By Elke Thoms
“It’s 95 degrees outside right now, to me that feels like heaven,” Joey Zitzelberger says, sweat dripping down his face. As documented in their YouTube video, he and colleague Nick White have been locked in a truck for the past 25 minutes—willingly. The temperature Zitzelberger’s longing for is right outside the car door, but he does not open it. The temperature inside the car is 130 degrees. Zitzelberger and White do not free themselves from the vehicle for another 15 minutes.
Why? Because they have a voice, and access to YouTube. Your dog does not.
White is the owner of Off-Leash K9 Training, LLC. Headquartered in Woodbridge, they have 21 locations across the U.S. He and Joey Zitzelberger, the owner of the Richmond location, decided they’d heard enough stories of dogs being left in cars for too long. Taking matters into their own hands, they simulated what it was like for a dog to be trapped in a car for 40 minutes on a hot summer day by going through it themselves.
At the start of the video, the pair is cheery. “We’re really looking forward to doing this,” White starts off. “Well not really, but we are for education purposes.”
We spoke with White the day after he completed the video. When asked how the overall experience was, he quickly responded “It was pretty miserable.” The closer they got to 40 minutes, he says, the worse the experience became.
“As soon as we got in it was uncomfortable—it was 100 degrees. But the first 10 minutes weren’t too bad… around the 25-minute-mark, we were both like yeah, this sucks pretty bad. Once we hit like 35 minutes, the feeling of lightheadedness and our skin feeling hot was drastically increasing. I felt worse from the last five minutes than I did from the first 35… I don’t think we could’ve stayed in there for 55 minutes. I think we would’ve passed out, or died.” White says.
Watching the video, the tolls of this experience on White and Zitzelberger quickly become evident. As the video goes on, the two become less animated—Zitzelberger surrenders quickly to the heat getting quieter as the video goes on, fidgeting with his clothing and shifting in an attempt to stay comfortable. White’s passion carries him to the last five minutes, until he too grows quiet.
When the timer finally reads 40 minutes, Zitzelberger interrupts White, who quickly wraps up their time in the car, saying “Alright. I’m done talking.” Loud sighs of relief from the two are heard as they exit the vehicle, into the cooling 95 degree weather. The truck reached 138 degrees in 40 minutes.
You can watch the video below:
So how do you keep your dog safe when you want to run into the store and grab something during the summer months?
“You can leave your car running with the air conditioning on,” asserts Dr. Andrea Newman, a veterinarian at Old Dominion Animal Health Center in McLean. “But the comment I’ll make on that is we have actually seen one tragic case where the car was left running with the air conditioning on while the owner was nearby, but the air conditioning broke. That dog unfortunately did die of heatstroke.”
The dog that passed away from that incident had only been in the car 30 minutes—10 minutes shorter than the time White and Zitzelberger spent locked in their car.
White urges dog owners to remember that even the horrible experience he had is nothing compared to what a dog would be going through. A dog has a fur coat, and cannot sweat. Additionally, for the week leading up to the video he and Zitzelberger drank a gallon and a half of water a day, and were hydrated when they got in the truck.
“The single thing that made it more bearable was that we knew at any point, we could open the door,” says White.
A dog doesn’t have that luxury.