The dangers of leaving your dog in the car – it’s hotter than you think

My dogs Scout and Bandit, who loved to ride in the car. But it’s important not to leave your dogs in the car while you’re running errand – it’s hotter than you think! Photo (c ) 2010 Joanne Brokaw

This post was originally published at Patheos.com in May 2014. But I thought it was worth republishing again here.

Here in Western NY, the weather has finally warmed up and it looks like the s-n-o-w is gone until winter. That means it’s time for a reminder about leaving your dog in a hot car.

In July 2011, I wrote a post for my blog in which I explained how heat affects your dog, and then did some experiments measuring the temperature in the car compared with the temperature outside the car. It’s worth reposting here, since it’s such an important issue – and because I think we have a moral responsibility to put our pets’ needs before our own desires. Sure, it’s fun to take the dog with you while you run errands. But it’s not always what’s best for Fido.

As you watch the temperatures rise inside the Jeep in the following photos, remember that the heat affects your dogs the same way whether they’re inside a car or outside in the heat. So keep that in mind when you’re thinking about taking the dog for a walk in the heat, or with you when you jog, or even for just a round of catch in the park. And it doesn’t have to be summer; it’s the temperature that’s important, and it can reach dangerous levels even in the spring, fall or winter.

First, let’s look at how a dog stays cool.

Dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves down, the way humans can. The only way they can cool off is to sweat through their paws or to pant. As the website Weather.com explains:

“Air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.”

In close quarters like a car (or even a kennel), a dog can overheat very, very quickly and in minutes can suffer brain damage or death.

But panting means taking in air as well as breathing it out. So for a dog like a pug – or other breed with a genetically shortened snout – the inability to breathe seriously hampers their abilty to cool themselves down. (That wheezing sound a pug makes is actually the dog desperately trying to breathe. It’s not cute; it’s dangerous.)

In their book, “Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution“, Lorna and Raymond Coppinger talk at great length about the science of how dogs regulate their body temperature. They draw a couple of conclusions worth mentioning:

1) Dogs are great at storing heat but not so great at getting rid of it. The balance point between storing and getting rid of heat for a dog is 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a smooth-coated sled dog. (That balance is 70 degrees for a human, who also has the ability to sweat to cool, something dogs can’t do.) Coppinger, who races sled dogs, says, “I wouldn’t train if the ambient temperature was over 60 degrees because the dogs would be at risk.”

2) As their weight rises to over forty-five pounds, dogs have increasing problems getting rid of heat. And that’s when the dog is at rest.

3) “Since dogs don’t have sweaty, bare skins to radiate heat [the way humans do when they sweat], evaporative cooling is not an option for them. Panting hard cools the lungs and brain, but the only place a dog sweats is through the pads of its feet. The pads just don’t have enough surface area to make them effective radiators.” Add to that the fact that their bodies are covered in fur, and you’ll understand why heat effects dogs much differently than humans.

And you can see why it’s not easy for a human to determine how hot a dog really is.

So here’s the experiment. Continue reading

Life lessons from a Border Collie

This post was originally published at Patheos.com in June 2011.

Scout after an afternoon playing in the sprinkler and rolling in the dirt. (photo © 2011 Joanne Brokaw)

I was sitting on the floor in the lobby of the veterinarian’s office, blowing soap bubbles for my five-year-old Border Collie, Scout, while we waited for our medications after our consultation with a holistic veterinarian.

A woman sitting near us was watching as Scout happily pounced on the bubbles and then stared intently into my eyes as he waited for the next wave of the bubble wand. Chasing soap bubbles is one of Scout’s favorite things to do in life. (In fact, I just typed the word and he must have read it, because he popped up from his nap and he’s staring at me, waiting to see if we’re headed outside.) Continue reading

Musings on wind storms, RGE, and the luxury of power on demand

The wind storm left a gorgeous sky Wednesday afternoon, even without any snow or rain or ice.

For the last three days, we’ve been without power here at Casa de Brokaw, thanks to hurricane force winds on Wednesday that blew with fierce, damaging force far into the night. At least one town was under a state of emergency and a travel ban was imposed in the county to allow emergency and repair vehicles to get around. By morning, more than 150,000 people were without power.

In our little corner of the world, we lost power Wednesday afternoon, and a few hours later had the luxury of a generator that ran our fridge, a space heater, and a power strip to power the internet router and charge mobile devices. I also had a propane camp stove to cook on. A bluetooth speaker and some Canine Calm CDs downloaded to my tablet (and a tranquilizer or two to combat the wind noise, work crews, generators, and chain saws) helped keep the pups mellow.

A neighbor’s pine tree dropped an enormous limb and it missed our chicken coop and garage (but unfortunately got the neighbor’s garage).  I used my battery powered devices sparingly, just in case, so we were able to keep up with news, and while we were never toasty we kept the cold at bay. It was stressful at times, but it was survivable. We were able to borrow a generator to get my mom’s house survivable as well.

The neighbor’s pine tree dropped a giant limb. It just missed our garage and chicken coop. The neighbor’s garage wasn’t so lucky.

And just when we finally figured out how to deal with the dark, we got some more wind, a little snow, and frigid temperatures. Bitter, biting, blustery cold.

Everyone waited to see when the lights would come on.

Bandit and I curled up under a giant pile of blankets and kept each other warm.

The local power company explained the process on Thursday on local radio, starting with making the downed wires safe to work on, and then assessing the damage; assigning priority to places like hospitals, nursing homes, and first responder facilities; and then working to get 90% of people back online by Sunday night. Trucks from power companies from around the region were headed to Monroe County to help.

That seemed reasonable to me. This was a fierce windstorm that many people compared to “the ice storm”, which you’ve been around Rochester long enough know refers to the ice storm of 1991 that shut the city down for a week and caused massive widespread damage.

The winds were so fierce that the chickens, who don’t normally get along, were frightened enough to make peace long enough to cram themselves under their nesting boxes.

The comparison might have been deceiving. When the winds hit this past Wednesday, temperatures were in the 50s. There was no snow or rain or ice. If you had power, you had no idea how bad things were for those without. In 1991, everyone knew we’d suffered a massive weather event because the next day you could see the ice and snow and devastation. But Thursday morning? Just another day – unless you were without power.

We were told we’d have power by Sunday night. But this afternoon around 3 pm, the lights came on. If you consider that the storm was still happening through the night on Wednesday, that means RGE got us back online in two days.

The lights suddenly came on at about 2 o’clock this afternoon, a day ahead of the expected restoration day on the RGE website.

When the power came back on, I cranked up the heat to try and raise the temperature past the 49 degrees we’d endured the last day.

Our area went from 150,000 plus people without power to about 40,000, with most of the rest expected to be back up and running by tomorrow.

I think that’s pretty good. But today, I learned RGE was taking a beating from New York Governor Cuomo for not responding more quickly. He’s calling for an investigation into the way RGE handled the event.

Which surprised me, and made me a little angry.

Personally, I’d like to thank RGE for getting us up and running (a day earlier than predicted) in what was truly a major emergency situation, and for doing it with the safety of not only the customers but their employees in mind. And thanks to the other companies from out of the area who responded. Is everyone up and running? Nope. My mom is expected to be offline until Monday, but she’s got a generator and all the things she needs to be comfortable. (And her house is definitely warmer than ours was!)

When the weather turned bitter, bitter cold on Friday, crews worked through the night. When people who know nothing about the way power gets from point A to point B criticized it for not happening fast enough, the crews just kept working.

Me? I spent a lot of time this week musing on needs vs. wants, on how conveniences actually disconnect us from each other, and how life was like “in the good old days”, as well switching up my routine (never a bad thing). Musings I’ll share another day.

For now, I have this thought:

It’s easy to complain when we don’t have luxuries on demand, but we forget that every other day we flip a switch and lights come on. We turn up the thermostat and get heat. We turn on a faucet and hot water runs out. We run our cell phones dead and plug them in to charge. Never underestimate the luxury of power on demand, or the people who bring it to you.

UPDATE 3/12/2017: You can read RGE’s statement in response to Gov Cuomo here.

 

Save

Save

Child abuse, excessive caseloads, and Monroe County’s CPS

What happens when you call the CPS hotline. http://www.dorightbykids.org/.

The first part of the process when you call the CPS hotline.
http://www.dorightbykids.org/.

You know I rarely go on a public political rant, and I apologize for what I’m about to say, but I call bullshit on Monroe County’s Commissioner of Human Services, Corinda Crossdale.

Bull. Shit.

A little background: in November 2016, three-year-old Brook Stagles died from injuries suffered as a result of severe child abuse. Her injuries were so severe, according to news reports, that doctors in the emergency room at first thought she’d been hit by a car. Her father, Michael Stagles, was charged with criminally negligent homicide, and his girlfriend, Erica Bell, was charged with 2nd degree murder and 1st degree manslaughter.

The abusive situation had been reported to Monroe County Child Protective Services, but Brook’s grandfather, John Geer, believes the case slipped through the cracks due to a county department that is severely overburdened. Since Brook’s death, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the excessive caseloads CPS workers are carrying in the hopes that no other child has to suffer the same fate as his granddaughter.

Last week, local news station WHEC did a report on CPS caseloads, revealing that some caseworkers carry as many as 30 to 40 cases, far above the 12 cases recommended by experts like the Child Welfare League of America. Last night, 13WHAM did their own report, with similar findings.

The problem? While John Rabish, who sits on the board of the Federation of Social Workers, the union which represents social workers, says Monroe County’s CPS is in crisis, the Commissioner of Human Services in Monroe County disagrees.

In this 13WHAM investigation, Corinda Crossdale says: “I do not think we can make the assumption that every single case that our caseworkers work with are extraordinarily complicated.” In the WHEC story, she referred to some cases as “cases simply where the family needs help connecting to resources”.

I’m not privy to details about the inner workings of CPS. But I did work for a day care, and we were trained on what to do if we suspected any of our children were experiencing abuse or neglect. There’s a confidential number to call, which immediately begins an investigation. It’s no joke, every call is taken seriously, and even if the report turns out to be unfounded, a thorough investigation  has been set into motion.

cps-investigates-image

The process when CPS investigates a report. From the website http://www.dorightbykids.org/.

According to the county website, state law requires that an investigation “must start within 24 hours of the report, but often starts immediately.” A caseworker is sent to visit the family and talk to everyone involved – parents, extended family, mandated reporters like teachers or day care workers, whoever might have information regarding the situation. If the danger is imminent, action is taken right away. Whether the child stays in the home or not, the investigation continues. There are reports to be written, and court dates to appear at, and meetings to attend, hours and days spent investigating and evaluating and addressing the situation.

Take a moment to imagine the man hours it takes for one person to do this for 20 or 30 or 40 families simultaneously, and you realize very quickly that there are no  uncomplicated cases – “extraordinarily” or otherwise – when a child’s life and health and safety is on the line.

Or you can think about it this way. In 2010, the most recent year statistics were shared on the county website, 7,904 cases of abuse and neglect were reported in Monroe County. That was 21 new reports a day, 365 days a year. And even if a significant number of those cases were unfounded, due diligence needed to be done on each one to ensure that a child’s safety and well being are not in jeopardy.

And while Crossdale does compliment her employees as being “very resilient, very capable caseworkers”, she discounts the fact that they are also very human, and that there are only so many hours in a day for a caseworker to actually do the work, and that overwork on top of the daily exposure to abuse, neglect, and dangerous situations takes a toll on a caseworker’s own health and well being and family life.

Brook Stagles paid the ultimate price for the current situation CPS employees are facing, and kudos to John Geer for speaking out on her behalf, and on behalf of the overburdened, exhausted, defeated employees whose complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe Brook’s voice, crying from the grave, will be the needed catalyst for change.

Because if Crossdale doesn’t stop trying to justify the obvious problems her department has, more children may suffer the same fate – and their blood will be on her hands.

End of rant. For the moment.

Related links:

Save

Save

Why all of the posts all of the sudden?

Just a quick note: if you got numerous notifications today that I’ve posted to the blog, my apologies. As much as I’d like to say that I’ve been writing my little heart out all day, I’m actually just moving some posts over from other blogs and posting drafts, and I forgot that even if I’m backdating the posts subscribers will get a notification.

Again, apologies for the nuisance! You can either ignore the notifications…or take some time to enjoy some very old posts…

Musing on pregnancy, abortion, and becoming a human

(This post originally ran on my blog at Patheos in July 2016)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I was listening to the radio yesterday, something I don’t usually do, addicted as I am to podcasts like “RadioLab” and “Welcome to Nightvale.” But a local talk show was on, and I left it on, because when I do listen to talk radio I make sure to listen to both conservative and liberal perspectives. I like to hear many sides of an issue as I ponder where I stand on it and how my decisions affect other people.

Anyway, this local host was talking to her guest about abortion and she made a comment that I can’t get out of my head. She said that there is only one point in time when two humans occupy the same body – pregnancy – and that if we’ve made a decision that one of those humans is dispensable it’s because we’ve made a decision that one of those lives is more valuable than the other.

Which is kind of a stumbling block to abortion when you’re of the mindset that all lives matter.

Yes, I understand that her comments are rooted in the belief that an unborn baby is a human at the moment of conception vs. a bunch of cells that may one day become a human but aren’t yet.

But there’s a fact about pregnancy that we all can agree on: at some point, two humans occupy the same body.

If you think about it, it’s like something from a science fiction story. Baby, in the womb of the mother, growing, developing, feeding, moving, kicking the woman in the ribs until her chest is numb. And then one day, it escapes from its host in an explosion of blood and fluids, gasping its first breath before going on to live and thrive and generally forget the host that facilitated its life until it needs an advance on its allowance.

But the magic! The miracle! A human inside of another human! A human, who will be born and become an intellectual, thinking, reasoning person, with ideas and thoughts and opinions, whose presence in the world will leave it changed forever, for better or worse.

Even more amazing, we all grew inside the womb of another human. All of us! Me! You! One minute we were nothing, and the next we were human, and regardless of at what point in a pregnancy you believe that happened, it happened inside the body of another human.

Have you ever thought about yourself in that way? Have you ever considered your own mother that way? Not just as the person who cooked and did laundry and told you to clean your room, but as a creature who literally allowed her body to be the incubator so you could eventually become you?

I really don’t have a point to make in this post. I’ve just been musing, as I often do, on the miracle of pregnancy and the alien-like way we make our way into this world, when the rules of time and space are suspended, allowing two living beings to occupy the same space at the same time.

Maybe I’m just giving you a chance to look at things from another perspective.

My dog eats a live bird (musings on animals doing what animals do)

(This originally appeared on my blog at Patheos.com in May 2016.)

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

My dog Bailey was just outside, just hanging out in the grass, enjoying the evening air. She’d been outside maybe ten minutes when I went out to bring her in and saw that she had something pinned to the ground…it was a bird. I called to her, she moved towards me, and the bird jumped away. Bailey went after the bird, pinned it, and let it go. It hopped, she pinned it again. When it flew up about a foot, Bailey leaped up and caught it midair.

And the race was on. I told her to drop the bird, trying not to freak out. The bird was alive, squeaking and flapping its wings. I threw Bailey’s favorite ball in the hope I could distract her long enough to throw the leash on her and get her away, but all she did was run around with the bird, periodically dropping it to yank out feathers and then grabbing it again and taking off, bird bones crunching audibly as she chewed on the run.

My god, the poor bird! I tried to chase Bailey (bad idea). She’d drop the bird, I’d call cheerily and throw the ball again, and she’d start running. I used every attention-getting trick she’d trained with, to no avail, the bird getting smaller and smaller and me getting more and more panicked as the seconds ticked by. Could the bird even be saved now? There was no blood, just feathers flying. Maybe there was still a chance.

Eventually I ran into the house, reached into the fridge, grabbed a handful of mashed potatoes, and ran outside to throw them to the dog. She came running gleefully, but only because she’d already eaten the bird.

THE WHOLE BIRD. The head, the beak, the feet, and most of the feathers. I’d love to tell you what kind of bird it was, but the only thing she didn’t eat were a few feathers and the entrails, which oddly enough were left intact in the grass.

The entire scenario, from the moment I spotted her with the live bird until the time she finally came to me? Maybe two minutes, max. Probably considerably less, although it felt like an eternity.

I called the vet. We’ve just finished more than three weeks of dogs with stomach viruses and diarrhea and antibiotics, and I have no idea what’s going to happen to all of that bird that Bailey just ingested. The vet receptionist told me that dogs usually digest that kind of stuff really well, implying that this was a common thing, dogs eating entire birds. When I asked about the head, the beak, the feet, she simply said, “Yes.” When I pressed her – my dog ate a whole bird – she offered to have the vet call me to reassure me everything would be fine.

Will it be fine? To say that I’m traumatized is an understatement. I watched a bird go from hopping and flapping one minute to feathers and entrails the next, its life taken before my eyes by the animal that I cherish. There wasn’t even any blood; just feathers and that little string of bird guts. My dog did that.

I’m horrified that Bailey didn’t listen to me. She knows these commands cold and I tempted her with her favorite things. She should have listened to me. Then again, I had nothing to offer that could match a live bird. In her mouth.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. A few summers ago, she and Bandit made quick work of the three tiny baby bunnies that had been living in the back yard, bunnies who made the bad choice of hopping around right under the dogs’ noses and flaunting their frailty. It took me weeks to get over the fact that my dogs killed bunnies.

Of course, I understand that this is real life, it’s nature, it’s animals doing what animals do. We have a hawk that often visits our yard; I’ve come outside to find more than one headless sparrow who couldn’t escape the clutches of a bigger, stronger predator.

But at this moment, a few pin feathers still fluttering across the grass, this is too much nature for me. When I came inside after inspecting the yard for any body parts (there were none), Bailey was guzzling down a bowl of water and panting, her tail wagging, she clearly joyful for the hunt and capture she’d just executed. I looked her in the eye and, my voice shaking, whispered, “I can’t believe you just did that.” She stopped wagging and lowered her head a bit, and as our eyes met we both realized that, despite our mutual love and deep emotional connection, she will always be a dog and I a human. She will always eat birds and I will always be traumatized by it.

I reached out to hug her. She nuzzled my neck. I stroked her head and cried.

Bailey is sound asleep at my feet as I write, but I can hear her stomach gurgling, the bird likely making it’s way through her intestines. I’m praying she doesn’t throw up, at least not before darling husband gets home. The last thing I need now is a dog barfing up a bird’s head.