The heat wave broke last week for residents in Chatham-Kent, but a few of us endured an extra 15 minutes of sweating.
We took part in Pet and Wildlife Rescue’s “Turn off the Heat!” event.
In an effort to raise awareness about the perils of leaving a pet in a hot car, P.A.W. placed people inside an SUV with the windows closed on Friday.
Yes, the temperature outside was much cooler than the previous day, and there was a wonderful breeze, but inside that black SUV, it wasn’t so nice.
I was one of the last people to hop inside the vehicle, along with Jason Hamm and Myriam Armstrong of P.A.W. They actually went for second stints in the hot box.
For 15 minutes, we remained locked up, feeling what a dog might feel when left inside a vehicle as someone slips into a store to make a “quick” purchase.
So, on a day where the outside temperature was a nice 23C and the wind was blowing out of the west-northwest, we sweated.
I’m OK in the hot weather. But in this hot car, there was no breeze, and things kept getting hotter. Breathing in the hot, moist air was perhaps the worst part of the experience.
As we closed in on our 15 minutes, the temperature on the dashboard reached 61C (142 Fahrenheit), and the temperature at our feet was 42C (nearly 108 F).
To say we were happy to get out of that car would be an understatement.
And this was on a day where it wasn’t overly warm outside.
Nancy Havens, who works at the municipality, also took part. She said the experience was eye opening.
“It was way too hot for an animal in there. It felt like a sauna,” she said.
Const. Lynette Hodder with the Chatham-Kent Police Service, hopped into a police cruiser for 15 minutes with Const. Renee Cowell. They were in black uniforms, with their body armour vests on.
“The only thing that was making it bearable was I knew I’d be able to open the door and get out,” Hodder said. “If I was stuck in there, I don’t know what I’d do.”
And that is how dogs feel when they are left in a hot car. They have no idea when their owners will return for them, and only have limited ways to reduce their body temperature, by sweating though their paws, and by panting. Most are also covered in heavy fur.
Recently, police charged a Chatham man for leaving a pet unattended in a hot vehicle. Cowell said police receive calls for pets left in vehicles all too regularly. But she credits local residents for keeping an eye out for such matters.
“People love their animals,” she said. “They call us quickly when they spot one (in a car).”
Havens said if you spot an animal left in a vehicle, call P.A.W. at 226-996-9969. She also suggested you go into the store where the vehicle is parked and try to track down the owner.
If the animal looks like it is in distress, call police and let them make the decision to break a window, she added.
Heat of the moment
One thing exposure to heat does to me is it knocks me out later in the day. I find when I come back to the office after a run through South Kent on a warm, sunny day, by about 4 p.m., I’m ready for a nap.
After the PAWR event, I visited with a client and conducted an interview, returned to the office for a late lunch, and felt like crud by about 4 p.m. That feeling continued throughout the evening.