Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Dog Days

Bluffton Today column
June 22, 2011

We are reared to use ritual language and further taught to understand that in some environments a conventionalized response is expected. For example, I say, “please” when I want something and “thank you” when I receive that something. I greet you with a, “Hi, how are you?” and you respond with, “Well, and you?” That exchange is conventional, meaning we expect folks to stick to the script. Believe you me, if I ask you how you are I am most certainly looking for the standard response, not a seven and a half minute diatribe on your life. (Sorry to burst your over-sharing bubble.)

These ritual language cues are determined by your language environment and learned when we are young. My sister has two daughters born and raised in the south, so although one might think that the girls would be all sweet and southern they definitely have some Jersey in them. Why? Because they spend the majority of their time with Mom, Grandma, and Aunt “Nortney” and if you know us, you know we walk the line when it comes to sweet and southern. (My sister is cringing right now.)

Bottom line is, a lot of time, we say what we think we should say, not what we really want to say. And when you have absolutely nothing to say well, you talk about the weather.

Sweet Mary, it is stinkin’ hot. Not exactly a news flash. But I am melting. It is schlep to work, stick to your office chair, escape early, shuffle out to hide the sweat stains on you rear, go home, crank up the air conditioning, lay under a swirling ceiling fan, while tucking ice cubes into your undergarments hot.

Now, imagine you are covered in fur. And chained to a tree. In a yard with no shade. Your water bowl is empty. And your owner (I won’t even consider calling this torturous human your “parent”) won’t be home for hours.

Do you see where I am going with this? During the dog days of summer it is imperative that we keep our pups in mind. If you leave your pet outside in this heat, you are torturing you pet. Yes, torture! Dr. Ben Parker, of Coastal Veterinary Clinic had this to say, in a recent Facebook post earlier this week …

“I see dogs suffering and dying from heat stokes every year when it gets as hot out as it is today, even from well-meaning pet owners. Older dogs, puppies, dogs with chronic diseases, and short-nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc) are all very susceptible to the heat even on short walks. My advice is to keep your dogs inside and limit any activity to early morning. It is too hot and too humid even for evening walks. A dog’s body temperature will rise to 107+ degrees in minutes.”

Can you imagine what 107 degrees must feel like? Not sure? Ok, put on your long johns, mittens, and winter coat and go sit in your car. In the driveway. On the hot asphalt. Realize there is nary a cold beer in sight. Stretch to reach that water bottle behind the seat, only to feel defeat. Wilt a little. You won’t last a minute.

My dog, Darby, has his own ritual language -- learned based on his environment, being reared by me. When I get home from work, it can only mean one thing. It’s walk time. He shakes his hind quarters, picks up his favorite toy, runs a few circles around the family room to limber up and heads to the door. He is ready to walk and whimpering if I am not a step behind.

Unfortunately Darby has been disappointed a lot over the last week or so. But, I’m not willing to risk his life or mine for a calorie burn.

It’s hot. Be smart. I want to see you again, so I can say, “Hey, how you doin’?”

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