I have spent much of my life not minding my own business to the chagrin of those who live in a “mind your own business” kind of world. Unfortunately, when I see someone in trouble or an injustice, though I desperately attempt to look the other way or keep my mouth shut, I simply can’t. It’s un-Renae like.
What happened today is not meant to share a heroic deed…no it is not – it is to tell you that we can all, in choosing to not look the other way, make a difference, or save a life, or even, the life of a dog. We are all in this together.
I was simply going into Ralphs for a carton of milk, when I noticed an elderly woman park her car next to mine and roll her window down a few inches before going into the store. This would have been ordinary except, she left her dog…in the car…on a hot day. Granted it is only 80 degrees outside, but it is well over 100 degrees in a car and dogs don’t have sweat glands and are covered in fur; a known recipe for a quick death or brain damage for any animal.
I didn’t know what to do. In my mind I was running toward her yelling “Hey lady, you can’t leave your dog in the car! It’s too hot out!”But my mouth wasn’t moving. “What if she yells at me and we get into a screaming match in front of Luckys? What if she’s just running in and out for two minutes and her dog really isn’t in danger? What if…” I looked at my watch. 11:30 a.m. Too hot for a dog….in a car…on a hot day. I decided to give it five minutes. 11:35 a.m. hotter yet. I reluctantly called 911, was put into the Sherriff’s emergency line, who transferred me to San Ramon emergency, who informed me this wasn’t the right number to be calling, who then transferred me to Animal Control. “Maam it’s only been five minutes.” I was losing my cool, in more ways then one, although now it had been ten minutes. Too hot for a dog in a car, windows down or not.
“Have you sat in a car for five minutes in this heat?” I pleaded. “Well I can send a car out but I need your name and number and it is going to take them a while to get there and she will probably be gone by then.” I responded with “Just forget it, I’ll take care of it myself.” The minutes were ticking by quickly and much too fast for a dog in a car. I went into true Renae mode of jumping into the fire when no one else seemed to be able to; a mode I’m not sure I like, but sometimes serves a greater purpose. I walked into the store, and to my relief there was a fireman in full uniform. I rushed towards him. “Sorry, he said, but I’ll have to put in a call to dispatch and you will get the same result as if you had called it in yourself.” My fantasy of him rushing out to the car with a superman cape, yanking the locked door open and rescuing this little dog was quickly dosed with reality. If I don’t handle it, no one else will.
Who would have thought rescuing an animal from a car would be so difficult? And should I really be involved? Yes, I should! Someone has to be!
I spotted the woman standing in line at the check-out, hunched over her cart, looking sweet as could be. I took a deep breath and decided to handle this with…love. “Maam” I said gently. “It’s really hot outside and you left your dog in the car.” “I rolled the window down” she responded, flustered. “It’s still too hot, even with the window down, I said softly, not wanting to put her on the defensive. It is hard for anyone to not be put on the defensive when they are approached with the criticism of a stranger. She left her cart standing there and began to walk towards the front doors of the store, obviously annoyed with me. “Maybe you could leave the dog home next time” I begged. “I always take him in my car and it’s never a problem!” she replied. “But it’s much hotter in a car for a dog because they have fur” I tried to explain. But she cut me off at the pass and said, what I would expect of anyone who thinks it’s no big deal to leave a dog in a car for a few minutes on a hot day. “I only left him for three minutes!”I pulled out my phone, looked at the time and said “Actually, it’s 11:42. You left him in the car at 11:30. I know you must love your dog, and you probably don’t know, but twelve minutes is too long…for a dog…in a car…on a hot day.
I didn’t want it to end this way, not with me ruining an old woman’s day. I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had offended and embarrassed a woman who truly did not know. All I was trying to do was help, and then the idea struck...
“You go get your groceries and let me watch your dog outside” I said. She looked at me with distrust. “Really, I can watch your dog and you can go in and take your time. It's no problem.”
“You aren’t going to hurt my dog are you?” she asked.
“Maam, I’m a dog lover or I never would have gone to this extreme, and you need groceries, and I have time.”
And so, I stood in front of the store, in the shade, with her lovely little dog and when the woman came out of the store she was not angry, but relieved. I told her there are a lot of dog lovers in the world that can help her…but you simply can’t leave a dog….in a car….on a hot day. Then I gave her a hug and whispered in her ear, “It's okay" I said. "We are all in this together.”
She was delighted, I was relieved, and her dog was happy.
On that note, please don't mind your own business. Say something if you see a dog in a car on a hot day. Get involved, even when you doubt yourself, at the worst, you can always apologize later. We all have the power to make a difference. After all, we are all in this...together.