Protecting Pets in All Seasons: It’s the Heat - and the Stupidity (Part I)

Last spring, a dear friend of mine wandered by her corner eatery and noticed the rapid rise and fall of a bundle of fur sprawled across the back seat of a locked car. The windows were cracked open about an inch.

Drawing closer, my friend was shocked by the sight of a scarlet-purple tongue lolling outside the mouth of a Maltese-mix puppy. The leather seats were stained with paw prints.

It was “only” about 78 degrees outside, but that didn't stop the temperature inside that car from rising to the mid-90s within a matter of minutes, even with the windows slightly ajar. Only the owner of the car (and the presumed “parent” of that pet) knew how long the dog had been confined in that sweltering space.

My friend dutifully ducked inside the eatery and darted between tables in search of the responsible party. She finally stumbled upon a forty-something mother with her eight-year-old daughter enjoying a cool drink together.

“Do you own the grey Beamer with the dog in back?,” my friend asked the woman.

“Yes," the woman replied. “So . . .”

“Well the dog looks as if he’s getting heat stroke. He’s breathing really fast and his tongue is hanging out and there’s paw prints all over the seat!”

The young girl shrieked and lunged into the woman’s arms, “Oh, mommy!”

Rather than leaping out of her seat and rushing to her pet’s rescue, the woman soothed her daughter, then scolded my friend.

“I really don’t appreciate you scaring my daughter to death! But I would appreciate you minding your own damn business.”

Defiant, the woman threw down her napkin and rose from the table with her daughter. The pair took their sweet time walking back to her car. Twice, the woman glared back at my friend. The woman and girl made a perfunctory check of their pooch, then drove off.

For days, my friend agonized whether her tack was too abrupt and her words excessively alarming. I assured her they were not. In some instances, the gravity of the circumstance trumps the parsing of words.

In my view, the same rule applies whether one sees pets in distress or notices suspicious activity or objects at points of transit: if you see something, SAY something. Only, we should take it one step further: KEEP ON saying something until you find someone who listens.

Of course, we want to make a case for swift, decisive action without becoming combative. Unfortunately, there are pet owners out there who are bent on taking offense, however good your intentions or diplomatic your approach. You may even run into a person of authority who bristles at your plea. If that is the case - and they choose to do nothing - the urgency of the condition may compel you to take matters into your own hands.

Next week in Part II of this blog, we will explore current good samaritan laws in various states that outline exactly how far you can legally go to save a pet from a hot car. We will also talk more about the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in pets as well as prevention and intervention.

The ultimate fate of that Maltese puppy will never be known, except to its human family which has knowingly or not instilled twisted values of pet care in its young. 

You can bet that none of the humans in that family would don a fur coat and sit beside a burning furnace for an hour or so - just to see how it feels.