• Carmen Marie Fabio

Dog days of summer

I knew something was wrong when our general manager returned from lunch last week on a bright sunny 24°C day with a face clouded in anger as she stormed into my office.

“There are two dogs sitting in a black car in the parking lot,” she fumed as we all headed over to the window to see what was happening. We hovered, in a holding pattern, debating whether to call the police, speculating that by the time they arrived, the driver would likely be back.

Wouldn't he?

Our office manager broke the spell by heading down himself to check on the dogs through the partially open window before going into neighbouring businesses to try and track down the owner.

It didn't take long – she was quickly located having stepped into a spa to have her eyebrows “done” saying it had only been a 10-minute stop and that the dogs loved to accompany her.

“Hey Sparky, human is having her eyebrows done today! We get to wait for her in the hot car! Isn't that awesome?”

“Shotgun!!”

I'm not buying it and neither should you.

In an excellent article by National Post's Lorraine Sommerfeld last week, the author documented a one-hour experiment sitting in a car in an asphalt parking lot on a 26°C breezy day.

She writes that, within 10 minutes, the internal temperature of the car climbed to 37°C.

By coincidence, our publisher, who has a self-professed love for any gadget, tested his own interior car temperature with a newly acquired electronic gauge days before on one of our signature, disgustingly humid July afternoons and found it to be 55°C and if I was skeptical of this claim, I wasn't by the time I'd reached the end of Sommerfeld's article.

She documents how, blessed with a larger cerebral cortex, adult humans intuitively grasp that intense heat dictates movement should be minimized for self-preservation. By contrast, animals and toddlers are more likely to panic and struggle while frantically trying to find a way out.

Think that window you left partially cracked is enough to negate the heat build-up? Think again. Sommerfeld describes the parked car as a very efficient oven with all that glass, mirror, and chrome reflecting heat into the interior and the few inches of open window is, “about as effective as cooling (the car) as opening your oven door an inch.”

By the 20-minute, 45°C mark, the author had ceased all movement (your dog or your sobbing child won't do that) and by 40 minutes and 48°C, she could no longer hold a pen.

Every parent likes to think this couldn't possibly happen to them.

So did I.

By the grace of God and a little diaper-clad toddler bum that came into contact with my car horn, I was reminded how quickly the temperature can rise when I once allowed my youngest to play in the car as I unloaded groceries from the trunk then took an unexpected phone call. The abnormal shade of red on his face within a frighteningly short time period is a lesson forever singed on my brain and maternal conscience.

He was fine. I was humbled.

At the office, we proudly thought we had gotten through to that dog-owner until we saw her drive away, park in another nearby spot in the sun for an additional 12 minutes – yes I timed her – before finally driving away, hopefully to a shady place with cool water and common sense.

Anyone breaking a window to help a child or pet left in a hot car can be criminally charged. Some actions very well justify the consequences.

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