That Doggy in the Window

Over the last week, I’ve been taking my girls Tsuki, my 11 year old Schnoodle, and CJ, my 8 month of Chihuahua to the dog park on a daily basis. They love it, they get great exercise, and CJ gets to work on being well socialized with other dogs. Today’s trip was planned to coincide around a tutoring appointment Alyssa had. I would drive her to her appointment, go pick up a free drink from Starbucks, hang out for a bit, before picking her back up again and heading to the park.

CJ the Chihuahua

Grey Schnoodle Looking skeptical
Everything was going as planned until Crohn’s once again got in the way. I had to go to the bathroom, but had both my dogs in the car. Stuck and desperate, I blasted the air conditioning until I parked, then wrote out a quick note for any worried passersby: “Bathroom Emergency. Dogs have fan. Back in < 2 min”. I cracked the two front windows about an inch, enough to let some air flow, but not enough to let my small dogs escape into traffic. In addition, I left the doors unlocked, just in case.

I ran for the bathroom and did my business. From where I was, I could hear it when Tsuki, and then CJ started barking loudly. I finished up as quick as I could, all told about a minute, maybe a minute and a half. As soon as I got out of the bathroom I was accosted by an older woman, who asks me if those are my dogs.

I could already sense that this was about to be trouble, but I answered yes.

She starts in right away telling me that I should crack the windows much wider. I tried to explain that I had done so, specifically because the air in the car was cold when I left for the washroom. I wanted there to be flowing air, but not so much as to let all the cold air escape. Moreover, since my dogs are small, opening the window too much creates a risk that they can squeeze out and end up in traffic. She didn’t bother listening but instead started in on how irresponsible I was and how she almost broke my window.

At this point, I was annoyed. After going out of my way to make sure my dogs were safe, once again I was being threatened by someone who decided they knew better. I responded calmly “and if you had, I would have called the police. Especially since I left my door unlocked just in case something happened that kept me from getting to them in time.”

The lady by this point decided that I wasn’t apologetic enough and started in on yelling at me. This mind you is right in front of my car, where both my dogs are alarmed at the fact that their mommy is being verbally assaulted by some stranger. Finally, she starts in on the threats of reporting me for animal cruelty. Annoyed I told her that if she did, I would just explain to them that I left the dogs with a fan, water, and the window cracked. If she had a problem, she should talk to starbucks to make it possible for people to bring their dogs in when they need to use the restroom.

I get in my car and notice that she is still staring at me and dialing a number furiously. Convinced that she is calling the humane society on me, I try again to explain, calmly: “I have crohn’s disease which sometimes forces me to use the bathroom without warning…”

Before I could even finish, she cut me off saying she didn’t care about my problems, continuing dialing the phone. Furious I shut the door, and just ignored her.

This isn’t the first time this had happened to me, hence the note. I travel with my dogs, and while I do my best to arrange it so I don’t have to leave them alone, sometimes my crohn’s has other plans.

Let’s be clear: Leaving dogs in the car on a hot day is dangerous. The temperature inside the car goes up fairly quickly. If you have any other option, do not leave your pets alone in the car. If you, like me, don’t have the option it’s important to make sure the windows are open a bit, that your pets have access to water, and if possible, leave a fan going in the car to keep the air moving.  That being said, even responsible car owners have to use the restroom sometimes. There are ways to leave your pets in the vehicle safely, but at that point, the bigger risk become well-meaning people who put your pets in more danger.

If you find a dog in a car on a hot day, follow these steps before breaking a window.

  1. Check the dog itself:
  • Is it lethargic? Breathing heavily? Are they passed out and not responding to taps on the window? Are they vomiting or have they thrown up?
    If yes, then that dog has been in the car too long and is experiencing signs of distress and heat stroke. See the below to find the appropriate steps necessary.
  • If not, however, then there is a good chance that the owners just ran inside for a moment. Breaking a window is premature and could put the dog at more risk than just leaving it would.
  1. Touch the window. Is it cold? Then the owners probably haven’t been gone very long.
  2. Are there signs anywhere in or on the car regarding the dog? Someone who bothered to leave a sign is probably aware of the danger and has only left their dog because they had no choice and will be right back.
  3. Stay with the car, that way you will know when the owner gets back and you can move along.
  4. Have the store page the owner of the vehicle.

What if the animals are showing signs of severe distress?

  1. Call the SPCA and report an animal emergency, follow their instructions.
  2. Have the store page the owner of the vehicle
  3. Check to see if the door is unlocked first.

Note: barking is not necessarily a sign of distress. A dog that is alert, jumping up, barking, and otherwise acting like a normal dog is not suffering from heat stroke.


Breaking a window can actually be extremely dangerous.

It can cause the animals severe distress as they are dealing with a stranger who is breaking into their territory. Tsuki for example gets anxious around people, and even tapping on the windows causes her distress. Stressing out an animal is not helping.

Breaking a window leads to broken glass, which a dog who is currently overwhelmed either by the heat or by the fact that a stranger just broke into their space is likely to hurt themselves on. You aren’t doing the animal much good if you cause it a serious injury in the name of helping.

Breaking a car window is still an act of vandalism and you risk problems with the police regardless of your intentions.

I love animals, and am a believer that they should be treated with respect, dignity, and not harmed. But I also realize that sometimes situations come up that are outside the owners control.  I believe that most establishments would do well to relax some of the restrictions surrounding animals. If I had been allowed to, I would have gladly brought my girls into the bathroom with me and avoided the car problem altogether.

Be safe this summer, but also be reasonable.

By the way, when I got in the car, the air was still cold from the blasted air conditioning. My dogs however were both anxious and upset over having watched someone yell at their mommy. To the woman who felt the need to harass me, thanks for distressing my animals rather and acting all holier than thou rather than actually paying attention to what was going on.

That Doggy in the Window

6 thoughts on “That Doggy in the Window

  1. 1

    I occasionally have to travel with my cats on a road trip long enough to require a couple of bathroom breaks. If we’re traveling in the summer, the car can get hot very fast, and cats are stressed enough just by the ordinary process of travel. My car has a “valet key”, so I can use it to keep the engine running while I use the regular key fob to lock the doors. I leave the cats in the car with the A/C running. So far it has worked out well.

    (I keep the cats in a mesh enclosure in the back — otherwise they’d be under my feet — and they travel with a litter box and fresh water. They hate it, but sometimes it is necessary.)

  2. DJ

    When did it become allowable to lecture and berate people for their actions? This seems so much more common than it used to be. You had done everything you could to protect the dogs. Like you say she could have waited for your return and, seeing they were okay, moved on. There really does seem to have been a shift in the last ten years in which people feel empowered to provide their opinion on other people’s behavior.

    Several years ago I was taking my 22 year old cat to the vet. Always talkative, as she went deaf she became louder and louder. so she was howling at the top of her lungs in the car. At a stop light, someone knocked on my window to yell at me about the cat. “What are you doing to her? Why is she yelling? Have you hurt that cat?” The person was actually blocking me from being able to move my car. I reached a point where I said I’ve had her for 22 years. do you want her? The guy finally backed off.

    It is one thing for people to be concerned. It is another for them to assume they know everything and not wait for an explanation. Grrr.

    1. 3.1

      I feel like a lot of people are frustrated about the state of affairs and want to do good. They don’t want to make the effort to learn about how their own actions and words contribute to say ableism, racism, sexism, etc. because it’s too hard. They look for opportunities where they don’t have to do much but can come out feeling superior. In this woman’s mind she saved two dogs from death and reported their abusive owner and is a doggy hero. She can pat herself on the back for being a do-gooder.

      The irony of course being that suck people often notice low risk opportunities rather than serious issues that need help. So more likely to scold a parents with a clearly healthy and happy child for not paying enough attention, or letting them play with a smart phone, than to notice that the homeless man they dropped a coin in front of without even looking at is actually in a coma and not passed out drunk like they assume.

      Of course, I may also just be feeling cynical today.

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