Pet Safety Month: Car Safety – Confession Turned Warning

To be honest, I am so embarrassed that this incident happened in the first place that I was never going to write about it.  But when I saw that BlogPaws was doing Pet Safety Month for July, I talked myself into ‘fessing up.  I want our story to serve as a warning that anything can happen, especially when you’re least expecting it.

BlogPaws Pet Safety Month

People talk about car safety for pets all the time, but until something really happens, sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other.

About a couple months ago, something happened that taught my husband and I a big lesson about our most recently adopted dog, Austin.  But really, this lesson could apply to any dog.

For years, we just had LittleBear.  Although he was a little sweetheart in the car, it was still irresponsible of us to let him be loose while we were driving.

LittleBear (Rainbow Bridge 10/2012)

LittleBear: I was the sweetest angel…
not just in the car, but all the time, everywhere.

Later, we got Li’l Girl.  Other than fighting over “window time”, they were both pretty good.  It doesn’t matter that there were windows on both sides of the car and that they could each have a window all to themselves if they wanted.  Each of them only wanted to look out whichever window the other was looking out of.  They didn’t exactly “fight” about it.  Li’l Girl would be her bossy self and sweet LittleBear would just let her have her way.

Li'l Girl

Li’l Girl: Sure, I look sweet enough… but don’t be fooled, I can be fierce!

Talk about nose art.  Every single window of my old Jeep Grand Cherokee was covered in nose art.  No longer have that old Jeep… it was adopted by a family member.

LittleBear passed away in October 2012.  We weren’t planning on adopting another for quite some time… we really wanted and needed a lot of time to grieve.  But you know how things are sometimes… sometimes the dog-gods have something else in mind for you.  So Austin made his way to us just a few short months later.

Austin is a dachshund, of course.  But boy, he is a dachshund unlike any other I’ve had.  His body is all dachshund, but his legs… his legs are much taller than what you see on most modern dachshunds.  I say ‘modern’ because he looks like what dachshunds looked like when they were originally bred.  At that time, they did have much taller/longer legs.  Anyway, needless to say, he can JUMP.  I mean JUMP.  A true frogdog, I tell you.


Austin: I’m super sweet and do my best to be good, but they’re right…
I’m a crazy jumper! I’m unpredictable, so watch out!

For a dachshund, the jumping is dangerous enough on its own.  Dachshund parents have to be extremely mindful of spinal injury and disease, and jumping must be kept to a bare minimum, if any at all.  But with Austin, there is an added element of danger that we learned on that very scary day:  HE IS FEARLESS.  AND STRONG.

The story, the story… get to the story!

Okay, so… I just need to run a quick, short errand.  Go to the post office to drop off a package there, as well as hit our nearest UPS drop box.  The post office is crazy close to our house, and the UPS box at a location just a little further.  I plan to go alone – no need for anyone to come with.

But hubs says that the dogs would enjoy a quick drive, so suggests that he and they come along.  I sigh.  I didn’t want to make this into an event.  And when they go in the car with us, it’s ALWAYS an event because they are SO excited.

Just a quick trip… no need to get all harnessed up for safety and such, right?  WRONG.

It was my husband’s idea to let them be free, thinking he could manage the both of them.  I didn’t feel good about it, but I didn’t put my foot down.  I didn’t want to start an argument over running a simple errand.  But I should have insisted that they be geared up, so the blame is on both of us for what happens next.

First stop is the post office.  I get out of the car, go inside the post office, come back out the door… and Austin is running up to me.  Let me repeat that:  Austin is out of the car and running up to me.  All in the same moment, my mouth gapes open in surprise, my eyes get big as saucers, and I swoop him up as fast as humanly possible.

I carry him back to the car, utterly dumbfounded.  Upon getting in, I practically scream at my husband, “What the hell happened?”  I’m ready to lose it.  The windows were only partially down – not nearly large enough of an opening to jump out of, so I really didn’t understand how Austin could’ve gotten himself out of the car.  As it turned out, he panicked when I got out of the car, wrestled away from my husband, and got his foot on the power window button while stomping around at the door – rolling it down just enough to be able to launch himself out.

We were SO lucky that day.  First, if Austin had ran in the opposite direction instead of running to me, he would have ran directly into traffic.  It is still so upsetting to think about that.  Second, from the car window to the pavement is no pleasant jump.  We thought for certain that he must’ve injured himself.  A leg, a shoulder, his spine… surely something.  But surprisingly (and thankfully), he seemed no worse for wear.  We took him to the vet anyway for a good checking over, just in case.

Wait.  So all this build up and he ended up being totally okay?  Yes, we were very, very, very lucky and he ended up being totally okay.  But we are well aware that it could’ve gone so much differently.  The scare was enough to learn a few lessons:

  • Lesson 1:  Even if it’s just a short trip, always practice car safety.  Whether you choose to use a crate, a traveling harness, a car seat, a doggy seat belt or whatever… just use them!  Neither LittleBear nor Li’l Girl ever even attempting jumping out… to be honest, even though they enjoyed looking OUT the window, they didn’t enjoy looking down so much.  I think the height scared them.  So we got complacent, which is the worst thing you can do.

  which leads me to…

  • Lesson 2:  Never prejudge a pet based on the behavior of your other pets.  It seems like common sense, but apparently we needed a good helping of it that day. Because LittleBear and Li’l Girl weren’t fearless enough to launch themselves out of a car window, we made the same judgement of Austin and he could’ve paid for it with his life.  So perhaps you have a dog that is just an absolute angel in the car… always has been… just lies down and naps.  Be careful, because your next dog may be the type that wants to run over every square inch of the car, as fast as doggily possible.  Again, don’t get complacent.
  • Lesson 3:  Always lock the windows.  On most modern vehicles, you can lock the windows so that they cannot be rolled down.  My car has this feature, and I was fully aware of it.  I just forgot to lock the windows that day.  Again, complacency.
  • Lesson 4:  Respect the common theme of lessons 1, 2, and 3 – DON’T GET COMPLACENT.  Always be mindful of safety and always expect the unexpected.

That’s a wrap!  I hope that no one experiences a scare like we did with Austin.  My husband and I felt tremendously guilty over this almost-disaster and were uneasy about even taking Austin in the car again for a while.  But accidents do happen, and we had to forgive ourselves.  So don’t be too hard on yourself if you have also experienced such a scare.  Guilt over a mistake doesn’t help anything.  Learning from the mistake and changing your actions is all that’s important.

Remember, this post was a part of the BlogPaws Pet Safety Month Blog Hop.  If you have a post related to pet safety, be sure to link it up to the hop!  Participants in this hop have a chance to win one of a few cool prizes.  A couple of items were donated by yours truly!  See all details regarding the hop, including the prizes, at the link above.

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19 Responses to Pet Safety Month: Car Safety – Confession Turned Warning

  1. So scary! Glad he’s safe. I guess my paranoia (:p) comes in handy with Nola; whenever we’re out of the house, no matter how short of a time, she has on her collar with ID and microchip tag, harness with rabies and ID tag, leash with ID tag, and is buckled in the car with the window locks on.
    She has the longer legs, too, and is a serious jumper. When she puts her mind to it, she can jump about waist high on me, and I’m by no means a short girl.

    Nola’s Mom
    Dachshund Nola recently posted…Beach Time!My Profile

    • Pam says:

      I totally hear ya! I’m the paranoid one around here… my husband is more ehhh… laid-back. I seriously hate to blame things on him, especially since he’s not here to defend himself, but geeeez! 😛
      If you come back to read this, do you use a car seat and harness (buckled in) or just a harness? We don’t have car seats, but I’ve been thinking about it. What’s your set-up?

      • Usually if she’s wearing a “standard” style harness (Puppia, Ruffwear Webmaster) I’ll either buckle in the seatbelt and thread her leash through and hook it back around itself (making a big loop with the leash, if that makes sense), or use a tether clipped to her regular harness. If she’s wearing her Hold-a-Dog harness, I just put the seatbelt though the loop on that. If it’s an easy on/easy off style harness (think Ezydog Quick Fit, Comfortflex, ect), I take it off and she wears an Easy Rider car harness with a tether. That’s also what she wears when going anywhere more than 40 minutes away.
        Yeah…she has a lot of harnesses. 😛 7 total, with another on the way, LOL!
        Dachshund Nola and her mom recently posted…Beach Time!My Profile

  2. OMD, how scary! So glad the story had a happy ending.

    We used to put our previous dog in a harness, because she would jump around like a maniac and try to climb in the front seat. With Rita, I admit I’m lazy about the harness. I never put it on her because she never tries to get in the front. She loves to sniff the air, and I obsessively check the window lock thing to make sure it’s on. I give her a bit of hair and she’s happy to sniff. I know she should be in a harness… but ever since I read that most dog car harnesses are no good in an accident, it’s been my excuse to not put her in it. Bad, I know.
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Monday Mischief: We Do Have SOME Rules Here at The SpaMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Sounds like Rita was like my relaxed two, and your previous dog was like Austin is. He is CRAZY in the car. I have a barrier that’s supposed to block off the front seat so they can’t jump up there even if they’re loose, but Austin can jump OVER the barrier… geez!
      That’s what I hate about having to harness them and such – they love to sniff the air too. They don’t stick their heads out the window… just right *at* the window so they can sniff all the smells blazing by. I’ve also read that harnesses aren’t safe, and I have to admit that we would probably be still be lazy about using them in the car if we still just had LittleBear and Li’l Girl… but Austin is just too crazy in the car not to. If he is loose, he will run all over the car… back seat, over the barrier into the front seat, back over the barrier, into the floorboards, up on the back dash, everywhere(!) and apparently, as we figured out… right out the window. So now, no choice but to harness up. May or may not save him in an accident, but it will save him from hurting himself (or at least I hope!).

  3. Jen says:

    can only imagine how you felt and so glad that Austin ran in the direction of where you were! My Beagle once hit the automatic window on our car too, while the car was moving and almost jumped out! Lesson learned there!

    • Pam says:

      It just about gives you a stroke when something like that happens, doesn’t it? All in one instant, your mind can see what *could’ve* happened. So glad your Beagle didn’t manage to jump out!
      That’s the problem with fearless Austin – it wouldn’t matter if the car was moving. If the window came down, I just know he’d jump right out without a second thought. So yeah, lesson definitely learned!

  4. Ann Staub says:

    Aw well don’t feel too bad. It happens to the best of us =/ Just the other day I was reading a story at another friend’s blog about how their dog locked them out of their car at a rest stop. The car was running with the AC on thankfully. This makes me think of my kids and getting them in their car seats – no exceptions! 🙂
    Ann Staub recently posted…How to Change the World in 30 Seconds | Animal AdvocacyMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Oh no, that would be so scary too! You can lock the windows to prevent them from being rolled down, but you can’t lock the locks. Thank goodness the A/C was on!
      I can just see my two doing that! Thankfully, they’re never left alone in the car. Well, we do usually load them separately – load one in, then go back and get the other one… so for a very brief minute, one will be alone while we’re getting the other… but that’s it.
      And yes, kids in car seats is a must! I don’t know how old you are, but I grew up during a time when people hardly used car seats beyond the infant time. If you could walk, you were loose in the car. Well, perhaps belted in… but no carseat. Times have changed in a good way in that respect.

  5. Excellent post! Sharing. Kudos to you for “confessing.” That’s how we all learn. Thanks!
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Natural Balance Jerky Dog Treat from Product ReviewMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Thank you, I really appreciate the kind words. I really wasn’t going to share that mishap. It’s not easy to admit when you haven’t been as careful as you should’ve been, but ultimately, getting the message out that anything can (and will) happen won out over my embarrassment. We learned a priceless lesson that day, and embarrassing or not, it needed to be shared.

  6. emma says:

    Great advice. We are always seatbelted in. Sometimes when it is just a short drive Mom is tempted to not bother but then she remembers her own rule – if she is wearing her seatbelt, we are wearing ours. It only takes a second to strap us in and not doing so could be an awful event that would follow her for the rest of her life. We are thankful that your pup came to you, was not injured and did not get lost. Great post…sharing…
    emma recently posted…Camping With Friends | GBGV | Mischief MondayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Emma, your mom is smart to always be thinking about your safety! Anything can happen at any time and it’s best to be as prepared as possible. It might not always be fun to be strapped in, but sometimes we have to sacrifice a little fun to be safe. I bet you and your sister are really good in the car, though.

  7. GizmoGeodog says:

    Excellent post and a super object lesson on why practicing auto safety on every trip, no matter how short, is so very important
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Smart Cookees on Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Thanks. It really is so important, and we admittedly got lax on it. I hate that it took a scary mishap like this to learn our lesson.

  8. Glad it ended OK but it could happen to anyone. We mostly crate our dogs, but there is always a chance that they could push their way out of a crate when we are getting them out and before we leash them. We teach obedience entering and exiting the crate, but in the end they are just dogs and sometimes they do as they please. 😉 Locking the windows is an important reminder due to the way the new switches work.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Yep, sometimes they are just going to do what they are going to do. We can train them, but ultimately, we can’t control their actions if they decide to do precisely what we don’t want them to do. All we can do is practice the best safety measures we can.

  9. Jodi says:

    OMD I think my mouth was open when you said he was running towards you. Thank heavens he was okay and unhurt, who would have ever thought something like that could happen?

    S&D are big dogs and they normally lie down on long drives, we’ve yet to decide on a safety restraint so they are loose. On our vacation (I have to blog this) we stopped at a lake where Hubby was doing a fishing trip and when Delilah saw the water she tried to climb out! Thank heaven I was paying attention and quickly pulled her back and rolled her window up. I imagine she’d still be swimming in Lake Douglas….:-(
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday Has FleasMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Yeah, after hearing/reading so much about how none of the existing car harnesses are truly safe, it’s really tough to decide what to do. I know at least one company is working on a harness that’s supposed to be better/safer than what’s on the market already. We’ve been bad about never treating it as so important until now. With Austin, he’s just so crazy that we need to do *something*.
      Oh dear! That is so scary about Delilah! I’m so glad you noticed in time that she was trying to climb out. Can’t blame her for wanting to get out and get to the water, but it’s not something you think about until it happens. The only positive to these things happening is that you know next time you pull up near some water to have the windows closed and locked.

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