By Jeffery Robichaud
Sorry loyal readers for our lack of posts for the last couple of weeks. Mashing up my love of Sergio Leone films and Nat King Cole tunes, I give you the The Lazy, the Hazy and the Crazy (or how I spent my summer vacation).
No this won’t be a treatise on our lack of success in motivating the kids to drop their devices and pick up books. We did a stay-cation this year. Instead of heading off to the beach to visit my folks, they visited us in Kansas City. We spent lots of time at the pool, checked out a couple of movies, hit a ball-game, basically beach bums without the beach. This laziness paid off (not just in our wallets) but also on our impact on the environment, most notably carbon emissions. I used a Carbon Footprint Calculator to figure out what effect our stay-cation decision had on the environment. My folks flying to Kansas City instead of the four of us flying to North Carolina saved 2.18 metric tons of CO2. Travel from the airport to just north of Myrtle Beach plus all of our daily trips to and from the beach saved us an estimated additional 1.53 metric tons (unfortunately we use two vehicles because of all of the beach paraphernalia). We saved almost four metric tons of carbon dioxide! I’m not sure I can get away with that excuse next year so to make it back to the beach I’ll have to find some other ways to minimize my family’s footprint so we stay at least neutral if not reduce it once again.
We happened to attend our local minor league ball club’s game on the 4th of July and had the misfortune of driving back home at night through the haze of spent fireworks which settle in our valley. Hard to believe that the haze through which we drove was once the type of air quality that some parts of our country experienced even into late last century. The early part of the summer has been relatively mild for us in Kansas City and throughout most of the Midwest, but it just started to heat up over the last two weeks. As we approach the end of July and August, air quality is likely to become more of an issue. and those with respiratory conditions may need to take precautions. You can find out about the current Air Quality in your area by visiting Airnow.gov.
I also got to spend alot of quality time with Red and the Big M our crazy dogs (well only Red is crazy). Both are pound puppies who around this time each year get to spend a couple weeks at the wonderful Elkhound Ranch. With my folks in town they got to stay home with us which was great for them except on the 4th of July (which I am convinced they believe must be the Apocalypse every year). Unfortunately there is something crazier than the colorful pictures on the fountains and mortars at the fireworks tents…I’m talking about irresponsible dog owners. We have all seen a crazy individual, leaving their poor pooch locked in a hot box of a car while they hit the grocery store. Hopefully this becomes less and less prevalent, but check out some other heat-related tips from the Dog Whisperer himself:
Running or hiking is great exercise for dogs, and they love it. If you treat your dog the same way that you treat yourself, it should also be safe. If you are wearing light clothes, keep your dog shaved. If you need to stop to take a drink, so does your dog. If you are feeling hot, your dog probably is also, so pour some water on their head and neck. (The best places to cool a dog down are on the neck, pads of the feet, and belly.)
If your dog wants to slow down, assume that there is a reason and allow it. Try to hike where there are streams along the way to jump in. You know your dogs; if they are the types to keep going and never stop, be sure that they jump in that stream. Remember you are the human, so you need to be the one to anticipate the dangers and not take a chance. If you are far away from help, the results can be tragic.
Smushed-faced dogs, such as bulldogs, should not exercise or be left out in hot weather without the permission of a veterinarian. These dogs often have small tracheas and long soft palates, which decrease their ability to cool themselves. You can also ask your vet about surgeries that can shorten the soft palate and increase the ability to exercise.
All muzzles other than greyhound muzzles are not acceptable on a dog that is hot or exercising. Much of a dog’s ability to cool down is based on panting, so eliminating panting can have disastrous consequences.
Dogs left in the yard need shade and preferably a small wading pool filled with cool water. Dog houses do not usually provide true shade, as they are often made to prevent air movement and can get very hot. Outdoor dogs will often rest under the house or deck, enjoy the shade of a large tree, or dig into the cool earth in shaded areas with air blowing through. A simple wood roof on four legs will also provide adequate shade. Again, I would say that if you are not comfortable in your yard, your dog won’t be either.
So that’s how I spent my uneventful summer vacation, keeping the dogs cool, driving through a fireworks fog, and laying on the couch. Share with us your stories of the Lazy, Hazy, and Crazy this summer, especially as they relate to the Environment in the Midwest.
Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. His dogs long for winter’s cold embrace.