It was while I was waiting for my daughter to come out of the drug store where she had run to pick up something urgent, that this whole story began. It was early afternoon and the temperatures were supposed to be in the 90’s. A car pulled into the parking spot next to mine with a Golden Retriever in the back seat. His actions told me he seemed to have the idea they were both going to get out.
But no, the lady cracked the windows about an inch all around, and stepped out of the car without her dog. As she turned to walk towards the store, I stopped her and said, “Excuse me, but it’s too hot for your dog inside the car like that.”
Only mildly embarrassed she responded, “I know, this is a quick errand that I have to do…” and off she went. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to do, and hesitated on calling the 911 number because I thought they wouldn’t respond, or they wouldn’t take me seriously, or if they did, they would arrive after the lady had returned and drove away.
Why didn’t I think to offer to walk the dog until she came back, or did she think I might steal this beautiful golden? All the while I’m puzzling this, I’m studying the dog for any signs of distress, and it might only have been six or seven minutes and the lady appeared; jogging back towards her car. It was the longest six minutes I have ever endured.
She was definitely in a hurry and she quickly proceeded to roll down the windows and turn on the air to let her dog breathe in some fresh air. I think she was embarrassed when I suggested the next time she should leave the dog at home. But my own actions (or inactions) were haunting me also, and have been to this day.
Dogs sweat by panting and by sweating from their paws. However, a dog trapped in a hot car cannot effectively rid its body of enough of the heat by panting and sweating – simply because there’s not enough cool, fresh air to replace the heated, stale air. Therefore, a dog breathing in warm/hot air for too long will suffer heatstroke; or worse.
In simple terms, heatstroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies like humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heatstroke can occur. This is why we now have the national Hot Car Laws that cover dogs and young children.
Esther Smith, author
The Hot Car Laws are for all breeds of dogs, but you will often see cars with windows cracked and dogs near frantic inside. Smith learned her lesson and will never hesitate again.
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