And the car was moving!
Lately, I’ve been seeing so many people riding around with their dogs in the car.
Some have the windows completely down.
Others have the windows partially rolled up, hoping to keep their dog from jumping out.
I’m here to tell you: a dog can fall out of a window that is half-way or even most of the way rolled up!
Here’s my story…
I would guess that the risk of this happening is probably directly proportionate to a dog’s overall weight and size.
As I said, ours was a relatively large dog with a lot of body mass.
He had been on several car rides before. He was always well-mannered in the car, and sat still most of the time — with his nose out the window and ears flapping in the wind.
This is an example of how far the windows were rolled down on this particular day:
Every Dog Has His Day
On this day, I had both Destin (the unfortunate victim) and Jersey (the white dog) in the back seat of our Jeep Grand Cherokee. Both rear windows were one-third of the way rolled down. It was a sunny Autumn afternoon.
I was stopped at a light, about to make a lefthand turn onto a 4-lane highway. (I was in the leftmost of 2 left turn lanes.) Dogs were fine.
When the light turned green, I accelerated slightly and began to pick up speed on the highway when I heard a light “click clunk”. (My stomach turns every time I relive this in my mind.)
I looked back, and noticed I only had one dog in the back seat. Not two. A quick glance at the road behind me in my rearview mirror showed nothing unusual. (Since I was in the midst of a turn, things were disproportionate.)
Completely flabbergasted as to how one of my dogs could’ve vanished out of thin air, I immediately veered to the righthand shoulder of the road. I was so panic-stricken and not thinking clearly, I’m very lucky that I didn’t hit another driver (…there had been several drivers behind me also turning left from 2 turn lanes onto this 4-lane highway).
When I jumped out of the car and looked back to the intersection where I turned (about 40 feet back), I noticed my Black Lab just sitting there looking confused as to why I’d left him in such strange surroundings, and why all these cars were honking at him. Thankfully, another driver behind me must’ve seen him fall out. She stopped and stood beside him while holding onto his collar — which is probably the only thing that kept other cars from hitting him.
What they say about a person gaining incredible strength in times of emergency is so true. I thanked the lady for stopping, then scooped up my 60 lb dog with shaking arms and tons of adrenaline rushing through my body. Somehow I carried him across 2 lanes of traffic, walked 40 feet back to my car with the dog in my arms, and placed him on the ground next to the car — fully expecting him to be whimpering and hurt.
Nope. He was wagging his tail and nosing the car door, as if to say, “Can I just get back in the car please?!”
I quickly examined him in the backseat of the car, and found all of his limbs working normally. He didn’t flinch when I poked, prodded, and bent every joint in his legs. And there was no blood to be found anywhere.
He immediately propped his nose back out the window and was ready to continue his car ride. The only strange thing I noticed at this point was the wind guard above his window had been broken by the weight of his body falling out the window.
I, of course, was still shaking in my skin and could not believe what had just happened! It still baffled me as to how he got out of the car… I didn’t think a dog (especially one this big) could get out of a window that was rolled up so high.
For the return trip home, the dogs didn’t have the joy of sticking their noses out the car window. Until I could think clearly and rationalize the situation thoroughly, there were no more car rides with the windows partially down at all.
How Can A Dog Fall Out Of A Car Window?
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how such a large dog could have squeezed through such a small opening. And I’d never heard of other dogs falling out of car windows — not when they were mostly rolled up!
The fact of the matter is… I probably didn’t have the window rolled up high enough for such a large sized dog. And, when a dog is accustomed to leaning on the car door & window all the time whenever he’s in the vehicle, then he’s going to keep doing it — even when you’re going around curves.
So I guess it was just this strange series of events (the degree of the turn, the acceleration of the speed, and the weight of his body) which sent our dog tumbling out the car window. And who knows?… Maybe something caught his attention, causing him to lean extra hard or stick his head out farther than usual this time.
It doesn’t really matter, because what happened happened.
The Safety Precautions We Now Take
The only thing that eases my mind about what happened on this day is this: I learned a very valuable lesson. The end result could have been much different, had it happened on another day and with the vehicle moving much faster.
Without a doubt, I was acting irresponsibly and putting my dog’s life at risk each time we took him for a ride in the car. I simply didn’t know better at the time.
A few days later, I went out and purchased doggie seatbelts for both dogs, and we always make sure that they are tethered to the seatbelts in our vehicles at all times now. (What I’m calling a doggie seatbelt is actually a seatbelt extender of sorts — it clicks into your vehicle’s seatbelt, and then clips onto your dog’s collar.)
A few weeks later, I took it a step farther, and purchased a dog harness for each dog, because I felt that with the right dynamics in place, a dog could still be thrown from the vehicle under certain circumstances. The chances are probably slim, but it could happen (especially with larger dogs), and I didn’t want to take any chances.
And we even bought them a doggie chin rest to rest their heads on while we’re driving. The best part: With the harness and seatbelt in place, we are now able to roll the window down to a level that is more enjoyable for the dogs. Now, they can remain seated, with their noses out the window!
Here are the 10 things we take along every time our dog goes on a car ride.
Happily Ever After
Destin appeared to be happy and healthy after this whole unfortunate incident. But I figured giving him a bath would enable me to find any smaller nicks, cuts, or scratches. The only one thing I found was this small scrape near on his belly/groin area.
After his bath, I added some Neosporin and the scratch was gone in a matter of days.
Do not overlook the fact that your dog could possibly fall out, or jump out, or be catapulted like a missile during a sudden stop or car accident. Here’s the story of another dog owner who advocates the use of dog seat belts and a list of the most dog-friendly vehicles.
UPDATE: Our story appeared in the New York Times on 10/30/08. (That’s Tenor on the right, riding in the back of my Jeep.)