Heat Stroke & A Sad Post

It's summer (if you hadn't noticed yet), and it's one of the hottest summers on record.  There's partial flooding and record heat on the east coast, fires and drought in the mid-west ... it's just absolutely miserable.

I can't stress how important it is to keep your dog cool during the summer... better bloggers have said it better than I ever could.

So, instead, I'm going to tell the story of how I killed a dog one summer.

Yes, you read that right.


I was about 13 or 14 years old.  We were living in extreme southeastern Georgia, and it was a hot, hot summer.  Then again, most summers in Georgia are hot.

Our family hadn't really gotten into Aussies yet -- we just had American cocker spaniels.  I was, at the time, really starting to get to the splitting point:  Either I would be into dog shows for years to come, or I would try to rebel and hate the entire process.  I think kids that age seem to always have something to be angst-y and over-emotional about.  I just took what I had closest to me.

So it was on this hot, summer day that the rest of my family decided to go off to do something together, and I was left alone at the house to take care of the dogs.  I don't even remember where they were going, and I guess it's unimportant anyway.  The important part was -- and this was key -- my mother had deemed me grown-up enough to stay home by myself AND also decided I was responsible enough to take care of the dogs for a while by myself, too.

This distinction was a bit of a push up to my pride.  I was flattered that my mother thought I was responsible enough to take care of the dogs.  But if I'm going to be honest, I can say that the most uplifting part of the fact that I was going to be alone was the fact that it would allow me to watch the movie we had rented again without interruptions.

I was more about watching the movie and being finally alone than any amount of responsibility that my mother was giving me.

They left, my mother letting me know that I should let out the dogs once while they were gone.  And then I was free!

In the movie went.  And I sat like a zombie in front of the screen.  About halfway into the movie, I realized I needed to let the dogs out... so I did.

I then went back to watching the movie, and promptly forgot I had let out the dogs.  In humid, baking heat.  In the middle of the afternoon.

 Engrossed in the movie, I didn't realize it until 25-30 minutes had passed.  I can't describe the immediate feeling of panic that went through me when I realized the dogs were still outside.  It was overwhelming and like a slap... I went out and looked at the dogs in the runs.

They were hot.  All of them.  All of them looked miserable... but they looked okay.  Except Cooper.

Cooper was lying on his side, and he didn't look like he was breathing.  I ran and got all of the other dogs in first, and then I went to Cooper.

Cooper was about a year old tri-color pup with an abundance of show coat and a really neat personality.  He also had a breathing problem, and just hadn't been able to handle the extended time in the sun at all.  When I went to him in the pen, his eyes were glazed open and unfocused, and his breathing was shallow.  Even in the short time I stood there, there were moments where he wouldn't take a breath at all.

I didn't know what to do.  Logic was about the only thing I had, so I reasoned I had to get him inside and get his body temperature down as fast as possible with ICE.  I know now that this is not the way to deal with heat stroke, but at the time I was clueless.  This was before the days of cell phones, and I had really no way of reaching anyone at that time.

I won't fully describe the next couple of hours.  Cooper did wake up a couple of times, disoriented and blankly staring around, as if he was completely blind and didn't remember where he was.  Then there were the long, absolutely horrible seizures.  I cried almost the entire time.  I had no idea what else to do.

When my parents got home, they didn't have time to be mad.  They took Cooper immediately to the vet, and when they got home a few hours later, they told me the vet had put Cooper to sleep.  He was beyond saving at that point.

The enormity of the fact that Cooper's death was squarely on my shoulders was probably one of the most horrible things I've ever had to deal with.  My parents didn't punish me for the ordeal.  I guess they figured the guilt I felt and the lesson I'd learned was more than enough punishment -- and they were right.

To this day, I'm absolutely fanatic about keeping my animals cool.  The air conditioner where I live went out a few weeks ago, and I almost had a panic attack.  Luckily it was fixed the next morning, less than 12 hours from when I broke.  But it was still a nerve-wracking experience.

So this summer, make sure that you keep ALL of your animals cool.  Never leave them in a car alone for ANY reason.  Make sure they have plenty of fresh water at all times.  And educate yourself on what to do in case of an emergency.

So ... this wasn't the most happy, joy-joy of posts.  But I hope that it helps make my point, and that people take the issue of summer heat seriously, especially for their pets.


Anonymous said...

Sad. :(

-anonymous sister