By Teri DiMarino
Summer’s sweltering heat comes as a welcome relief from the grips of the tough winter that much of the United States suffered through recently. Snow suits have given way to swim suits and we slather ourselves with sun screen instead of sweaters, jackets, gloves and hats. Our pets enjoy the summer too as they get back into the routine of leisurely walks and summertime adventures. But with the warmer weather and humidity also comes the stark reality that summer heat can kill. Innocently left in cars, children and pets become the unwitting victims of this silent and devastating killer. Overheating of children and pets is an avoidable tragedy that we all need to be acutely aware of; especially this time of year.
According to www.noheatstroke.org, 645 children have died in hot cars since the organization first started keeping track of this tragedy in 1998. That is an average of 37 per year, with 8 already recorded in the U.S. as of June of this year. But while there are statistics available for the human death toll, who is keeping track of the many pets who die in this tragic manner? Unfortunately there are no numbers documenting the number of pets who meet their end in this heartbreaking way.
The majority of the unfortunate human deaths were due to forgetfulness. It’s early morning and a weary parent straps their still half-asleep child into their car seat and proceeds to drive to work, forgetting to drop off the slumbering child at daycare or school. The napping youngster in the back is forgotten about until it is too late. I cannot imagine the pain these people have to live with for the rest of their lives.
With dogs, it plays out a bit differently. Many times a dog owner will take “Buffy” with them for a short ride while they run into the store “for just a minute” and, because “just a minute” is NEVER “just a minute” they get caught up in conversation or shopping and, temporarily, forget about Buffy in the backseat. Well, heatstroke on a warm summer day happens very quickly. The pet is left in the car with the window cracked open a bit. Even if they do not forget about Buffy, the owner may truly believe that this will give the pet enough ventilation to avoid a problem, but they are wrong! Very wrong! The temperature in a closed car can climb over 30 degrees within 15 minutes. This is enough to stress, and potentially kill, the average pet. Simply stated, if you are going to take a short car ride or run a quick errand, LEAVE BUFFY HOME!
With that said, a group of pet industry authors recently banded together and launched a Facebook campaign to help pet owners and professionals alike, become more cognizant of the real dangers of heatstroke. The Facebook page, “Canine Heatstroke Awareness” was created and June 13 has been deemed “Canine Heatstroke Awareness Day”.
Originally launched in 2014 “Pet Heatstroke Awareness Day” was the brainchild of Mary Oquendo and Debi Hilly. In late-May of this year Mary and Debi were running out of time and ideas to spread the word further prior to the June 13, 2015; the first anniversary of Pet Heatstroke Awareness Day. A quick Facebook post requesting help was answered by Ali Franklin of Groomers Mall. Ali embraced the project and she put out a request to the authors of the industry, requesting articles that would be interesting to the general public and pet professionals alike. Articles began coming in and the Facebook page began taking shape. This was a very time-sensitive project with only a few weeks to put everything together. While some of the authors were unable to produce an article on such short notice, many did. Others shared their blog links, which already had articles addressing the problem.
June 13 came and Ali Franklin launched the Facebook page “Canine Heatstroke Awareness”. She initially put it out to their Groomers Mall Facebook page. It immediately went out to all 3,800 of the people linked to their Facebook page and then continued on to another 65,000 of their “friends”. It proceeded to be shared by another 1,200 individuals and has been moving forward ever since; having been shared by many industry companies and individuals. This was an amazing demonstration of the power of social media.
Articles and blogs included stories of heatstroke tragedies and successes, as well as a plethora of information on the recognition and treatment of heatstroke among our furry friends. Initially aimed at informing the general public, it took on another element among professionals, which is the awareness and proper use of any cage drying in our salons. My mantra is “a piece of equipment is only as good as the operator” and it is our hope that pet groomers around the world are cognizant and careful with the pets left in their care.
Speaking briefly with Ali Franklin at a recent show, she expressed her amazement in the project. She took on the project, not really knowing how it was going to play out. Coordinating the authors was like “herding cats”, which is something that really doesn’t surprise me. But she managed to get it all to work. She coordinated the effort, launched the page, sat back, and watched it happen.
“The outpouring of participation and interest in this area is just one example of how hungry the groomers are for information that they can share with their clients.” said Ali. “And, we can do it all through Social Media.”
Authors sharing their input, articles and blogs included Mary Oquendo and Debi Hilly (the concept originators), Carol Visser, Ellen Erlich, Barbara Bird, Daryl Conner, Christine Sertzel and me. Of course there is Ali Franklin to thank for her coordination efforts as well as all of the other companies and individuals who helped share the site and spread the information. We thank each and every one of you! We all look forward to expanding the effort and making the entire month of June, 2016 “Canine Heatstroke Awareness Month”. It is our sincere hope that our effort will save lives. That, alone, makes it all worthwhile.