I decided last Friday would be a good day to get out on the trails and acclimate to the heat. Summer is definitely here in Oklahoma, with temps soaring into the 90s. Thankfully, the route I picked was heavily wooded, so I’d at least get some benefit from the shade. My planned route was also pretty short, just 4.5 miles, and I was well hydrated.
When I got to the trailhead, an ambulance was there, lights on. I figured a cyclist had wrecked and gotten hurt, or maybe someone else turned an ankle on one of the more technical trails. I didn’t see anyone, though, and the ambulance eventually left.
But throughout my run, I heard sirens. First responders were here, and they were looking for something. What that was, I didn’t know, but I figured I’d keep an eye out just in case I saw someone in trouble. Nothing worrisome turned up, and as I finished, the temps had hit 97 degrees.
Later that night, there was this message on Tulsa Riverparks Authority’s Facebook page that caused me some alarm. Riverparks manages Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness, which is the popular trail running, mountain biking and hiking destination where I go quite a bit, including my trail run that day. The post read as follows:
PLEASE share this: River Parks responded to a call from a lost man with his overheated 7 yr old dog out at Turkey today. We carried the poor dog back, but she died about 5 minutes from the parking lot. I can’t say enough about how terrible we feel.
We’ll have some more info coming next week regarding safety during these hot months, but PLEASE plan out your trips to Turkey and carry plenty of water for you and your pet. Don’t assume it can’t happen to you. Post your suggestions; we will be installing some signage soon with your feedback.
I’m not going to give a how-to on dog care on the trail, mostly because I think a lot of people can do that much better than me. But I will offer this:
Dogs, and most other animals, cannot cool themselves as easily as humans. Our physiology makes it easier to maintain elevated breathing levels over time, and sweat helps keep us cool. All dogs have is panting, and many have the hot-weather burden of a full coat of fur.
So as the heat intensifies, be sure to do something if you’re bringing your dog: Tote along some water for Fido. Stop periodically to water your dog; don’t wait until your pet just stops and refuses to move. By then, it might be too late.
Got any thoughts or suggestions? Feel free to comment below.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088