Nearly a year ago, a Portuguese water dog named Jackie died in the arms of strangers who desperately tried to rescue him from a hot car.
A passerby heard his desperate last whimpers and called for help. They smashed the windows of the vehicle in the hot July sun and pulled him from the vehicle. They poured water on him and tried to cool him down. But it was too late for Jackie.
Last week, Jackie’s owner was given the maximum sentence after being found guilty of failing to provide his dog with reasonable protection from injurious heat. Lunenburg man Jason Remai was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and has been banned from owning a pet or having the care of an animal for 10 years.
In sentencing Remai, Judge Claudine MacDonald sent a strong message, that it was “bordering on the incomprehensible” that Remai thought he did the right thing by taking the dog with him. She said she was “really troubled” by this.
It was a case that really troubled the greater Kings County community as well. Tens of thousands of people viewed the story after KingsCountyNews.ca broke the news last July, and even more have followed it as it developed in court.
Beyond court sentences, however, the community needs to take away something more from this case. In early June, the RCMP received four calls in one week about dogs that were left in cars.
There are a lot of excuses. He loves going in the car. She doesn’t like staying home alone. It was only for a minute.
But is that what’s best for the dog?
We all know that 'just a second' can quickly turn into minutes. Maybe the line at the grocery store is longer than you thought. Maybe you can’t find that must-have item. Maybe your neighbour stops you to chat and you lose track of time.
Those few minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
In just 10 minutes, on a hot summer day, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly climb to about 50 degrees Celsius. It’s a very real risk that, under those conditions, a pet or small child could suffer heatstroke and organ failure very quickly.
A window being left open a crack isn’t enough. We all know how hot are vehicles are after we get in them on a hot summer day. It should go without saying: if you wouldn't want to wait in a sweltering hot car for any length of time, neither would your pet.
Jackie must be remembered, and it’s something we can do every day by leaving our pets at home in hot weather, and being vigilant if we do see a pet left in a vehicle. Call the police. Go to a nearby store and have the vehicle’s owner paged. Take action, like the people who tried to rescue Jackie did on that hot July day nearly a year ago. They weren’t able to save him in time, but hopefully, another dog won’t suffer the same fate.
That is the best way to honour Jackie’s memory. Things can be replaced. Windows can be repaired. Loved ones, like Jackie, cannot.