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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I just returned from my vacation and had to write this letter first thing. While vacationing in a national park, I saw several dogs locked in closed (or almost closed) cars while their owners toured museums, rode the tram, ate lunch, etc.

Abby, I recall reading in your column the facts about how fast a car heats up when left locked up on a hot summer day. Please publish these facts again soon. Maybe it will cause some thoughtless vacationers to reconsider before taking their pets on vacation with them.

While they may think it's the kind or convenient thing to do, they should decide while planning their vacation whether they are willing to leave at least two car windows partially open when they stop for even a few minutes. If not, they should leave their pet with a relative or friend, have a neighbor care for it at home, or board it in a kennel. These are by far the kindest options for people who really love their pets.

And if other tourists, sight-seeing in a national park, should observe a pet locked in a car with less-than-adequate ventilation, they should report it to the park ranger. -- CONCERNED TOURIST FROM STILWELL, KAN.

DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you for a timely reminder to well-meaning, but thoughtless pet owners.

The Animal Protection Institute, P.O. Box 22505, Sacramento, Calif. 95822, sells cards that may be placed under the windshield wiper. They sell for only $3 per 100 cards.

The message on the card reads: "YOUR DOG MAY BE DYING! We understand you meant to be kind by taking your dog with you today, but you could be risking your pet's life.

"On a hot summer day, the inside of a car heats very quickly. On an average 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside your car -- with the windows slightly opened -- will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes it will go up to 120 degrees. On warmer days, it will go even higher.

"A dog's normal body temperature is 101.5 to 102.2 degrees Farenheit. A dog can withstand a body temperature of 107 to 108 degrees Farenheit for only a very short time before suffering irreparable brain damage -- or even death. The closed car interferes with the dog's normal cooling process, that is, evaporation through panting.

"If your dog is overcome by heat exhaustion, you can give immediate first aid by immersing him or her in cold water until body temperature is lowered."

To get Abby's booklet "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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