There's so much I adore about summer long evenings of daylight, fresh tomatoes, Reedsville corn and cookouts on my deck. But in my "shelter life" there are such dire hazards to summer weather, specifically the danger of heat and sun to our pets, that I could easily wish it away and beckon for fall's early arrival. I recently found myself doing just that as my neighbor's Golden Retriever, Edison, raced across the yard to greet me. Not so long ago this carefree boy was not my gleeful neighbor but rather a helpless victim of the dangers of summer.
Last July during a single week Eddie was one of seven animals rescued from extreme heat. In Eddie's case, his family moved and left him behind in a cage unprotected from the sun and without food or water. There was also the dog left in the car with the window cracked only a few inches while her owner shopped at the height of the day's heat. Next came the young man who left his mother's dog in his truck while he had lunch. And it wasn't fast food! Lastly there was the motley crew of a Great Dane, a young puppy, a rabbit and a python that were left in a sweltering apartment for days.
As much as I love having my great dog Tag ride along with me on my errands, when the temperatures rise about 70 or the sun is intense even on a cooler day, I leave him behind. I used to leave him in the car with it running using the Autostart feature until the day he hit the gas or brake pedal and the car and its AC were shut off. My next great idea was to leave the car running with one set of keys in the ignition and another in my purse. That was until someone else did the same thing at the mall and their beloved Pomeranian inadvertently (I assume) unrolled the window and escaped. He was eventually found but not until after the owner spent hours in utter despair and panic.
Now when I leave Tag behind, I'm certain he's giving me a look of utter disappointment that tugs at my heart. I can live with that guilt. Knowing that in a matter of minutes the temperature inside a car can rise to unbelievable heights and do permanent brain damage or worse easily trumps any guilt I might feel for leaving him at home.
This could have been the outcome for Eddie had it not been for an alert neighbor. Or in the case of the shopper who left her dog behind, the vigilant witnesses who called the police. Kudos to these heroes, who not only reported it but surrounded the car, monitored the owner's absence and prepared to break in to rescue the dog had the police not responded promptly. Another concerned citizen recognized the danger when the man enjoyed lunch while his dog was stuck in the hot truck and they too prepared to take action. Sadly not all of the animals abandoned in the apartment were as lucky. While the landlord discovered them, it wasn't soon enough. A few days after they were found, the lovely Dane lost her life; a victim of prolonged dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Not long after his rescue, Eddie was adopted by my neighbors, so I see him often. And having grown to know and love him, which took about three seconds, I can't help but wonder how someone could have left him behind. To think he might have died there because someone was so careless is disturbing. And the thought that the Dane did angers me beyond words.
As summer approaches, get over the guilt of those pleading eyes begging to go with you and leave your pets at home! And ensure that at home your pets are comfortable and safe from the dangers of the sun and heat. Ample shelter and lots of fresh water are essential and can be the difference between life and death. And like the other heroes in these stories, be alert to animals at risk and quickly call the police or animal control when you see them. Your swift action could save the life of an innocent animal.
Carrie Roe is president of the Humane Society of Parkersburg.