The story of Bentley, the "Tortured Dog That Found No Friends,"(Key West Citizen, Nov. 7) touched countless hearts. It also brings to the forefront the danger of leaving your pet in a parked car here at any time of year even with the windows open and in the shade, and even for a short amount of time in our subtropic temperatures.
Bentley was left in a parked vehicle at Mallory Square "about noon" on Wed., March 24. His owners, Ron and Beverly Hayne, had left him for about a "half an hour" while they went "to shop and have lunch."
A half an hour is not a long time. And it was March. The Haynes left a sun shade over the windshield, turned on a dashboard fan, and left the windows open six inches, according to the Citizen report. Seems like they took precautions to keep Bentley cool, doesn't it?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, "an animal subjected to direct sun without plenty of water-- even for a short period of time-- can easily suffer heatstroke.
"In the few minutes that it might take you to run into the store for a couple of items, the temperature inside your car can reach 120 degrees or more . . . leaving windows open a crack, parking in shaded areas, or air-conditioned cars with the motor turned off will not save your pet from the life-threatening effects of hot weather."
And, according to People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA), "on a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 90 degrees, while a car parked in the sun can reach 160 degrees in minutes. Animals can succumb to heat stroke in just 15 minutes."
According to the National Weather Service here, the temperature in Key West last March 24 was "about 70 degrees or so."
As FKSPCA president Dr. Gwen Hawtof stated to me, Bentley was engaged in a fight with potential robbers.
"He must have been out of breath and panting heavily after the struggle," she said. That would have made Bentley's temperature rise, and increased his chances of heatstroke.
I spoke with veternerian Dr. Joan Wheeler, who, along with Dr. Waddell, saw Bentley when he was brought in to Lower Keys Animal Hospital that March afternoon. The most life-threatening symptoms were brain-related.
"Bentley was disoriented, falling over, with one pupil larger than the other," said Dr. Wheeler. "This was definitely brain dysfunction. The symptoms were synonymous with heatstroke, and trauma to the head."
Dr. Wheeler said they could not make a specific diagnosis on the exact cause of Bentley's brain dysfunction, but she believes that one of the causes may have been a seizure due to heat stroke, combined with other injuries caused by the attack.
Dr. Wheeler also mentioned that Bentley was a Canadian dog-- used to cooler temperatures-- which can be an affective factor in the severity of heatstroke.
The Haynes have adopted another dog, Brandy, a dashund like Bentley. But when they go traveling again, "Brandy won't be leaving our side."
Some lessons are very hard to learn.
Cinderella was found "running wild" on Rockland Key and brought to the shelter covered with ticks, hungry and very scared. "Watch out for this one," said the man who dropped her off, "she's liable to bite you. She's a wild one."
But Jennifer, a staff member at the Shelter, said that Cinderella was so frightened when she was brought in that she just huddled in her cage. "Then Roy (Stone-- a Key West Kritter Patrol volunteer who works with the shelter dogs) took her under his wing and now she's as sweet as can be. And she's quiet and gentle for a puppy," said Jennifer.
There are about 40 other dogs and 20 puppies (some Lab mixes, Shep mixes, and Chow/Rottweiler blends) that also need good homes. Cindy Lou, the Shitszu, is still at the Shelter-- "she's a `special needs' dog-- she'd be good in a one-dog, one-person family with a Shitszu-lover," said Jennifer. "Cindy Lou tends to be somewhat of a recluse."
There are also close to 100 cats and kittens of all shapes, sizes and temperaments available for adoption.
Shelter Hours: Mon-Fri, 9-6, Saturday, 9-2. And the shelter has an Open House the first Sunday of the month, Noon- 3 p.m. for adoptions only. So stop by and visit. You may find the love of your life there. Info: call the Shelter at 294-4857.