On Watch

Doggone Stupid

Posted: Jun 6, 2013 5:44 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 6, 2013 5:44 PM ET

Whenever he gets in the car, my dog Jake starts drooling and panting.

He can't help himself; he's excited because car rides for him are special. He pants, even though I keep the air conditioning cranked so high you could hang raw meat in the vehicle. I worry that, surrounded by glass in the back of the car, he could overheat if I don't keep it cold.

Jake was in fine form this past weekend as we got our first summer-like temperatures of the season. It hit the upper 20s for three days straight.

Heading into the weekend, police issued their annual warning about leaving dogs locked in cars. Some of us, it seems, still don't get it. On this hot summer weekend, police in the Halifax area fielded 23 calls from concerned citizens who spotted dogs left in cars. Fortunately, none of the dogs appear to have suffered any harm.

But that's just luck.

Twice in the past few years, I've done stories about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars. I revisted this story last year because police had received a rash of complaints from people in Clayton Park who'd spotted dogs left in cars on sweltering days. In one case, the owner became indignant when he returned to his vehicle and saw concerned citizens standing there. He drove off before polce could speak to him.

The first two times I did this story, I illustrated the danger with a simple experiment. I took a common outdoor thermometer, chilled it in a fridge, then threw it my own vehicle and shut the door. Within seven minutes, the needle on the thermometer was pinned, meaning it had exceeded its maximum temperature of 50 degrees.

Last year, I took the results of my experiment to Dr. Emma Slater at the Halifax Veterinary Hospital. "That's shocking," she said at the time. "For a dog, once their internal body temperature reaches 41 degrees, we're starting to hit a critical point. At 42.7, multi-system organ failure, and they will die."

It seems like a pretty simple message, one that would effectively counter the old claims that you were going to be quick or that your dog doesn't like to be left alone. The reality is, your dog can suffer permanent harm in the time it takes you to walk into the corner store to buy a lottery ticket and a package of cigarettes.

Like most of his breed (he's a Lab), Jake is very good at turning his big brown eyes on people to make them feel guilty. He does it to me when I'm getting in the car and not inviting him along.

I've learned to resist the sad eyes. I'd rather see his sad eyes as I leave, instead of coming back to find those permanently closed because I was too stupid to take care of my best friend.

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About the Author

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 30 years in Atlantic Canada, covering everything from princes to politicians to prostitutes, and a whole lot of stuff in between. These days, he focusses on stories involving crime and public safety.

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