Just before 8 PM last night, my wife and I were returning to our car after dinner. We were parked in a lower-level, covered parking area, and I thought I heard something odd. "Do you hear something, like either a dog whimpering or maybe a baby crying?" I asked. She'd heard it too.
We waited a moment, then heard it again. We decided to walk around the parking garage to see if we could spot the origin of the odd, muffled howling.
It only took a minute or two before we came across the source: a beautiful pup in the back of a car with the windows completely sealed up. Other than the occasional howling, she didn't bark at all. Her breathing seemed okay at the time, although she had some spittle on her chin that showed she'd been panting.
Seeing the memes on Facebook all summer long warning about the dangers of leaving dogs in parked cars, even for a few minutes, I would have thought I'd just smash the window. But, when real life faces you with these questions, you give the authorities a chance to do right first.
I called 911 at 8:01 PM. Seven minutes later an officer arrived. Not an actual police officer, but a community service officer in a car labeled "Volunteers in Policing." A very nice man, and concerned about the dog, he first checked all the doors to see if any would open. Shining his flashlight in the car we looked for a bowl of water or anything to identify the owner. He then radioed in the license number of the car. We learned what town he was from, and that his record was clean, but still had no way of contacting him.
He radioed in again, asking for assistance and guidance. At what point are we legally allowed, or even obligated to break in? No "real" police were available at the moment, as there was a burglary alarm going on a few blocks away, there were reports of gun shots (probably fireworks from a nearby fundraiser), and a group of teens had taken over a vacant mansion and were tweeting out about the party of the century in the next suburban enclave two miles away.
Around 8:20, my wife got animal control from the nearby major city on the line. They had somebody in the area for another call, and would be at our location as soon as possible.
While waiting I see that the pup's breathing is getting more strained and that she's drooling a little more. I informed the officer that if she faints or closes her eyes, I'll be breaking into the car. I say, "You can arrest me if you need to, but please let me save the dog first." He nods.
I think about going out to the street to look for a rock, then realize that the handle from my car jack will do nicely. I can use my t-shirt from my gym bag to wrap my hand and forearm to protect myself from broken glass. Forget waiting for the dog to pass out, I give myself a deadline of 9 PM.
Animal Control arrived at about 8:35. He has a thermometer that measures the temperature in the car at 89 degrees. He says that's "not that bad." He had an incident earlier that day where it was 115. I'm not convinced that 89 is "not that bad."
The pup has moved closer to the window, so he's now able to get the owners phone number off of her tags. He radios in to his dispatcher who places the call. We get notified a minute or two later that he's on his way.
8:56, the owner and his (girlfriend? wife?) finally arrive. He stands like an idiot for another minute while the Animal Control officer lectures him before finally opening the door. The puppy is happy to see him, but is looking to see where we've gone off to.
As the Animal Control lecture continues ("I could write you a ticket for $250...") we quietly thank the first Community Service officer and go back to our car, not to get a jack handle to break windows, but to drive home and try to rest.
I'm glad the dog will be okay, but don't trust that this idiot will not lock her up in the car without air or water again. I'm glad I didn't end the night in jail, tweeting out "Who's got bail money?" but frustrated that it took an hour to get a suffering pup rescued.
What will I do if this happens again? Will I break the window next time?