Rickter Scale: A precious paws for thought

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Fifi, that lovable, lively little ball of fluff never knew what whomped her.

One minute she was perched up high on the steering wheel, barking at something on the sidewalk. Seconds later, she was flattened like a flapjack by the canvas cannonball that exploded out of the steering wheel with a force that left her lifeless form tattooed on her owner’s coat.

In the aftermath, friends say the driver was horrified, traumatized and literally inconsolable. Sadly, inconsiderate and thoughtless would be equally appropriate descriptions.

If that sounds callous, it’s because I can’t conceive of how people who profess to love their pets unconditionally would let them sit on their lap when they’re driving. Leave the cuddling for the couch because what could possibly go wrong has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head at the worst possible time.

Just ask Stephen King, the author of too many best-selling books to read or remember. He was left with a broken leg, a broken hip and a punctured lung after a driver momentarily distracted by his canine companion mowed him down while he was out for a stroll on a Saturday in June of 1999.

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The impact launched King like one of the creatures from his books almost 15 feet through the air, or 4.572 metres in Canadian. In a cruel bit of irony, the driver wasn’t charged, but it turns out the dog’s name was Cujo. Okay, I made that part up, but you get the point, and it’s no laughing matter.

According to stats from the irrepressible peeps at ICBC, four out of 10 people take their pet along for the ride when they head out on vacation, and only half use a pet restraint device.

That means if things go sideways, even on a short trip to the store, your pooch is going to bounce around the inside of the car like a pinball, potentially inflicting injury on itself and whoever happens to be in its flight path.

If you’re still convinced that nothing will happen and insist on playing roulette with Rover’s life, at least reduce the risk by keeping your four-legged bestie beasties in the back seat. That way they’ll be spared a closeup of what’s going to smack them, or being flipped out of their fur by witnessing what just happened to you.

If you take issue with the rant-like direction of this column, you can blame it on the reader who took the time to pass along some positive comments on a not so recent Rickter that dealt with distracted drivers.

This one’s for you, sweet lady of the West Shore, and thanks again for the feedback and delayed inspiration. Unfortunately, we’ll have to save taking a poke at people who allow their dogs to roam free in the back of their pickups for another time. We know who you are, we’re watching, and we’ll get to you eventually when you least expect it.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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