I debated for the past week whether or not to post this blog. In the end I felt if someone could benefit from this unfortunate incident and if it saved one pet’s life, then it was well worth it. I warn you, it is slightly graphic.
We just pulled into a campground in Orlando and setup the RV. After relaxing for a few minutes we made dinner and were enjoying it at the table. We noticed the folks across the road had come back to their camper. A young couple in their mid thirties probably. They had a girl about twelve or thirteen and a boy about eight or nine. We watched the kids run in and out their RV several times screaming and carrying on, not thinking much; they’re just kids being kids. Then the girl collapsed on the ground hysterical about something, the mom trying to console her.
Concerned, I walked over to see if I could lend a hand. At this point the mom had gone back into the RV and the boy had come out crying also. I asked what was wrong and she said, “Our dog is dead!” They had been out all day and just came back to find their one year old, one hundred pound Greater Swiss Mountain Dog unresponsive. The boy said someone had killed their dog. In the RV. Not seeing any telltale signs of a break-in, I stuck my head in to see if I could render assistance.
That particular day the temperature had climbed to ninety five degrees. Their A/C was working fine and there was no smell of gas. Their 5th wheel is one of those toy haulers, with a garage in the back. Since they are designed to haul ATV’s, motorcycles, and other big boy toys, the garage area is pretty well sealed from the living area so fumes and such won’t enter.
Apparently, the puppy somehow got into the garage area and the door closed behind him. Unfortunately, the A/C vent in the garage wasn’t open and the poor guy had no chance at all. I’m certainly not applying blame here. This was one of those freak accidents – a perfect storm, as it were. They were from a very northern state and may not have appreciated how hot it can get here in Florida. It was heart wrenching watching them remove the lifeless body of the dog from the RV and load him into the back of their pickup. My wife and I were both sick to our stomachs the rest of the night, having two dogs (one a one year old puppy too) that travel with us while we RV.
Your pets are like kids: They rely on YOU to protect them and that is a responsibility that you accept when you get one. RV’ers love to bring their pets on the road with them and that is a wonderful experience for both the owners and the pets themselves. We do it all the time. You have to realize though, that power is not guaranteed. It can go out. The A/C unit can have a problem and trip a breaker and not come on again until you come home.
While your RV does have some insulation, it is nowhere near the level of insulation in your home. If the A/C went out in your house, it would start to get warm, but it would be several hours before it got hot enough to hurt your animal. In the RV, however, It will only take a fraction of that time to become hot enough to hurt the animal.
What should you do? Have a backup cooling system. Most RV’s already have it built in. In our coach, we have three roof vents: one in the bedroom, one in the bathroom, and one in the living room. What I do, is I crack the roof vent in the bathroom and close the door. While heat rises, any additional heat will stay in the bathroom. The roof vent in the living area has an automated power vent, running on the coach batteries. Once I get the coach cooled to a desirable level, I will turn down the thermostat on the power vent until it kicks on and I let it open and run for a minute. I then turn it up until the fan goes off and then keep turning it up just a little more. I also leave an oscillating pedestal fan running in the living room.
If the coach loses power, then the power vent fan will engage shortly, after the temperature rises a little. Cooler outside air will be sucked through the bathroom vent and into the living area of the coach. While it’s still warm air, it is cooler then the super-heated air in an enclosed coach and will give Fido or Ms. Muffin a chance. So please, think a few steps ahead, plan for a disaster, and hope that plan never has to go into effect. But you will leave your RV for the day with a sense of relief that your pets’ only issue when you return will be that you were gone for more than five minutes!
Incidentally, that same weekend on Sunday, we returned early to our coach, the SciFi convention we were at promoting my book had ended. As soon as we entered the RV I heard a snap sound and the A/C unit went quiet. It had frozen up and tripped the breaker. Needless to say, she is in Camping World’s service department waiting to get looked at. We’ll see just how good that Good Sam Extended Service Plan really is!