I called the police because the dog was panting. A Great Pyrenees left alone in the back of a Subaru Forester parked at a big box home improvement store. Yes, the windows were halfway down but the day was warm and the car even warmer. Especially for a dog trapped in a white fur coat.
I debated whether I should call the police. Was I over-reacting? Maybe. But I went with my gut. I called, then waited, maybe five or 10 minutes, until the guy and his young son, about 6 or 7, returned to the car with a load of lumber. I mentally calculated that the trip inside the store couldn’t have been short.
Calmly (really), I told him what I did. “I called the police because your dog was in the car panting. I told them your windows were halfway down.”
He couldn’t believe I would do such a thing. “I’ve owned dogs 25 years,” he bleated. I wasn’t sure the meaning of that. I have too, I thought, but didn’t say, and I’ve never left one unattended inside a car. (Don’t you hate those things you wish you would have said?) He wanted me to sit inside his car to see that it wasn’t hot. Um, I don’t think so sir. (What I wish I had said was, “Do you happen to have a spare fur coat I can put on to make the experiment reliable?”)
Possibly, I should not have turned to his kid and said, “I hope you don’t do this when you grow up.” But that was the worst of what I said. I promise. When I suggested he leave his dog at home rather than bring him shopping and leave him in the car, he shouted that that was not my decision. And this I did say: “No, but calling the police was.”
Should I have called them? I think so. Just in case the guy didn’t come back and the dog keeled over. Was it hard? Yes, kind of. Standing up for others, people or dogs, when they are being ill-treated is not always easy. Especially when we are unsure about what actions we should take.
What about you? Have you ever felt uncomfortable standing up for something you thought was right? Or are you fierce and take action with gusto?
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine.