33: A Second Too Long

33: A Second Too Long

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

A Second Too Long

Not-so-fun fact: Never leave your dog alone in a hot car. He can quickly become overheated and even die.

“Let’s go, Maximus,” I said, snapping a leash onto his red collar. My parents had called to offer a Sunday meal, and I jumped at the invitation. Plus, I was taking my new pup to play with his grandpa and grandma for the afternoon. I would get great eats, and they would get time with their grandbaby. Max’s stubby tail, or to be honest, his whole butt, wiggled back and forth in anticipation of going “bye-bye.” Car rides were one of his most favorite things — even if he had no clue where he was going. A trip to the vet even elicited this response… at least until we pulled into the parking lot.

I gathered up all the necessary items I needed to take along: Max’s toys, his food, and two videos I needed to return to the store on our way, and piled all of it into the car. I buckled Max into the passenger seat for safety reasons, and he sat obediently within the confines of the belt, still vibrating with anticipation.

The day had turned cold and blustery, and snowflakes had begun to fall on my windshield. After running the car for a bit, I turned the heater up full blast to warm up the car, and we were on our way. Max immediately tried to bounce around on the front seat, anxious to see where we were headed.

“Sit!” I commanded, and he dutifully sat back down, looking at me with his big panting smile. He had not taken too many car rides since I adopted him two months prior, but he already knew most rides ended up at my parents’ house, so he tried his best to be patient. He knew Grandma and Grandpa had the best treats. We were both on this trip for one thing: food.

The snow had just begun to stick so I maneuvered my car gingerly down the street. Due to the weather and because I was in a hurry, I pulled up outside the store along the curb instead of parking in a space. It would only take me a second to run inside and drop off the movies, and then we’d be on our way to a home-cooked meal.

“Stay here, Max,” I said, giving him a brief pat on the head. “I’ll be right back, buddy!”

I left the car running, heat blasting, and jogged into the store. I heard Max bark a few times in dismay as I left him behind, but I would only be gone a few seconds.

I took two steps inside the door and handed the movies to the cashier. Turning on my heel, I headed right back outside. The snow was falling in earnest now, and I wondered if I should still continue on to my parents’ home. But they were looking forward to getting together, and Max and I were looking forward to the meal, so I decided to keep going. Dad could always drive us home if it got too bad.

I could see Max’s whole body wiggling with excitement and his tongue hanging out of his smiling wide jaw as I approached. His exuberance made it seem like I’d been gone for weeks. It made me smile to have someone adore me so much and miss me so deeply when I’d only been gone a few seconds. Adopting him had been the best thing I’d ever done.

“Hey, buddy,” I said from outside the car in the voice everyone uses when speaking to their pets. “Yes! Who’s a good dog?! Let’s get going!”

I reached for the handle, watching Max bounce with pure joy inside the car. Just as I put my hand on the handle, Max’s bouncing paw found the door-lock switch.

I heard the locks engage, and it felt like one of those slow-motion moments in the movies.

“Nooooo!” I screamed.

Several passersby glanced in my direction as I pulled unsuccessfully at the locked car door. I tried every door, but the electronic locks had engaged every entrance.

My loving but slightly-too-exuberant dog had just locked me out of my still-idling car.

My mood instantly changed to one of shock and despair. I heard my car’s engine droning on as visions of gallons of gas going up in unnecessary fumes filled my mind.

Max, however, didn’t understand the dilemma and panted gleefully at me from the now really warm interior.

I could almost hear him say, “C’mon, Mom! Let’s go! What’s the hold-up?”

I debated walking home to get the spare key, but it was over two miles away. Plus, the snowy, cold weather put a damper on walking that far. I didn’t want to leave my car or my pooch, and the car would probably be out of gas by the time I was able to retrieve a key. I tried to get Max to step on the same button to unlock the door, to no avail.

“Come on, buddy! Step right there… no… there… no… argh!”

Max quite enjoyed this new game, panting and barking at my weird commands, and fogging up his side of the window. I rubbed my hands over my increasingly cold arms and tried to think of another solution.

As each second passed, I saw dollar signs drifting out of the exhaust. Finally, I gave up and went back into the video store. The only solution was to call Dad before my car ran out of gas. After briefly describing what had happened to the cashier and ignoring her smirk, I asked if I could use her phone to call my dad, who also seemed quite amused at my situation.

“He did what?” he asked. I could hear the smile in his voice.

After explaining it again, he promised to come straight away with the spare key.

I hung up the phone, thanked the clerk and went back out to check on Max. I watched as he fogged up the windows of the car, sitting dutifully on the passenger seat and looking at me shivering in the cold like I’d lost my mind. I tried to reassure him that everything was okay, but it was really myself I was comforting. I went back inside to wait.

When my dad finally arrived, he didn’t say a word, but just grinned and handed me the spare key. I followed him back to their house and endured hours of endless amusement about how the dog had locked me out of my own car.

After this incident, I now make certain that Dad always has the spare key, and when I bought a new car, my top priority was the feature that wouldn’t allow the doors to lock while the car was running.

Now Max rarely gets left alone in the car, even if it is only going to be “just a second.”

~Sue A. Fairchild

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