A Dog’s Life . . .

Whangarei Report - - Opinion -

“IT’S a dog’s life” is a 16 cen­tury phrase re­fer­ring to how dogs worked hard, slept out­side, were fed scraps and gen­er­ally had a short life, way back then.

Nowa­days though, dogs are part of the fam­ily, giv­ing com­pan­ion­ship, re­duc­ing stress, lead­ing us on ad­ven­tures and help­ing us with jobs we couldn’t pos­si­bly do alone! Today’s dogs are gen­er­ally well-fed, groomed, pam­pered , sleep inside and live long lives — and for over 20 years, dogs were our life.

We ran a dog board­ing busi­ness and see­ing the range of dog sit­u­a­tions, af­fec­tions, re­la­tion­ships and be­hav­iours al­ways made life in­ter­est­ing. Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est is the range of ways that dogs were de­liv­ered to and picked up from their holiday. We used to have the slo­gan “En­abling dogs and their own­ers to have a happy holiday” and the start of that holiday was the dog’s re­la­tion­ship with the ve­hi­cle in which it was de­liv­ered — but more about that later.

The re­la­tion­ship with our ca­nine com­pan­ions runs deep and emo­tional for many peo­ple who own dogs. They know many things about us which we find hard to un­der­stand but are grate­ful for. A re­cent Read­ers Digest ar­ti­cle iden­ti­fied a num­ber of fac­tors that dogs know about us. They know when we are sad, mad or sus­pi­cious. They can sense our in­ten­tions and they know when we do not like some­one. Dogs know when you’ve had a fight with your part­ner or when you need pro­tec­tion. They seem to sense when you are not feel­ing well and when you are burned-out.

Dogs are the only an­i­mal which ac­tively seek out eye con­tact with hu­mans. It’s been said that when a dog looks at you, they are hug­ging you with their eye — and im­por­tantly for us — dogs know when you are go­ing away and when you are com­ing home.

It was a source of sat­is­fac­tion when own­ers told us that a dog gets ex­cited when they turned into our drive­way. It was also fas­ci­nat­ing to watch a dog’s sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment on the day the own­ers are re­turn­ing and the ex­cited bark­ing when they hear their car ar­rive — but now, back to the dog in the car.

The mode of trans­port for the dog’s de­liv­ery var­ied from the ute where the dog was chained to the deck to be­ing put into the boot of the car or sta­tion wagon, to a trav­el­ling cage. An in­creas­ing num­ber were strapped into their own re­straint but for most, the dog was com­pletely un­re­strained in the car. Many small dogs got on to their own­ers’ lap and for a num­ber, the lap the dog oc­cu­pied was the driver’s.

We had a cou­ple of in­ci­dents where the dog leapt on to the rear seat, the owner shut the door and then the dog jumped to the front seat and locked the door with the keys still in the ig­ni­tion.

I guess there is noth­ing more ex­as­per­at­ing than an owner try­ing to coax a grinning dog to put its paws on the door lock. There’s only one thing for it then and that’s to call the AA.

But it’s not just the frus­tra­tion in play here, but the po­ten­tial danger. A dog locked in a hot car with the win­dows up in the mid­dle of sum­mer can heat up by 10C in 10 min­utes and 20C in 30 min­utes. The dog gets anx­ious as it can only sweat through its tongue and its paws. The more it pants the more it heats up and the dog can slip into a coma within 20 min­utes.

Over the last two months of De­cem­ber and Jan­uary 2016, the AA has had a 20 per cent in­crease in res­cues of dogs and chil­dren from locked cars com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. For dogs that is around 60 per month av­er­age over the whole year with the highest be­ing 95 in Au­gust 2015. Most of these dogs were left in cars while the owner went shop­ping. The trend is alarm­ing and the risk isn’t greatly re­duced by leav­ing win­dows slightly open.

But it’s the un­re­strained na­ture of dogs in cars which causes the big­gest col­lec­tive risk. An un­re­strained dog can be­come a deadly pro­jec­tile in the event of a sud­den stop or crash. It is es­ti­mated that an 11kg dog in a 50kmh crash be­comes a 453kg mass fly­ing un­con­trol­lably inside the ve­hi­cle. A larger dog at a higher speed can be like fall­ing from a fourth story bal­cony.

Most dog own­ers take their dogs with them in the car at some stage. In a re­cent study three out of 10 dog own­ers ad­mit­ted to be­ing dis­tracted by the dog while driv­ing.

This dis­trac­tion can vary shift­ing at­ten­tion, to us­ing their hands to pre­vent the dog climb­ing into the front seat to, al­most one in 5 own­ers ad­mit­ting to driv­ing with the dog in their lap. And let’s not for­get the scourge of today’s gen­er­a­tion- the selfie. Al­most five per­cent of driv­ers ad­mit­ted to tak­ing pic­tures of them­selves and their dog while be­hind the wheel.

Many Euro­pean coun­tries such as France, Ger­many and the UK re­quire that dogs must be prop­erly re­strained when trav­el­ling in a car. Whether this means stay­ing be­hind a dog grille in the back of a ve­hi­cle, rid­ing in a crate or wear­ing a seat belt is left up to the owner.

In­ter­est­ingly, Skoda is one of the first auto mak­ers to of­fer a range of safety ac­ces­sories to at­tract dog-lov­ing mo­torists to the brand. Skoda’s port­fo­lio in­cludes seat­belt, a ver­ti­cal trunk grille that stops the dog climb­ing into the cab and a grille which also di­vides the lug­gage area into two with the dog in one and the suit­cases in the other.

Dogs are our best friend, but we don’t want un­re­strained dogs to be the source of our demise.

Drive safely, en­joy your driv­ing and share the road.

‘An

un­re­strained dog can be­come a deadly pro­jec­tile in the event of a sud­den stop or

crash.

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