Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Not So Excellent Adventure

This is Why “This is How We Roll”
Why Dogs Should Always Be Restrained in a Moving Vehicle

For years now I have been toting my dogs in my vehicles in crates. And for almost as many years I have been requiring the adopters transport their dogs home for the first time somehow restrained, either in a crate (preferable) or in a seatbelt harness. On the occasion that an adopter comes without either, I teach them how to tie their dog into the seatbelt to keep them in their seat.

Now, I travel a lot with my dogs. In temperate weather, I have dogs with me everywhere I go, and I understand most folks don’t, so totally get that most people don’t want to own a vehicle that is always set up to carry dog(s). It matters not, I still advocate harnessing a dog in at the least. Especially after My Not So Excellent Adventure.

It was a beautiful day, the weather was clear, sun was shining and I had errands to run, and was headed to a local sheepdog trial for a couple of runs, and a visit. I loaded up my dogs as usual, but since one crate had all of its padding missing, I let Alec ride loose in his ‘spot’ between the crates and the passenger side of the truck.

All was well until our trip back to town to do errands. It was a really pretty day, one of those beautiful fall days that we cherish. I was not in a hurry, was enjoying the drive, listening to music when a woman in a hurry and not paying attention, turned into oncoming traffic, right in front of me, giving me no room to avoid her.

The crash seemed to take forever. Slow motion was in play, as even after we came to a stop, it was all surreal.  My chest had hit the steering wheel and knocked the wind from me, but my first thought was Alec. I could see that all of the damage was in front of me (well, mostly, the driver’s door was also pushed in) so wasn’t worried about the crated dogs, but knew Alec was at risk.

Turning as best as I could, I could see he was ok, but terrified. I spoke to him and he softened, but was still obviously really afraid.

After what had to be less than a minute after the wreck, people were at my door asking me if I was ok and were trying to open the car doors. Of course, I told them I had dogs in the car, they heard me, but I know they didn’t understand the ramifications of what that meant…they continued to try and open cars doors until I emphatically told them to stop.

The next 40 minutes or so were tense for me. As a matter of course, the police called Animal Control to come get the dogs. I had to explain that wasn’t going to happen, and had them call a friend with an SUV who could come and take the crated dogs to safety.

I won’t bore you with all of the details of the event, but I will say, for the 40 minutes we waited for my friend to come, I was stressing over the dogs and their safety, most of all Alec, who was loose.  I was extremely lucky that I was being cared for by two very tolerant paramedics and one very tolerant police officer. They understood my concern and allowed me to make things happen the way I needed them to for my dogs.  In the end, I was able to assist with moving dogs to safety (I was super concerned that Alec was loose and that two of the dogs were so stressed they may have been bite risks) and the dogs went on their way with my friend, while I was toted to the hospital ER via wailing ambulance.

In the end, I have a totaled truck, banged up crates, lots of soft tissue damage on me, and Alec was fairly banged up as well (he was tossed around and hit something , his front chest wall was bruised and swollen). I still feel horribly guilty as he would have been ok had I taken the time to bed the crate and popped him in it rather than allowing him to ride loose. All of the crated dogs were fine, no injuries, even though their crates were bent, they were safe.

The upside here is that I was with-it enough to be certain my dogs were cared for as they needed to be. Reflection made me realise how bad it could have been had I been unable to be their advocate. Dogs loose on the road, humans bitten by frightened dogs…etc.

My little not so excellent adventure has caused me to do a few things:
  • Always take the time to crate the dogs when traveling, even if it is only a few miles (my accident happened 10 miles from home)
  • Each crate has a canvas envelope containing emergency information and is labeled DO NOT OPEN CRATE (I hope this will at least make someone pause before opening)
  • Each envelope also contains an emergency letter
  • MABCR will no longer allow adopted dogs to travel home without a proper restraint, and we will do the education needed to try and convince people to not allow loose dogs in moving vehicles.
I know it is easy to think it won’t happen to you. I also know it is too easy to skip things when you are in a hurry. You wouldn’t get into a vehicle without putting on your seatbelt. You wouldn’t allow anyone in your vehicle to not use a seatbelt.  Please don’t let your dogs travel without being appropriately restrained.

Sarah Ruckelshaus
ED Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue

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