We live in dog country here in North Warren. Blairstown, in particular, is one of the most dog-friendly small towns I’ve seen. Just about every business on Main Street keeps a bowl of fresh water on their sidewalk. People see dogs all the time.
I was thinking about this the other day when a dispute worthy of the Algonquin Roundtable was unfolding on social media. It seemed somebody had observed a dog in a locked car in a strip mall parking lot. The solution seemed quite clear to me but this dilemma launched a debate that was more emotional than the controversy over pineapple on pizza. (Just wrong.)
She asked her Facebook friends if she should break the window to rescue the dog. It seemed to be the only possible answer, and she had seen it done on television. Somebody cautioned that could harm the dog and such an act could be considered a crime. Another online sage said he saw a clip on the internet in which the police had cut open a car window to rescue a baby after the car had been in a bad accident.
The police? At that moment, apparently, digital light bulbs appeared over the heads of our online panel of experts. “Oh, yeah, the police! Call the police,” everyone wrote, jockeying to be the first person to type that solution, spelling be damned.
By then the owner of the car had emerged from the store. She said she had gone inside only long enough to pick up a prescription and that she had been gone no more than a few minutes. A couple dirty looks were exchanged, and she left.
Leaving a dog locked in a car is a serious matter. I don’t like it, but let’s be real: People leave dogs, children and husbands in locked cars all the time to run errands, and some people have really bad judgment when it comes to time and temperature.
But back to the car in question. I had a hard time fathoming all this deliberation. The well-meaning woman obviously had a cell phone in her hand, so why didn’t she simply forgo the Facebook discussion and call 911? A dog locked is worthy of police attention, especially since giant irradiated scorpions weren’t attacking the town this day.
Just the very presence of the police will usually resolve this kind of thing. If somebody is in a store, post office or someplace, and a police vehicle pulls up alongside their car, in which they left a child or pet, that person will somehow know it, like a tremor in The Force. The same way elephants know 180 miles inland that a tsunami is going to strike.
She probably could have made the call and seen a cop arrive in the time it took her to curate the first bits of wisdom from Facebook. If necessary, the police could open the car. And if the conditions warranted, they could give the driver a good talkin’ to or even file charges.
But with cops in my family and having covered the police for many years during my career, I can tell you this: No cop is going to say you wasted his or her time. I don’t hesitate if something in my neighborhood seems askew. As I look at it, I’ve had the police called on me enough in my day that I’ve got few calls
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.