A sad warning for dog owners

Pet Tales

"On May 28 we got the call no pet owner should get," Pamela A. McKlveen wrote in an e-mail. "Our Rottweiler, Buddy ... somehow was forgotten in the back of the van, in a crate, for over four hours. He was unresponsive when he was finally found.

"Thanks to the wonderful care he received" at two veterinary clinics, "it looked as though this big strong dog was going to defy all odds. Despite regaining his neurological functions and fighting the good fight, Buddy died" one day later on May 29. "His organs just could not recover.

Ms.McKlveen and her husband, Russ, want to try to make sure this never happens to another dog. That's why she sent the e-mail, and that's why she talked to me when I telephoned her at her home in Derry, Westmoreland County.

Every spring, news releases go out warning about the danger of leaving pets in cars during warm weather. Doesn't everyone know this? I wonder, as I dutifully include the warnings in Pet Tales. Yet every summer dogs, and sometimes children, are left unattended in hot cars. Some of them die.

Three years ago, I used a desk thermometer to do a very unscientific study in my car parked in our driveway, with windows down. The temperature outside was 76 degrees when I started the experiment at 12:15 p.m. Five minutes later, it was 93 degrees inside the car. At 12:35 p.m. the temperature had climbed to 126 degrees.

Then I forgot to check the thermometer until 3 p.m., when the interior of the car was 145 degrees.

In less than three hours the temperature inside my car had climbed nearly 70 degrees. Buddy was in the hot van for more than four hours after being forgotten by a trainer.

"I can't begin to comprehend what my loving, cherished boy went through," said Ms. McKlveen said. "This was a needless, thoughtless death."

Their time with Buddy was all too brief.

The couple adopted him in March from a shelter in central Pennsylvania. The 100-pound dog was very loving, but rather hard to handle.

"He had been returned to the shelter twice," Ms. McKlveen said, but she and husband saw his potential to be a great pet.

They took him home, where he got along well with Honey, 5, their Rottweiller-mix who is also a rescue dog. They worked with Buddy for a month and then sent him to a professional trainer for a four-week program.

Buddy lived with the trainer and the McKlveen's visited him each week. The trainer worked with Buddy and then supervised Pamela and Russ while they handled Buddy.

"He was coming along beautifully," Ms. McKlveen said.

Buddy was in his fourth week when disaster struck. The trainer put him and some other dogs in a van and took them to a grooming shop to socialize them, something she had done before.

Somehow, someone forgot to get Buddy out of the van on May 28. When the trainer found him, she cooled him with tepid water and rushed him to the vet, Ms. McKlveen said.

She has nothing but praise for the care and compassion Buddy received at a veterinary clinic in Murrysville and later at an emergency clinic in Monroeville. The trainer paid Buddy's $2,100 veterinary bills. Ms. McKlveen doesn't want to name the trainer because "she is just devastated."

There are other dangers in the dog days of summer.

Dogs overheat in the summer faster than we do because they can only sweat through the pads of their feet and their tongues, which is why dog tongues "drip" so much in very hot weather.

So be careful out there, and don't take long dog walks or runs in the extreme heat of mid-day. Hot dogs that are wheezing and panting can be cooled down by immersing them, belly deep, in a tub of tepid water. Gradually add cooler water.

A quicker fix is to put a cold, wrung-out washcloth on the dog's head and/or a wet towel on the dog's body. Pet supply companies sell dog vests that can be filled with ice cubes. Always make sure that dogs have constant access to water beecause dogs can die of dehydration.

Today is Animal Rescue Day

If you're reading this column with your morning coffee, you still have time to get to a really nice 11 a.m.-2 p.m. event today at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh's North Side.

It's Animal Rescue Day, and rescue people will be in the Aviary Rose Garden Tent for a meet and greet, which will hopefully result in some new homes for homeless animals. Attending will be the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Hello Bully (a rescue group for pit bulls) and Going Home Greyhounds (volunteers find new homes for retired racing dogs).

Today's outdoor free-flight bird shows are at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and you can see the 11 penguins in their new arena, Penguin Point.

National Aviary admission is $10 adults, $9 seniors and $8.50 for children 2 and older. Babies under 2 get in for free.

Go to www.aviary.org or call 412-323-7235 for further information.

Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.