Dog--Join the Hot Dog Patrol
Originally posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2005, 05:10 PM

You can always tell when the dog days of summer are upon us, because you'll invariably discover a dog overheating in a parked car somewhere. If you pause to listen in parking lots, you’ll more often than not hear one yelping for help that too often never comes.

Fortunately, I was able to save one dog from dying in a hot car this past weekend. It's always amazing to me how ignorant people can be about the welfare of animals. What thinking person would leave a dog locked up in a car on a summer day? Well, that's the problem. People don't always think, and the resulting tragedies don't just happen to dogs, as in the case of a family in Sacramento that accidentally left their child in the car while they were in church. Three adults and an older child each thought the other had taken the infant out of its car seat and into the church. It was a miscommunication that resulted in the child's death to heat exposure. Unfortunate occurrences like this are rare, thank goodness, but dogs roast in four-wheeled ovens every day in the summertime.

Passing the cars in the lot as I walked through the mini-mall on my way to Java City, I spotted in one car the small, white poodle perched atop the back seat. At first glance, I thought it was a stuffed toy until I saw that this toy was panting and drooling, clearly in distress. Predictably, all the windows were rolled nearly to the top--barely an inch gap remained. It was one of those overcast, muggy days that can be so deceiving. People think it won't get hot in the car because it's cloudy and the sun isn't shining. Wrong! Even if it's overcast and only 80 degrees outside, the temperature in a car's interior rises in a matter of minutes and can be lethal to a pet in just 20 minutes.

I searched every store for the owner. One very nice storeowner joined in the search and said she'd call the police. Whether or not they would respond to this crime against a canine was a matter of conjecture. We were prepared to break the windows on the car if need be. My last stop in the frantic search for the owner was my original destination, Java City. I called out to the patrons inside, "Did anyone leave a little white dog parked in a white car? If you don't get your dog out of there now, it will die." No one responded, at least not right away.

Growing more frustrated that I couldn't locate the owner, I stalked out to continue my search and was tailed by a man. "I was only going to be gone a few minutes," he said in a thick accent. His worried look conveyed that he was genuinely concerned about his pet, and probably embarrassed by my public announcement in the coffee shop. I surmised that being foreign to Sacramento, he was not accustomed to our summers, in which the temperature can vary widely in a day's course. Nor did he probably know that it's a crime of animal abuse to leave a dog shut up in the car on a hot day. Clearly, he cared about his dog. He was just unaware of the danger he had placed it in by leaving it shut up in the car while he went inside a few minutes for a cup of Java.

"I was only going to be a few minutes." That's what people always say. But those few minutes quickly become an hour or more, and they return to their car to find a dying or dead dog. Even if by some miracle the dog survives, it is usually severely brain damaged and must be euthanized. Most people are unaware that unlike humans, dogs do not have sweat glands. They perspire only through their paws or tongue and overheat much more rapidly than we do. And they’re wearing a fur coat, too! Opening the window a crack is not going to save your dog from suffering heat stroke.

It is not a kindness to take your dog along for the ride to the mall or grocery store on a warm day, even if you'll only be leaving it in the car for "a few minutes." The dog is better off at home in an air-conditioned house or where he can seek shade and fresh, cool water, assuming his owners have provided those necessities for him. Amazingly, not all people think to do even that for their pets in the summer. Protect Your Pet From Hot Weather

A woman once told me about how she left her dog in its dog run one summer day. When she left him that morning, it was still shady and cool in his run. But by afternoon the sun had changed position, as the sun is inclined to do, and soon there was no shade at all in which the dog could seek relief from the heat. (This also happens to dogs in cars parked in the shade). He survived but was never the same after that, she said. That's what heat stroke and resulting brain damage will do to you.

Sure, people get distracted. People forget. After all, we're only human. Our humanity will be our undoing, I fear. Our evolution as human beings, dare I say the fate of mankind, rests with showing the greatest concern over the smallest, most defenseless of creatures: children, dogs, cats...and a little white poodle that was spared a terrible fate. This time.

Join the Hot Dog Patrol. Next time you walk through a parking lot, stop and listen for those telltale yelps of distress, then take action. If the store manager won't cooperate (and some don't), call the fire department. Do what you must, but save that dog!


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