Memorial Day weekend is upon us (geez, wasn’t it just Christmas!) and forecasters are predicting record breaking temperatures across much of the South. Year ago, when I worked long hours during the week, I was often tempted to take my dogs with my when I went out on the weekends. So I understand the desire to bring your best dog friends with you wherever you go. But your dog has asked me to tell you that in most cases, they’d much rather stay home. Let’s start with the most obvious reason. Under no conditions, can you leave a dog in a car once the temperature even approaches 70 degrees. Not if they are in the shade, not if the windows are down. Dogs have a higher body temperature than we do. They are only able to cool themselves down by panting. If the air a dog is breathing is hot, they are not going to cool down. And while they do sweat through their nose and paw pads, that is only a very small surface compared to their overall body mass. In my new state of North Carolina, the law prohibits leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions, i.e. “conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of ventilation or under other endangering conditions.” Law enforcement and rescue personnel (Not private individuals) are allowed to rescue the animal. If you see a dog confined in a hot car, call 911 immediately.
There are lots of events and festivals going on this weekend and throughout the summer. Most dogs, especially under warm conditions, would prefer to stay at home where it is peaceful and cool. The majority of dogs are not comfortable with the noise and crowds of these events. They get stressed, overheated and dehydrated which can lead to heat stroke. Signs of stress in your dog may include showing the whites of their eyes, pinned back or ears flattened to the head, excessive panting, whining, shaking, yawning (yup, yawning is a sign of stress not boredom!) and tucked tail.
Finally, a word about our beloved national tradition of firework displays. As a dog lover, fireworks are the bane of my existence in the summer. Dogs can hear 2 to 3 times more acutely than humans. Sounds than may seem loud to humans may be very uncomfortable and frightening to a dog. Exposing a dog to those loud noises can set up a phobia of noises that can last a life time. My dog Zelda was kept outside before I got her. I rescued her the day after July 4th. She has always been terrified of even the noise of a fire cracker. So let’s put this all together, it’s hot out, it’s crowded and there are VERY loud booming noises. This is a version of hell for many dogs. On July 4th my dogs are in the air conditioned bedroom with a fan on to block the noise. And I usually stay home with them.
Our dogs give us so much. It is important that we understand and put their needs before our own need for their companionship. Or, in my case years ago, the guilt of leaving them home alone. So while I enjoy the Scottish Festival in Greenville and the Flower Festival in Hendersonville this weekend, my pups will be exercised early in the day and then left to rest in our cool cabin in the mountains of Saluda. Enjoy your holiday!
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