Fred and Trusty in the truck at Narcisse Manitoba May 2012
I have two dogs. Fred is a big blue merle Humane Society special weighing 72 pounds. Trusty is a small English Bull Terrier. When I bought my truck back in 2009 I made certain to pick one with a back seat. When I travel, the dogs travel with me. Having my dogs with me in the truck is pleasant and fun for both of us. Fred likes to stand up, lean his head on my shoulder and I will open the window so he can stick his head out and sniff the air. He kind of checks things and then usually goes back to sleep. He has a particular whine noise to let me know it’s time for a break. When he gives this signal I stop at the next likely spot and we take a break and the dogs get a walk. These walks have resulted in more than one wonderful nature encounter or fascinating stop I would otherwise never have enjoyed. The dogs love being with us in the truck. I say “Truck ride” and they have a happy doggy fit. And they have acted as a deterrent to crime. For example, I once had a man approach the truck on the passenger side door which was open, and Fred leaped over the seat to the front, put himself between the stranger at the door and me, and then he did his impression of a savage attack dog. The man changed whatever he had made his mind up to, did a quick 180 turn, and ran off. Who knows what could have happened if Fred had not responded the way he did.
Lately we have been having a specific problem which is driving me nuts. We all know, or should know, that leaving your dogs in a hot car is a very bad idea. The car gets hot very fast and the dog can die. We are always very careful about this. If we leave the dogs, we only do so if weather conditions are right. Right means the outside temperature is low, there is a stiff breeze and the windows are open enough to carry off any accumulating heat. There is no direct sun beating on the windshield or on the dogs. If there is a situation where the heat might be a problem, one of us will stay in the car with the dogs.
Because of an extensive advertising campaign by the Humane Society and other groups, it has now become a sign of dog neglect in many peoples’ minds to leave your dog alone in the car for even a minute and even on days when it is cold and cloudy and the dog is more likely to suffer hypothermia than heat exhaustion. The advertisement campaign has resulted in what I can only think of as vigilantes who now feel they have the right to patrol parking lots and accost any dog owner who leaves a dog alone in any vehicle under any circumstances. For example, my husband and I stopped for something to eat at a Subway. It was 16C outside and cloudy. We parked the vehicle where I could see it. I left the windows open 4 inches on all sides. There was a stiff breeze. I also have a temperature sensor in my truck that registers the temperature. Anyway, I looked up from my sandwich and saw a man standing beside my truck talking on his cell phone. I went outside to investigate.
This man was on the telephone to 911 frantically demanding police be dispatched immediately to rescue my dogs! I checked the internal temperature sensor and it was 23C in the truck. A brief shouting match ensued including me telling the 911 operator to cancel sending the police because the temperature was 23C. I drove off with this self righteous vigilante calling me names. It was 16C outside and cloudy. It was 23C in the truck! The dogs were sleeping peacefully in the back. The dogs were in no danger whatsoever. This is very similar to a recent situation where a Jennifer Beals got attacked for her decision to leave her dog in the car. Her dog was also in no danger but she was subjected to a social media campaign of acute harassment by what I can only describe as screechy morons.
What has happened to common sense in our society? I know the answer I will get back from the car vigilantes. Even if I am responsible, others are not. Therefore, my dogs should never be left alone in a car for any length of time, for any reason, ever. I should just leave them at home. Well I live a 2 1/2 drive from the city. When I go into the city to shop, I am gone for 12-14 hours. My trips to the city are something my dogs enjoy a lot. They love seeing the grandkids. They love the stops at little parks for pee breaks. They love being with us. Why would anyone think they are better off alone at home for 12-14 hours? I know what is best for my dogs and traveling with me, even if they have to spend a little time sitting and waiting, is far better for them than staying at home alone. Should my dogs and I be punished just because of the small minority of dog owners out there who do the horrible thing of leaving their dogs in a closed up hot car?
Now don’t get me wrong. If I ever saw a dog in a hot car in distress I would break a window and call 911 myself. In fact, I even have a hammer designed for just that purpose in my truck. But in this latest incident, my dogs were in no danger whatsoever. I am very responsible about being certain they will not get overheated in the truck. The dogs were sleeping comfortably in the back. They woke up when I got back and they were acting bewildered by all fuss and yelling. Why did this person not use his brain and check to see if the dogs were actually overheated before going into self righteous overdrive?
I’m not sure why our society has become a collection of self appointed vigilantes lacking in even the most basic common sense. We certainly do social media shaming far too easily. We make assumptions about people that are not true and we leap to conclusions based on incorrect facts. We become a mob. I have also noticed an attitude on the left of the political spectrum that cars themselves are some kind of carbon dioxide spewing evil demons that must be fought and eventually be driven right out of our society. Part of this attack on dog owners with cars is probably because it is just one more excuse to deny selfish people the use of our evil cars. I was not surprised to note the vigilante’s T shirt had a “Change Politics, Save the Planet!” logo. He was also on a bike.
Life is not perfect, Life is a series of tradeoffs. Life is about balancing risks. Leaving a dog alone in a car has a very small risk when done responsibly. The risk is not zero but, it is close to zero. I should have a right to make that kind of assessment of risk for myself and my dogs. I should not be required to leave my dog at home because of the actions of a tiny minority of irresponsible dog owners. I suppose the next step in the car/dog vigilantism is that we dog owners will all be forbidden to ever have our dogs in a car with us anywhere at anytime because it is always possible to have a car accident where the dog might be hurt. We will also be forbidden to walk them on public streets because of the risk of an evil car leaping off the road and striking a hapless dog on the sidewalk. Crossing streets with a dog on a leash will also be forbidden since a careless driver might go through the cross walk and injure the dog. Dogs will have to carefully wrapped in cotton batting and stored in kennels 24/7 just to make sure they are completely safe.
So yes, do educate the public about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. Do be prepared to break a window to save a dog in distress. Do carry a window hammer to do the breaking and do call 911. But if the dog is in no distress, don’t go into a blind panic and call 911. Engage brain and common sense before swinging that hammer.
End of rant.