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One summer a few years ago, I decided to take my dogs with me while I went on a morning run to the bagel place a few miles away. I knew they didn’t allow dogs in the storefront, so I took my extra car key so I could keep the car running and locked while I ran in to grab some bagels quickly. I get out of the car, locking it on my way out and run in—I was gone two minutes, tops. When I get back out, I tried my extra key on the door. Nothing. Uh, oops. What I thought was my extra CAR key was actually my extra HOUSE key. Apparently, the house key no workie on the car door. So here I am locked outside of my car while my two dogs—A Springer Spaniel named Charlotte and a Cocker Spaniel named Georgia, peered at me from the back seat, the air conditioning blowing so hard their ears were flowing in the wind. I can’t be sure, but I think they might have been giggling.
I was lucky that it was only the morning time in Austin because that meant it was only around 95 degrees. Still, it didn’t take long before a concerned contingent of passersby stopped and gathered around me, looking into my locked car, trying to somehow train one of the girls to hit that unlock button on the door. C’mon Georgia, you can do it! Just put your paw RIGHT THERE. To the left. TO THE LEFT.
“OH MY GOD,” one lady asked, “ARE THEY OK?” Another person thoughtfully handed me a wrench , “so you can smash the winder and let the critters out.” As much as it pained me, I had to point out to them that: the dogs were FINE. They were, in fact, MUCH COOLER than I was at the moment because the car AC was cranked up all the way and the car had a full tank. Stupid Human Over Here, however, was sitting on the blacktop concrete in the brutal sun, sweat pouring down my face with the temperature not getting any cooler. I waited for 25 minutes before the Triple A folks finally showed up on the scene to unlock my car. There were a few lessons learned that day other than the fact that Cocker Spaniels have no idea what “To the Left” means.
First and foremost, if you can’t take your dogs with you wherever you’re going in the summertime, leave them at home because even with the best intentions, something can go awry. What if my car didn’t have a full tank of gas? What if my errand took longer than it did and my car stopped running? I thought I was doing the “smart” thing and leaving my car running and locked. Not so much, it turns out.
Two, people who could not care less if they see you lying in the street bleeding will often be much more concerned if they see a dog trapped in a hot car. And you know what? They SHOULD be concerned. Do you know how long it takes the temperature inside a car to reach deadly levels on a hot day? Minutes. In the amount of time I spent in the bagel shop, the temperature could have very easily gone over 110 degrees. By the time AAA arrived, it could have been over 130. (For more information, you should check out My Dog is Cool—they have some charts that show you what temperatures can do in just a short amount of time.
Lastly, what do you do if you see a dog that someone has left in a hot car? I will tell you that this has happened to me more than once and I have not always been the most diplomatic person about it. In one instance, I was in a smallish restaurant when I saw a really pudgy dachshund panting in a car outside. It was August in Austin which means it was probably 100 degrees that day if not more. The window was cracked about 3 inches. I stood in the middle of the restaurant and said very loudly, “WHO LEFT THEIR WEINER DOG IN THE TOYOTA OUT THERE TO DIE? YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO GET YOUR CHECK AND LEAVE BEFORE I CALL THE COPS.” They left (after flipping me the bird and calling me some choice words). I’ve also gone to Customer Service at the grocery store and had them make an announcement over the loud speaker and waited til the person came out. More choice words. Expect that the person being paged will most likely not be very nice about it and to some extent, it's understandable. Fact is, people don’t like being judged, even if they’re doing something really stupid. They take offense. “What do you mean???? I LEFT THE WINDOW CRACKED!” You’re basically telling them to their face that you think that they’re stupid and most people will lash out, either out of embarrassment or because, quite frankly, they’re jerks. So, what do you do?
Call the police. No really. You are not overreacting. Call the police—if your city has 311, call it. If not, call 911. They will send someone. THEN, (not first, but THEN) you should take down the make/model, color and License plate number and try to page the owner at the nearest business. What if you’re at a park? Call the park rangers. Get some authorities involved. Let them deal with whatever hostility might happen when the person gets called out on their BS. This is not “passing the buck.” This is what I call “passing the idiot.” With the experience of having been one of these idiots at one time, I feel like I can say that.
And the next time you’re with a friend or family member who wants to bring Fido along with you to the lake even though you know you’re going to have to stop by the store for supplies, say, “hey, let’s leave him home and come back after we get done shopping.” Your dog won’t mind. Trust me.