Saturday, May 26th, 2012 was City of Vancouver‘s Family Day. Various departments were there, including police, fire, and parks & recreation. The entire event was geared towards children and families: bouncy castles galore, popcorn, face painting, balloons, a mini-bike course, races, stickers and temporary tattoos.
The Vancouver Police Department was represented by a large contingent. The Mounted Squad brought Police Horses Duke and Ben, the Forensic Identification Unit took ‘mug shots’, the Emergency Response Team displayed their ARV (Armed Response Vehicle – yes, it’s as impressive as it looks), and the Traffic Section rode in on the sweet rumble of Harley engines.
PSD Hondo and I spent time meeting and greeting dozens of people. Hondo really liked the kids as he has learned they often have forgotten food bits and/or treats in their pockets. The only down side was the kids often had helium balloons attached to them, which piqued Hondo’s interest (I’m sure he was thinking, “Cool! A floating ball! You brought that over here just for me?!?!”), so I had to make sure the balloons stayed far enough away.
Hondo was a good sport, and even posed for photos.
Santurday was one of the warmest day we’ve had so far this year, and with very little breeze and no shade where we were stationed, Hondo’s black coat proved to be a detriment. I gave him lots of water breaks, but the only thing to keep him really happy was to lounge in the air conditioned environment of our police SUV. He’d stay out for a while, meet some people, start to get too hot, and then he’d go back in the truck to cool off.
The adults asked about Hondo being in a closed vehicle in the heat. We spoke of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car, and how quickly the temperature can rise to lethal levels, even on temperate days.
This is where our K9 vehicles are specialized – they have a modified interior, and the back seats are replaced with a large stainless steel kennel for the dogs to ride in. The side windows can be rolled down for airflow and to show the emergency lights mounted on the side (look at the photo above, and you will see the grate/mesh in the window of the open door).
The vehicle’s air conditioning system is piped into the kennel area and the SUV is equipped with a heat alarm. This specialized system monitors the temperature inside both the passenger and the K9 compartment. If the temperature gets too high, an extremely loud alarm is activated to notify the handler, and the windows on the SUV drop down to increase air flow.
(I found out this past winter that the alarm also monitors when the interior gets too cold. I happened to be standing in front of the truck when the alarm went off, and I just about had to change my shorts. That sucker is really loud.)
Heat exhaustion (not just attributed to being left in a hot car) is a significant cause of death amongst working dogs. High temperatures combined with rigorous conditions can overheat a working dog in a very short time, and can be fatal.
The Connecticut Police Work Dog Association maintains a list of worldwide working dogs that are killed/die while in active service. Take a look through the list, and you will find a number of dogs have succumbed to heat exhaustion. The list may be distressing for some to read, as the average number of working dogs dying while in service averages 150 dogs a year (worldwide).
It is this reason the Vancouver Police Department outfits it’s K9 vehicles with heat alarms and goes to great lengths to ensure the safety and wellbeing our four-legged partners.