Hot Cars, Hot Dogs

My brother and I conducted an experiment recently on heat build-up in a car. We didn’t plan to, but what happened while he was waiting for me in a parking lot proved instructive. It was a pleasant summer trees shading roadway so hot cars, hot dogsday, a nice breeze, no humidity and a temperature of 22o Celsius.

The dogs weren’t with us but, with that temperature, I wouldn’t have worried about leaving them while I went into a store. Instead, I left my brother in the car. After maybe 20 minutes, when I was leaving the checkout, my brother came in. “Too hot to sit in that sun” he said. He had been in the driver’s seat and the sun was hitting the windshield. Even with the windows completely down, it got unbearably hot. “When I got out, it was 10 degrees cooler outside.”  Wow.

My dogs ride in the backseat and stay there when I’m not in the car. If I have to leave them in the car on a sunny day, I park so the sun is not hitting the back window. But it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. If the front can heat up quickly enough to bother a full-grown man with windows wide open and a decent breeze blowing through, it must be just as hot in the back seat.

sun shade in windshieldSo it’s not temperature alone, humidity, breeze or lack of, it’s sun hitting glass. I wonder if windshield shades help keep the interior temperature down? I’ve thought people use them just to keep the front seats from getting burning hot. If they do that, do they keep the whole space cooler?

Never leaving your dog in a car on a hot day is not a realistic thing to ask all the time all summer. You are going to combine dog park outings or walks with other errands. Nothing wrong with that, I think. So instead of having police time occupied with releasing dogs from overheated cars, change the attitude to parking spots.

Trees give shaded parking at edge of parking lotMall lots often have trees along thoroughfares for the sake of appearance. Redesign the lot so the trees are in the middle of the parking area, not along the roadway. One side of the tree or the other will have shade. They can be anywhere in the lot. If you have no room for trees, make parking spots by the side of the building and build a canopy.

Most malls and streets already have areas that could easily provide shaded parking spots. But usually they are marked as “no parking” or “loading zone.” I’m sure there are easy ways of converting part of those areas to shaded parking. Mark them “for cars with dogs”. Unlike other special needs spots, they don’t need to be near the  Afternoon building shade at Sussex Co-opentrance or have special curbs. We just need the social will. That, after all, is how we got “handicapped” and “expectant mothers” reserved spots. There’s no point in making dogs suffer and charging good owners with animal cruelty when simple design changes can alleviate a real problem. Shaded parking isn’t a complete solution; summer heat and dogs in cars still don’t mix well. But it would help.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 22/12

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0 thoughts on “Hot Cars, Hot Dogs”

  1. You make good points here. I’m always looking for shade when I take my dog with me in the summer. But when I can’t find it, I use my 2nd key to lock up and I leave the car running with the AC on. When that’s necessary I usually park far away where the car won’t be noticed and I turn the headlights off. Unconscionable re the environment and a idling the car is illegal, I know, but I sometimes do this for short times with when my dog absolutely insists on coming along. He loves, loves, loves the car and is so disappointed when I leave him at home. (Yet another reason I prefer all other seasons to summer.)

    1. Hi Yvonne, and thanks. I’ve seen cars left running with dogs inside and figured that’s what was happening. It is a way around it, but not an ideal one. I’m afraid mine would knock the hand brake off – Charlie has done that, fortunately only when it was on flat ground and in gear. Yes, summer can be so lovely, but it’s so much easier with dogs who love going in cars when it’s over!

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