The red dogs on the chart show the huge jump of canine deaths from heat-exhaustion. I have found a few things that are really interesting. The first thing that crosses everyone’s mind when something horrid like a child or dog left in a car happens. People say “I could never do that”. Apparently, according to neurobiologists, actually we all are at risk for something awful like that, due to the increase in multitasking with our smart-phones, and the pace of modern life. As my mom has always said “there but for the grace of God go I”. How true.
Several things seemed to crop up in each case: Fatigue. Police and first responders have terrible schedules, working night shift, sleeping during the day…it’s easy to see how a mistake could happen. Another phenomenon was that people working a ‘regular schedule’, for instance they drive to work the same way every day….but one day they didn’t, and forgot the living being in the back. Yet another thing came up adding to the two factors above…a quiet rider. If the child is asleep, if the dog is quiet or asleep….it’s much easier to ‘forget’ they are in the back.
Perhaps those who are in the K-9 unit should be on a more reasonable schedule, to reduce fatigue of the human and the K-9 officer. Perhaps if the human officer is literally too tired to work, he and his dog need to take a personal day.
Psychologists studying the syndrome are calling it “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” or FBS. I guess that forgotten dogs would be FDS? Or FCS? for canine? Whatever we call it, the reasons for it in psychological literature seem to dovetail with why it happens with our K-9 friends and workers.
I do have a suggestion, at least for at risk canines, such as K-9 cops. Teach them to push a button or sensor in the back of the car. It could be portable, if for some reason the car is out of commission. Remember, these are dogs that are smarter than the average run of the mill canine…and the average, run of the mill canine is pretty darn sharp if there is something motivating him (food usually!)
When I had my first service dog, cells phones (and tower coverage) still weren’t that reliable, since we live in a mountainous area. So, we bought a big button phone. Each button was half the size of my palm. We programmed each button to “911”. Worked like a charm. We called it the “Jet phone”. He would push any of the numbers, after knocking the handset off the receiver. A 911 operator would answer, and we already had it on record with them that I had a seizure disorder…so if they heard hot panting in the receiver, not to worry. It wasn’t a prank or nasty call, but Jet calling for help for me.
Within just a few years, the phone was obsolete. We trained Jet to bring the cell phone to me if I didn’t already have it on me or in my purse. Frax retrieves the cell phone and brings it to me just like Jet learned to do.
So, if there was a ‘big button’ it could do all sorts of things. The dog is getting hot, he hits the button, the windows go down, the light’s start to flash, the horn starts to honk, or if the officer carries a smart-phone, a pre-programmed emergency call would go through to him to go immediately to check on his canine.
Similarly, the K-9 could be trained to open the back door. Our mobility dogs can do all sorts of doors, refrigerators, handicap doors, sliding doors, pocket doors, and even the old round-knob doors if a piece of braided cloth is put around it.
If you wanted to get by on the cheap, train the K-9 to jump through the middle of the seat-back and have him push and honk the horn!
Babies are more difficult to figure out what to do, but it suddenly came to me. Sensors. In the child’s clothing, already sewn in, so there is not an extra step for a sleep-deprived parent to think of. If the child’s temperature reaches a certain point~ an emergency call already pre-programed to a smart-phone, and/or also programmed to start the horn honking would start. And no, I have no idea how the sensors would be constructed, you IT wizards out there, let me know how it goes so I can purchase the first sale on the stock for your new company!
It’s really an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people. Folks can see themselves deprived of sleep, working odd hours and making poor choices. With either a dog or a child. For now, I would suggest that all police departments have one rule~ if the human isn’t in the car, neither is the dog. Period. That solves the issue, at least in the short-term. Most Americans are very accepting of service dogs, and won’t give the officers any flack. If he needs to run in somewhere (even the bathroom!) his dog ought to be taught how to handle basic situations like that. If the dog isn’t, just train him for this little bit of extra that might save his life. My first thing I had to do as we drove home with Jet, was go to the bathroom. There was a woman in the handicap stall, and all the other stalls were open, but really small….um, what do you do with a big, fluffy, waggly tail?
Finally the woman came out, apologized for tying up the stall, and we were able to complete our mission. Eventually, with some practice, I discovered if I had Jet sit facing the commode, his long tail would a. curl around his feet, or b. go out under the door. It worked for us anyhow. (I think he wondered what was wrong with these poor humans that kept peeing in these water bowls, instead of going outside, like any other reasonable animal would!