Hot car etiquette for the dog days of summer

One recent spring afternoon, I went our for lunch with some co-workers, and on the way back to the office they wanted to stop and get coffee.  Not one to drink coffee late in the day, I declined and decided to stay in the car and wait for them.  The weather had not yet turned hot, it was perhaps 65 or 70 degrees fahrenheit, at the most.  Before they left the car, I opened my window (back seat, passenger side) all the way.  The remaining three windows, and the sunroof, were closed.  Inside the black car with black, leather upholstery, parked in a black-top parking lot in the bright sun, I began to feel uncomfortable in about three minutes.  I couldn’t imagine what was taking my colleagues so long to get a couple of iced coffees in the middle of the afternoon — it seemed as if they were gone for an eternity, but I suppose it was maybe five or six minutes.

When my friends returned to the car, I told them, as I mopped the sweat from my brow and begged for air-conditioning, “This must be what it feels like for a dog when it is locked in a car, except I’m a human and could have opened the door and gotten out at any time.  I even had one window wide open.”  We got into a brief discussion about dogs being left in hot cars, and just how fast the inside of a car can become unbearable when parked in the sun.

Every dog I’ve ever owned has loved to ride in cars (with the exception of Annie whose only experience prior to my arrival on the scene was trips to the vet.  I had to do rehab on Annie who spent her golden years enjoying car rides with me and Timba).  My dogs will rush the front door of the house in order to go with me, anywhere.  Cooper just likes to sit in the car, even if it goes nowhere and I am not in the car!  He just loves, loves, loves, the car, and he does not understand when it’s too hot to go for a ride.  It is at this time of year that we must be diligent in our leadership role with our pets.  As much as we love their companionship, and dislike seeing those big, brown, sad eyes when we say “no, as the temperature rises it behooves us all to “be kind and leave Fido behind”.

By now every dog lover should know that dogs don’t have sweat glands and they depend on panting to cool off.  They must have access to air, and cool, fresh water at all times.  If locked in a car, even with the windows slightly open, relief for them is not possible.

What to do if you happen upon a dog locked in a parked car absent a human? While it’s tempting to play hero and break a few windows and then yell at the dog’s owner for being such a fool, it really is advisable not to take matters into your own hands.  If you’re at a store or other business location, find the manager and ask them to make an announcement.  Otherwise, take note of the location, make of the car, license plate and other identifying info, and call the local police.  If you want to, wait around inconspicuously to make sure the dog is ok until an officer can arrive to handle the situation.

To bring awareness to hot car etiquette, post reminders on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks; distribute flyers or posters locally.

Above all, be a power of example.  Dogs everywhere will be grateful.

K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

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