Life in a trailer with two dogs, a cat, and two humans can push the edge on comfort, physically and meta-physically. We have no home, no yard, no place to leave the dogs when we leave for extended periods of time. Recently we’ve been leaving the mutts in the gNash but this has led to boredom and some irreversible new tricks. Elvis has taken to gorging on all his food and cleaning tupperware left on the counter. We are down a half a bog of dog food and two tupperware containers. From the beginning of our travels we’d have to move the garbage to higher ground if we didn’t want it strewn all over our small confines. Now, because after nearly 6 years of road travel Elvis has decided the food bag is his to eat while bored, we have to move the dog food off-site. Nor can we leave out sealed peanut butter or dirty dishes or plasticware. A little bit of boredom makes for a very naughty dog. Perhaps Olive is an assistant but physical evidence (distended stomach, peanut butter breath) all point to Elvis as the ring leader. This is the guy that once scored an entire pork loin. We do whatever we can to take the dogs with us wherever we go. Our whole house and their digestive tracts are at stake.
A couple of weeks ago temperatures reached over 100 degrees but we continued to use our truck as the dog’s main kennel. The trailer AC run unattended all day could cause a fire. Our current job has shade so we park the truck in the shade, prop up the windshield reflector (just in case) open the windows halfway and leave water. We check on the dogs regularly. Meanwhile it’s been over 100 and we were on the roof or on our knees or on a ladder working. The dogs snooze. They, like us, might prefer it to be cooler but they are fine sleeping in the truck. So fine they hardly drink the water. Our dogs are acclimated. Some people consider this animal abuse. I call it taking care of your dog, knowing your dog, paying attention to your dog. We do what we can to make sure our dogs are trained, calm, and ready to face whatever life on the road will demand of them.
Two nights ago we went to Tucson to shop and eat and pick up a friend that needed a ride home post surgery. It was 95 but overcast. During daylight hours Burt and I took turns shopping while one person sat with the dogs in the car. It was hot but not difficult. No headache, no panting, no loss of appetite (for any of us). The dogs and I sat around and read our books or sniffed our butts or barked at passersby. We walked the dogs. I tricked them into drinking by putting dog biscuits in the water bowl. We found a hotel room around 5 and cooled off for a while. At 6:30 we decided we wanted to see a movie. The idea was there is a parking garage at the mall where we might be able to leave the truck in the shade and keep the interior at the ambient temperature.
We found a spot under a massively high parking garage. The truck temperature gage read 93. But there was no chance of sun and night was upon us. The 90s are nothing for these pups used to 103 but it gave us pause. We thought about it. We discussed. We always do. Two weeks ago Burt stayed with the dogs while I did my stress test. I would rather Burt saw the test but the dogs needed to be kept safe. Was there a rule against leaving your dogs in cars in Tucson? We did not know. The dogs were well rested, they are more comfortable in the truck than anywhere else, it’s their safe spot, they had spent the day at 95 degrees and gobbled up their dinners and showed no signs of distress or anxiety. We decided they were fine. We cracked the windows front and back and filled the water bowl and left. We saw Inside Out. We returned to the truck and found it surrounded by two cop cars and mall security. OMG. What was going to happen? Was El Chapo in our truck? No just two dogs.
We were informed by a very kind and reasonable policeman that we had just committed a criminal offense by leaving our dogs in the car. He saw we had Montana tags so understood we had no knowledge of the law. He also saw that our dogs were calm, watered and generally appeared under no stress. But he gave us the scary side, too. No less than 3 people called the police, two used 911. He was within his authority to break a window and seize our dogs, arrest us and take us to jail. We would face massive fines and jail time and have a criminal record as animal abusers. Burt was Mr. Nice and Easy. I was a little pushy. What is the standard to determine if the conditions are unsafe? Any temp over 80, shade or no shade. That’s pretty severe. Prior to our arrival, the policeman called animal control and they discussed the conditions of the truck and the car. They agreed the dogs were not in danger. We arrived just after this call. I have to admit I felt a little less like a liberal in this moment. I can’t quite articulate what bothers me. After all, the authorities used common sense and agreed our dogs were not in danger but they still had three cars waiting for our arrival. What if I was a socio-economically challenged person of color? Would we have fared so well? I doubt it. I felt some serious white privilege.
We drove away duly chastened and resolved to avoid Tucson (Arizona really, but Tucson has a tougher attitude) at all costs. Further research on my part found that the law is very broad and does not have specific temperature cut-offs. As the cop said, don’t leave your dog in a car here unless it is winter and even then think twice. I am grateful we were treated very kindly and with reasonable thought. Thankful the animal control person knew the difference between a comfortable dog and a dog in distress.
Some people probably think I need more lecturing on this issue. Please spare me. Our whole life revolves around keeping these dogs safe. I know hot cars kill. I also no my dogs are acclimated to heat and to the use of the truck as their ‘safe place’ and there was no danger of a rise in temperatures in this scenario. I was reluctant to share the story but it is a big one and we were well treated by the public safety people.