“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first
knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on
the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow it was hotter
then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched
to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks
on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning.
Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by
nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”
~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
July days are the hottest of the summer, especially in the South. When
I think of July in the South, I think about that stifling, soupy heat
that is ceaseless like the whine of cicadas high up in a grove of longleaf
pine and personified in steam, dancing off the black top after a summer
thunderstorm. There is a mere moment when the heat abates after the rain
has wrangled the thermometer down just a tick before the heat mixes with
the humidity to once again pervade every pore, nook and cranny. They are
called the dog days for a reason.
When I was young, before cell phones and iPads existed, and stuck in the
back seat of some land yacht for an annual summer trip to some relative’s
house, I enjoyed three activities: looking at the map, sleeping and staring
out the window. (I had terrible motion sickness, so I would spew my bologna
sandwich and Country Time lemonade if I even thought about perusing an
article in Boys’ Life.) Staring at the map was fun, especially when
trying to measure the mileage from one small town to the next. I would
rattle ’em off to my Dad: Reidsville, Stillmore, Wrens, Thomson,
Tignall, Elberton (granite capital of the world, one of my favorites).
Once we hit the city limit, I’d stare out the window. All these
little towns looked hot and tired in the middle of summer. All the lawns
were scorched and the houses smothered by heat. The only movement I ever
saw was someone sitting in a rocking chair, watching the traffic go by
and sippin’ on a peach Nehi. And laying on the front porch was a
big old dog splayed out on the concrete in the shade.
Hence, dog days.
Now, I would be in favor of just hibernating until it cools down—say,
after Labor Day. But then we’d miss out on all the benefits of summer,
like longer days, going to the beach, grilling and watching Braves baseball.
Not too bad. However, the high temperatures can be dangerous for both
people and their furry friends, so here are a couple tips to keep you
and your pet safe this summer. These tips can also be applied to child
safety, so feel free to substitute my advice for your child, too. (Although,
I’ll probably get some interesting emails about number five.)
1.) Provide plenty of water and shade. Dehydration in dogs and cats can lead to further issues. In the summer
especially, make sure to have multiple sources of clean, fresh water in
a shady spot. I use deep bowls, so it stays cooler longer, and I refresh
their water every time I walk by. Also, bring water for walks.
2.) Know the signs of heat illness. Signs of overheating include:
- Heavy panting
- Dry or bright red gums
- Thick drool
- Wobbly legs
If your pet shows any of these signs, take them to a cool place, give them
water and cool them down with damp towels. Get them to a vet ASAP.
3.) Never leave your pet in the car. First off, leaving your pet in a car is illegal in 16 states. Not Georgia,
but it is considered animal cruelty which is covered by Georgia State
Law. Once a car is turned off, it only takes minutes for its interior
to reach over 100 degrees and less than 10 minutes for dogs, cats and
children to develop heat stroke. Just don’t do it. Ever!
4.) Apply Sunscreen. Yes, pets can get sunburned. Especially short-haired dogs. If you are planning
to spend the day outside with your furry friend, don’t forget the
sunscreen for you and your companion. Re-apply sunscreen every 3 to 4
hours to your dog’s least hair-covered spots: bellies, ears and
nose. There is sunscreen just for pets.
5.)Don’t shave your pet. Like me, you might think shaving your dog for the summer is a good idea
to help them dissipate the heat, but we’re wrong. I shaved my fat
yellow lab and not only did it not really cool her down, but she looked
like a naked mole rat. I had to slather her entire body with sunscreen,
so she wouldn’t burn. I learned my lesson.
6.) Mind your walking hours. If your dog is young and needs to be walked multiple times a day like my
Bernadoodle, Gus, I suggest only walking early in the morning or late
in the day when it’s cooler. Even at these times, it’s good
to have water available.
7.) Keep your dog’s paws cool. Pets heat and cool from the bottom up. If you’re out in the sun
together, like jogging or walking, try to keep your dog off the hot pavement
to avoid localized burns and overheating. And although it’s never
a good idea to drive with your dog in the back of an open truck bed, the
hot metal can burn paws quickly in the summer. If you’re spraying
a pet off with a hose or using a wet towel, it’s better to rub down
their paws and stomach rather than their topcoat.
8.) Consider a life vest. Living on the coast, plenty of us have the opportunity to get out on the
water. What better way to hang out with your pet than on the beach or
in a boat? However, just like children should wear a life vest or floatation
device, so should dogs. Not all dogs swim well, and even if they do, strong
riptides can sweep a dog out to sea. Also, most dog life jackets are brightly
colored which makes them more visible, and they often have a handle on
the back, making it much easier to pull them back in the boat when they jump out.
9.) Keep your pets away from fireworks. I’ve never had a dog that enjoys fireworks. Some don’t care
and treat them like a thunderstorm while others completely flip out and
either cower in a closet, or for some reason, want to bolt outside into
the entire melee. Keep your pets as safe as possible by sheltering them
inside where they can’t get out and get lost.
Well, that’s it for July. August is around the corner, and when school
starts, maybe, just maybe around Labor Day, we’ll get a hint of
cooler weather. Have a fun and safe summer!