First published on the Riley and James Website
by Shawn Finch, DVM
A Follow-up Note for the Guy Shopping at Menard’s with the Beautiful Doberman Waiting for Him in the Bed of his Truck
Dear Guy Shopping at Menard’s,
I just wanted to check back with you after the note I left on your windshield the other day. It was 80 degrees and you left your dog unsecured in the bed of your truck. Granted, if you had left him in the cab, I would have been more irate, and left you a more strongly worded note and called the police.
Though I was disappointed you left him out in the sun, able to jump into a dangerous parking lot, mostly I was upset that it looked as if he rides in the bed also. Please don’t take this newsletter personally; I am sending it out to everyone I know who loves dogs. Do not take the first note personally either, as I leave a lot of those.
For all I know, you may let your Doberman ride in the air-conditioned cab with you. You may really have only run in for a second (though everyone who leaves a kid or pet out in a parking lot seems to say that). If I misinterpreted the situation, I apologize.
However, on the chance my intuition was correct, and your dog does ride in the bed, I will tell you that I have never heard a story of a dog riding in the back of a pickup that ends well.
Granted, I do not spend as much time talking with people who drive carefully around their farms with experienced herding dogs as I do with clients who run in sobbing with pets broken by the interstate. I also don’t talk as much to the owners who let their dogs ride in the bed and have nothing happen. (How boring of a story would that be?) But I see enough dogs who have jumped or lost their balance to know that it is just not safe to transport them unsecured in the back of a truck. And in many cities, including Omaha, it is illegal.
Here are some real cases… a Chihuahua (a Chihuahua!) who jumped out of a pickup bed on the interstate and broke her femur… a lab who jumped out of a truck and received multiple cuts and bruises… .Here is the worst one… a pointer who was chained in the bed of a pickup, jumped out, landed on his knees and trashed them before the owner realized he had jumped and was able to stop.
I also read a newspaper article about two dogs who jumped into each other’s truck beds as one truck was exiting the interstate. Neither driver noticed at the time. That one may or may not be true, but I have always liked that story. That’ll teach them! And if it is true, no dogs were harmed in the execution of that stunt.
The point is, dogs jump out of vehicles. They don’t know how fast they are moving. They don’t know the stories of fellow dogs who have been hurt so badly.
I know this does not pertain to you personally, dear Menard’s shopper, but I will digress a bit and tell you about the other situation in which I leave notes on windshields-when pets are left in cars on hot days. By “hot,” I mean if you would be uncomfortable in the car with the air off, your pet would be too. People try to pin me on temperatures and minutes, and instead of trying to do the mathematics in my head and give them a foolproof answer, as I used to try to do, I go right to the Golden Rule. If you would not be comfortable, neither would they. And if you have the good sense to leave the car before you die of heat stroke, so do they. But you have thumbs. Dogs do not.
So when I see a dog in a hot car, with the good sense to get out of a dangerous situation, but not the means to do it, I leave a note and call the police. And they do come. I would rather seem to be a neurotic, overprotective veterinarian and have a pet owner embarrassed by a visit from the police than have the pet owner come out to a dead dog.
And sadly, I have seen those cases too. In heat stroke cases, if I see pets before they actually die, I can only save them about half of the time. So I am thankful you did not make your dog wait for you in the cab.
As you now know, with this second note from a complete stranger, I am not in the business of minding my own business; I am in the business of helping pets. If you now are too, after my… um… inspiring first note, I really think we can change the world by looking out for pets who need us, and writing notes and follow-up notes (or newsletters even) as needed, until there are no more notes to write, because everyone is treating their pets how they would like to be treated.
Again, I apologize, fellow dog lover, if I misread the situation, but now you can see where I was coming from, and appreciate that my love for your dog, as a representative of all dogs, overrode any manners or tact I otherwise would have had. I hope that instead of being offended, you will see my point of view, and join me and other dog lovers in our world-saving note-writing campaign.
Shawn Finch, DVM