To save pets from weather, strike while iron is hot


September 03, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

One hundred degrees in the shade, and I'm sipping a soda, waiting my turn at the gas pumps. The woman ahead picks up the nozzle, and I realize the metal is almost hot enough to burn your hand.

Traffic on the other side of the island clears suddenly, and into the space swings a sporty truck pulling a ski boat. In the open back are two retrievers -- one secured, one not, and both looking very, very hot. One of the passengers goes into the store while the other leans against the truck. The dogs start to dance. Tongues lolling, eyes rolling, they jerk their paws off the metal in quick succession, fighting against the laws of gravity to keep all four paws off the grill. The man pays no attention. His friend returns with some beer.

No water for the dogs.

I sigh and force a pleasant expression as I get out of the car. I've learned it doesn't pay to be rude. "What beautiful dogs," I say, offering each an ice cube from my cup. "They're pretty hot, though, aren't they?"

"Nah, not really. They've just been swimming," says one of the men, with a nod at the boat. "We've come from the lake."

I feel the metal on the floor of the truck bed and suggest that, lake or no lake, his beautiful retrievers are suffering. He looks at the truck bed thoughtfully and then at his dogs. Finally, a look of concern crosses his face. He really seems to love his dogs.

He puts down his beer, takes the station's hose, and wets down the dogs and the truck bed. His friend produces a water dish from behind the seat, and fills it. I go for one more point, mentioning the danger -- and illegality -- of unsecured dogs. I don't make much headway on that one, and as I pat each of the now-cooler dogs, my line clears.

As I fill up I make myself be satisfied with one small victory, watching as the men leave with their cargo of cooler canines.

This story makes me remember that many people who mistreat their pets don't do it maliciously, and a couple of pleasant, well-timed and well-chosen words can really make a difference.

Sometimes, though, people still have to learn the hard way, no matter what you tell them. One reader reported a tragedy that could have been prevented had an animal's owners -- a neighbor -- acted on the advice of others. Their dog had been chained in the yard, and managed to get himself tangled with neither shade nor water available on a blistering hot day. The dog died, said the reader, who had talked to the people about the dog's being chained before.

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