Somebody called recently and asked how summer was going. All I could say was dogs. Burt nailed it when he said, “we live in a kennel.” The Olvis was an 8 year masterpiece. No squabbles, high compliance rate, no teething. Cholvis. Chava plus Olvis is an entirely different universe. Olive is a bitch. Elvis is doing things he hasn’t done in years. Chava is determined to eat everything. Berries off of bushes, cigarette butts, all excrement, anything plastic. I found my ear plugs in his poop. I regularly go online for therapeutic readings on how to deal with a teenage dog. Chava is 7 months old and this is exactly when most puppies are given up for behavioral problems. It’s literally a full-time job to raise a healthy, happy puppy. Best advice so far: Never leave them unattended. All activities come with Chava attached. Leaving a curious puppy to his own devices results in destruction and heartbreak. If Chava can’t come it’s the crate. So far it’s all minor stuff but the list is endless and mysterious. We lost some apples. They turned up in Chava’s bear like poop. $20 of heirloom tomatoes? Eaten in 5 minutes. I caught him before he swallowed the paring knife he stole from the counter. Burt’s crocs remain mostly unmolested.
With every outing requiring a minimum of one and up to three dog companions certain activities have been entirely curtailed. I have not birded in a month. Music weekends have been spent with Chava lashed to our chairs. They say this phase will pass and pass quickly since Chava is a small dog. He’s holding steady at under 50 pounds. Maybe even under 40 pounds. I can still pick him up. Meanwhile I’ll keep reading dog therapy articles.
While we strategically manage the mouth of destruction we also face the normal rebellion of a teen. Chava sits. It just takes a staring contest and 2 to 3 minutes for him to execute. He can heel. As long as there are no sentient beings within his view shed. Same with come. Chava comes like a champ. As long as Elvis isn’t telling him to ignore us. Elvis can’t hear or see so he ignores all commands. Chava has noticed. Now Olive is noticing that Elvis and Chava are ignoring us. We’re fighting a mini-insurrection, a mutiny, if you will, of the canine crew. Dog therapy? Clamp down and reiterate all house rules at all times. Random sit and stay patrol. No food without performance. It’s all very exhausting after years of well mannered pooches. But both and Burt and I are united in the face of this challange. We cannot have obnoxious, ill-mannered dogs and live this lifestyle. Safety and sanity demand compliance. I’m hopeful that fall will find boot camp tapering off to just the chaos of life with 5 individuals.
And so now you know where I’ve been. It’s also kind of boring.
Despite the fact that the TeamCholvis just ate a dozen eggs and gooshed the extra into the seat cushions this morning I will admit that three dogs aren’t too trying now that we are stationary. Feeding, peeing, pooping, and exiting a vehicle multiple times a day drained TeamHuman. Leash 1, leash 2, leash 3…where’s leash 3…come back here…wait…wait…oh, there it is…clip…OKAY…12 paws hit the ground attached to three strings and a human. The human ducks and twirls and, to date, has not gone down. Occasionally a dog is loose. Maybe the hand didn’t quite have a hold or maybe the dog was never attached. Cue the gutteral command to STAY. Cars are almost always whizzing by when we get in and out. Adrenaline floods my body. The dogs always, so far, stop. I capture the loose mutt and we proceed to walk. Usually we split them between us. Burt takes Elvis and maybe another. I almost always deal with Olive. She’s fussy. When one human must do the job alone it’s ergonomically uncomfortable to walk all three. Elvis must be dragged, the others pull. I try to channel my inner neutral balance between the sixty pound in each hand. The key is to transfer the pullers to the dog that needs pulling without throwing out your own back.
Happily the life threatening dog comfort walk is less frequent now that we are in our summer work spot. There is ample property for some free ranging. There is a yard. There are leashed walks that do not involved a vehicle. Cars are few and far between. Now if we take a leash walk I get Olive and Burt takes Elvis and Chava. Burt is the master trainer for heeling. After the pups have released some energy they might get free time in the woods. Chava and Olive are getting better at their off-leash heeling. Recall is only a problem for Elvis. He is deaf, stubborn, demented. I am always amazed at how much our older dogs teach the younger dogs. Elvis taught Olive, Olive is teaching Chava. But it cuts both good and bad. Chava has noticed Elvis getting away with all kinds of transgressions and has tried to follow the Elvis mentoring plan. Elvis won’t come, sit or wait for food so why should I? As my mom used to say: Because I said so. After a week of it Chava seems back on track with following us not Elvis.
So after a rough couple of weeks where we learned this Chava was stuck with us, that he might have ringworm, that he was growing so fast and eating so much and needed to be walked six times a day and once at night we’ve finally reached the spot where it’s only a little more energy to manage him. And he’s a good dog. And he doesn’t have ringworm.
The gNash and Dodge are rolling uphill towards Montana and we’ve got a hanger-on. The usual Gypsy Carpenters crew minus Mimi (DEP, sweet kitty) plus foster puppy Chava are all festively packed in the king cab of our 18 year old Dodge and it’s got all the makings of a drunken party. There’s daily fights, spilled drinks, vomit, public scratching, and that’s just the dogs. Only Elvis and Burt are completely satisfied with their space. Nobody crowds them and gets away with it. Meanwhile Olive, Chava and I are jockeying all day, everyday to make do with what we can get. You’d think we’d swiftly work out a compact of who sits where when but noooo. Chava is growing faster than a kudzu in July so it’s a turf battle everyday. What worked before noon on Friday was no can do by Saturday night. Mood and climate also impact the degree of bodily contact allowed. Too hot? GTF off of me says Olive with a gap toothed crooked snarl. Too Cold? Climb up on my lap, there’s room for you both, says me. Just when everyone settles down somebody (me, Burt, or Chava) has to go to the bathroom and the proverbial pot is stirred again. And despite Chava knowing I am his boss he still treats me like a mom he can walk all over. Chava even tries to nurse on my forearms as he falls asleep. What a cutie-pie.
In the midst of the hourly land rush there have been countless bowls of spilled water and the aforementioned vomit and deafening barks in ears. Burt’s worried the floor boards are rusting from the constant moisture. I’m worried I’m growing mold on my perpetually wet bum. There are legs, teeth, and tongues everywhere and they have not figured out how to coordinate. Maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine them working together to thwart us. The mental and physical effort to keep two old dogs and one new puppy safe and satisfied is not 30% greater than the two dogs alone. I’d say the well trained but scarily growing puppy is a 100% increase in energy cost for Burt and me. He’s so fast and less solidly reliable to hold a stay or wait. By Monday morning he might weigh less than Olive but he will be stronger than Elvis and Olive combined. And he just eats and eats and eats. Which means he poops and poops and poops.
And it’s all been worth it. We’ve taken our time and let puppy stretch his legs in new places. When we first got Olive we did the same thing. We visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir just like we did eight years ago with Olive. A condor even flew over head on Chava’s first hike, the steep 4 KM climb to the Mirador (lookout) where you can see the Bahia de California from the top of the mountains. Human year equivalent 90 year old Elvis waited in the gNash. We told him it was boring. He only ate a little bit of a window shade in retaliation.
Today finds us at Burt’s Father’s unibomber home in California. We lovingly call it this because it’s a 50s era mail order log cabin with no potable water and a hot water heater only turned on once a week for Jack’s shower. It’s a dark place. If and when I take a shower in the cool rust waters, the dribble hits me in my bellybutton. I tweak my back wetting my hair and I come out smelling like a can of nails left under a drain spout. Not worth the effort. I’ll wallow in my dog water stink and vomit a few days more.
Swamp water and mud has a mighty aroma. Smells like love to a dog. Yesterday we took the dogs to Playa Las Palmas and did a bird stroll. I’m prepping to take out a pair of paying clients next week so I thought I’d tour the local bird hot spots and see what I could see. Most of the water is gone from our local oasis and a bunch of deep dark mud remains. Olive and Elvis plunged into the reeds and found some fetid, foul water and happy danced among the green. Swampy water reminds me of the back of a forgotten gym locker or a particular closet in my grandma’s house. Stale, anaerobic, moist, decay. The decay turned out to be actual rather than imaginary when Olive dug up the skull of a raccoon from her wallow. Mmmmmmm, good!
From the swamp we headed to the beach. My dogs took off at a run and left me trying to decided if I was seeing Common or Belding’s Yellowthroats. I counted 8 house finches and decided it was a Common Yellowthroat. When I finally looked up to find the dogs I saw them about 100 yards away rolling in a dead sea lion. Great Googly Woogly. This was a banner day to be a dog. Not such a great day to be a canine companion. Sara Gay and dad had mentioned seeing this poor dreature the day before and I had forgotten. My poor excuse for a nose could not detect the rotting flesh but it was obvious the dogs smelled it from a long way back. I saw the dogs see me and hear me and they got in one last roll when they decided I was too far away to exact a punishment. As I approached they ran off and kept a safe distance from me. They knew the fun was over. I looked over the carcass and decided it was too disgusting to snatch the skull. The smell was overwhelming up close. The turkey vultures hovered nearby waiting to get back to their feast. I remembered reading vultures don’t like putrefaction and pondered how far along flesh can be before it is too gross for a TuVu. Maybe a sea lion is just too tasty to pass by even with maggots.
Here’s hoping for the best after just experiencing the worst. I noticed a wobble in Olive’s step and then some drooling. By the time I covered the ten yards between us she was convulsing. Poison. That was my guess. Just 5 minutes earlier I had trouble getting her to come and I spotted her off eating something. I picked her limp body up off the ground and literally threw her in the car and drove away. She was in the far back and I could not see her. Dead or alive or somewhere in between. The car left the ground twice on the horrible beach road and then I hit 85 driving the highway to the vet. I made it in 10 minutes. I pondered the irony of killing myself and both dogs by driving like a maniac in our decrepit car but I could not slow down.
I screamed, “Ayudame, ayudame” as I ran into the vet’s office. Lucky for us all, he was available. Olive was doused with a hydrogen peroxide and several intravenous medications immediately. She had a high fever that was causing her convulsions. She pooped on me. I mistakenly thought I’d know if it was life or death when I reached the vet. It was in between still. The vet couldn’t say if she could survive. I regained my composure. It will be whatever it will be. I had done my best and so had the vet.
After an hour of treatments her fever was down and she could stand. The vet said to come back at 5, so I left. Olive is under observation. Hopefully she won’t need to be sedated. That is a sign she’s taking a turn for the worse. It’s impossible to tell how much might have gotten into her system. Burt is off on a day long adventure out of cell range. There’s no point calling anyway. He’d just be dragged into limbo with me. By the time he returns the question should be answered. It’s easier.
I thought my discourse on duality would be about feeling more at home as a foreigner in a foreign land than I do as a native in my homeland. Not today.
So I was a very bad gringa last week. I was trying to do the right thing and it turned out all wrong and now I am ‘the puppy stealer of Pescadero.’ It all started when we arrived in late January to find Chicharron gone. Down the gully and up the hill just across the way from us, lived Chicharron (pork rinds in Spanish). Chicharron was a chucky (meth addict) but harmless and kind of a good neighbor. He helped out with other neighbors. He collected stray dogs. He strummed a guitar. Rumor was he wound up on the hill across from us in a trailer because a gringo in another neighborhood got tired of living with him in close proximity and set him up with a trailer and lot of his own in our neighborhood. This happened two years ago. Burt and I were distant but not unkind neighbors. We’d say hello. Chat a little. Chicharron was hard to understand. He lacked some key dentition.
I’ve been writing of Chicharron in the past tense but he is still among us. He was relocated to Ensenada in December after kidney failure induced seizures while he was visiting Rafa and April’s home. Rafa and April are very kind and generous. I’ll skip the gory details of his decline into kidney failure. It was malodorous. Somehow he survived and had a family with enough resources to take him in and relocate him to Ensenada. That’s 1000 miles away. Chicharron’s 4 dogs were not so lucky. When we showed up the dogs had been living at Chicharron’s trailer for a month unattended. Another neighbor was throwing food to them. The dog’s were unfenced and anti-social. More rumor has it that even Chicharron could not touch the dogs. The pack began to roam. I tried to visit them but they just scattered. Chicharron’s trailer was hauled away for scrap metal. The dogs relocated to an abandoned house just down the street from us. They were noisy.
One day I walked home the back way and the pack of dogs came after me. I scared them off but was unamused. Neighborhood efforts to capture and re-home or euthanize the pack had failed. Now they were expanding their territory and becoming aggressive. I am not warm and fuzzy in situations like this. People are mauled by dogs every day. I play bridge with a woman mauled by dogs here. I think these dogs must be eliminated. Group efforts to come up with a collective solution fail. There are plans to sedate and relocate. Pills were acquired and lost. Burt and I are hesitant to be obnoxious gringos so we step back, stop complaining, and do nothing. Rumor is the dogs are at least neutered. We walk home a different way and ignore the barking.
Well free feeding and a pack of dogs leads to more dogs. Puppies were born under the ‘date rape’ van just 100 yards from our house. Mexico is a land of magic and miracles. Opinions vary on whether or not this was a virgin birth, a failed clip job, or an interloping dog making a move on the free food. Puppies on the scene paralyzed us. The people we know that take care of strays were overwhelmed. They couldn’t help. Meanwhile the dogs were obviously well fed. These were fat puppies and mama. I assumed that the neighbor was still feeding them. This is the precise moment and assumption where I go off the rails and become the big jerk in town.
A friend sees the puppies one day when leaving our place and asks if they are being taken care of. I say they are but the guy wants them gone. He doesn’t want to take care of them. She says she’s going to bring a friend the next day to collect the dogs. I say, “Great!” I am thrilled that doing nothing has turned into at least the puppies are going away. Do I confirm or check with anyone in the neighborhood? No. These dogs, to me, are an obvious pestilence. The puppies need homes. Once the puppies are gone I could get to work with the aggressive adults.
The next morning the two innocent victims come to collect the puppies. The new person is unfamiliar to me but well known as a dog rescuer. As soon as she saw the dogs were well fed she balked. She insisted these are somebody’s dogs and that they shouldn’t be taken. I am not amused. I go to great and a bit pushy lengths to convince them that nobody wants these dogs. I insist that the feeder is our neighbor and that he is tired of feeding them. Eventually I prevail. I am so driven with desire to get rid of these dogs that I fail to see what is obvious. That this person is correct and knows what she is doing. Somebody was taking care of the puppies and they had gone beyond the basics. They built a pen and supplied food and water. The pen was in an abandoned house and there are no neighbors closer than us and the feeder and another gringo family that wants them gone but somebody was coming and taking care of the puppies. They were all socially comfortable with humans. This should have been the big sign. Stray puppies generally avoid people. These dogs couldn’t wait to play with us. My desire to have these dogs gone overruled my ability to listen to reason. So I convinced the women to take the puppies. They did but they left their number with some nearby workers in case there is a hidden owner. I was so not into that but whatever. I couldn’t have been more wrong on so many levels.
That afternoon I saw a woman wandering up our street looking under our cars. It’s obvious she’s looking for the dogs. OMG. I’ve stolen her puppies. Long story short I confessed my crime and offered to help get them back. Another woman approaches. They are mad as mad can be but they refrained from abusing me. The workers had fingered me and gave them the contact information. The women realized it was all a misunderstanding tainted with a bit of Gringo-do-gooderism. In that moment I say: What about the adults? They are bad dogs and need to go, too. So here is my only strand of righteousness. They realized then that leaving the puppies there had created a bad scene for the people that actually live in the neighborhood. Burt piled on and emphasized that the adult dogs were an aggressive group of dogs. Quiet all around. They calmed down. I felt like an idiot. A massively culturally-insensitive idiot. This conversation would have been awful if we spoke the same language fluently. Maybe our weak Spanish saved us. They left. Burt and I were not sure if they intended to retrieve the puppies or not. I had offered to get them myself but they didn’t respond. It might have been a case of well at least they went to good homes. But it wasn’t.
My friend had to give the puppies back. She seems to be okay with the misunderstanding. The next morning the puppies were reunited with the women. They have not been returned to the abandoned house. The adults are still around. And the rumor mill started. My friend April was accused of stealing the puppies by a random business owner near the supermercado. She had to point out that it was actually me that instigated the puppy stealing but that I had the best intentions. I’m not sure I did have good intentions but I appreciate the vote of confidence. April and I both ponder the chance of retaliatory dognapping.
Any advice on how to manage Chicharron’s pack would be appreciated.
Our symptoms remain unabated. Throbbing heads, laryngitis, mucous, coughing, body aches, fever. It’s the flu. We are just miserable. To pass the time we spent $1000 pesos on a bunch of TV shows on DVD. Game of Thrones, Network…I can’t remember and I’m too drained to look. Instead of dwelling on our discomfort I present you with some pictures of a trip from a couple of days ago.
As part of our effort to bird the heck out of the area we visited a spot behind the dunes that sometimes holds water. I presume it’s brackish given the puddles proximity to the ocean but it fulls with mostly rainwater. I tried to count sand pipers and plovers but my dog and my binoculars failed me. Olive was too tempted by the shallow water and gooey mud. She tore the place up. Meanwhile my binoculars are broken. The center part that hold the two optical tubes together partially detached. The lenses are cockeyed. Looking through is instant vertigo. The only way I can use my formerly fantastic binoculars is if I close one eye and use them like a telescope. Spotting the birds is much more difficult with one eye. Just a big bummer. In summary: I counted a couple of birds with one eye and then Olive chased them away.
Meanwhile Burt was on the beach having a drastically bad time with Elvis. A poor sea lion had beached herself and appeared to be grievously injured and dying. Of course Elvis was onto the situation before Burt. With Burt screaming himself hoarse Elvis chased the weakened animal into the ocean. Elvis went into the waves with it and made some kind of effort to herd the thing back onto the sand. Burt said Elvis took quite a beating in the shore break before he heeded Burt’s commands to leave it. With Elvis back under control the sea lion crawled back onto shore. It was moving poorly. A sad scene indeed. The only thing that could of cheered us up was if a great white shark came out and gave the lobo marino instant death. But then what fun would swimming be after seeing something like that?
A few days ago my friend’s dog took off after me when I left her home in the truck but I didn’t know. I only spotted the high energy herding dog as an oncoming car swerved to avoid her. She was running wild in my blind spot. I hit the brakes and opened the door and she jumped in my lap. Well, nice to see you, too. Olive pitched a huge snarling saliva filled fit but was roundly ignored by all. I returned her home. She was in big trouble. I was surprised this dog felt any attachment to me since when I frequent her home I am usually wielding a vacuum cleaner and she hates vacuum cleaners.
The next day Burt and I decided on an evening picnic on top of the mountains. We wanted to watch the evening clouds from Barfoot Lookout. Partway up the mountain road we found a dog staggering down the right of way. He was spent. It was immediately apparent that this dog was a cat or bear-chasing dog that had run to the point of exhaustion. He had a GPS and shock collar and a regular collar with his owner’s contact information. We watered him and asked him if he wanted a ride. He said yes but was too tired to get in the truck. Burt lifted him in. Olive snarled and spit some more but Elvis, in an uncharacteristically generous move, gave the giant hound all the room he needed to rest. Elvis looked just like Olive does when he hogs the back seat. Elvis sat all prim and erect, wedged in the corner. I guess Elvis could tell this was a tough dog.
Burt and I continued our drive but weren’t sure what to do about the dog. Perhaps his owners would find us with the GPS. We tried calling the number on the collar but we didn’t get through. The dog snoozed. Olive and Elvis stared at him. I think they tried to imagine where this enormous dog was going to spend the night. I was wondering the same thing. The trailer wasn’t ready for 100 pounds of bear dog. Up top we ate our sandwiches. I sat with the dog while Burt and the Olvis wandered around. I was feeling the heavy weight of responsibility for this worn out animal. What if we’d just carried it off from his owners? What if they had given up on him and had returned to Tucson? What would we do if he ran away while we picnicked? There was no reason to worry. He was too tired to move. I fed him the crusts of my tuna sandwich. I scratched his huge ears. He was gentler than my dogs.
On our way back down we ran into the owner looking for his lost dog. It turned out the owner had driven some people (stranded motorists) off the mountain and he was back looking for his dog. His GPS said we had him. Boo, his name is Boo, was not happy to see his owner. He wanted to stay with us. I felt ill. Boo was pulled out of our tuck and put in his kennel. What dog isn’t happy to see his owner? I know hunting dogs aren’t pets but this made me feel awful. Olive and Elvis were happy to see the owner. Boo was not. With no other choice we made a hasty departure. Now I’m sad all over again.
You know it’s a bad week when your human companions are considering taxidermy. While last weeks near debacle with law enforcement was not their fault Olive and Elvis have been a lot to manage recently. The day after we got home one of the Olvis pair scored a bar of dark chocolate. This bar of 72% darkness was in a heretofore safe spot hanging in the fruit basket over our counter. Now all chocolate reside in the microwave when partially eaten. Unopened bars are in the freezer staying safe from the mice and heat.
Chocolate and dogs can lead to gastrointestinal distress. The next day we came home after a brief excursion to poop and egg shells. Elvis stole all our eggs from the counter and ate them. Somebody pooped on the newly cleaned rugs. Time to wash the rugs again. All eggs are now safely stored in the fridge. Our fridge is small so we used to leave them out. The entire world outside of the US does not refrigerate eggs. It’s not a real safety issue. These eggs were especially safe as they were homegrown and had vener been chilled. Also, it was a sad loss because they were homegrown eggs. Oh, the super yellow, glossy yokes I will never see. I hope Elvis enjoyed them. We have re-upped our US citizenry and are now chilling the eggs to keep them out of dog’s reach.
Last night was when we discussed mounting postures for our soon to be taxidermied pooches. It was at 2 AM while we were outside in our PJs washing the dogs with a homemade anti-skunk potion. We weren’t doing this for fun. Despite seven previously unenjoyable encounters with skunks Elvis had to try once more. Just like three years ago a skunk must have peeked in our open door and the dogs blasted out ready to kill. Cue me googling Anti-skunk recipe. I’d used one before but couldn’t remember the ratio. Dawn, hydrogen perixide, and baking soda work pretty well and we always have it on board. Well, almost always. Now we are out of baking soda since I used it all last night. We are also down to our last bottle of H2O2 so I’ll have to refresh that. H2O2 is a purgative and needed at all times for inducing vomiting when dogs steal chocolate and accidentally poison themselves. I’m thinking the taxidermy display should have a skunk so future viewers will understand what happened. Our trailer, I presume, still reeks despite a total wash down. Olfactory fatigue has deadened my sense of smell. Luckily, or coincidentally, the rugs were not reinstalled after the egg fiasco so they don’t require a third washing this week.
On to more upbeat topics. I saw my first dung beetle in action this week. Dung beetles are the sewage workers of the world. They eat poop. They lay their eggs in poop. They love poop. Leave some poop and dung beetles take it away and help turn it into soil. Here’s what might happen to a turd pile near you. A turd is deposited and dung beetles find it. I presume they smell it. They fly or walk in. The males carve off bits of poop and roll it into balls and head away from the pile as fast as they can push. There are lazy dung beetles waiting around to steal balls of poop so if a beetle isn’t quick he could be robbed of his bounty. It’s a high stakes game. Female dung beetles follow the guy with the nice ball of crap. The male beetle pushes the ball in a kind of reverse wheelbarrow pose. His hind legs are pushing the ball and his front legs are pushing on the ground. His eyes are gazing skyward and he uses the sun or the STARS to navigate in a straight line away from the source poop pile and the competing beetles. The female might ride on top of the poop. The dung beetle is the first insect species proven to use celestial navigation. Where are they going I wondered? They are just using simple geometry to get as far away as possible from the literal shit storm of dung beetle competition. A straight line is the most efficient way to get far away. I watched my beetle push over rocks and through grass clumps. Once in a while he would climb on top of his poop ball for a better view but only when a particularly irksome obstacle impeded progress. And since they are pushing backwards it helps prevent them circling back to their starting point. People have a natural tendency to walk in a circle when lost. The dung beetle has overcome this.
After the beetle is safely away he and his lady friend might bury the poop and she’ll lay her eggs on it for the kids to eat. Or they might eat it themselves. All that buried poop does wonders for the soil. Check out the Dung Beetle Derby. I’ve posted a video of my pet beetles push to safety on Facebook. Here’s some more info describing the celestial navigation discovery and a pushing video.
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.