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Grieving for Greedy

Elizabethton resident Brandon Kincaid lost his best friend last month after making a terrible judgment call to leave his beloved dog in a car on a hot day.
“I hope no one else has to learn the way I did,” Kincaid said tearfully. “I loved that dog.”
Kincaid’s 3-year-old pit bull Greedy died of heat exhaustion July 14 after being left in the car while Kincaid donated plasma in Johnson City.
“I got her when she was 3 days old. Her eyes weren’t even open,” Kincaid said. “I fed her with a bottle.”
Kincaid said he chose to name his dog Greedy because she was always greedy for attention.
“She slept with me, and she never barked or bit anyone,” he said. “We had so much fun.”
The two moved to Elizabethton from Washington state only a month ago so Kincaid could care for his father.
“The temperature hasn’t gotten above 61 degrees yet in Washington,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about (the effects of) humidity.”
Kincaid took Greedy with him to a facility in Johnson City where he planned to donate plasma to earn money to buy her dog food.
“I would have left her at home, but my dad isn’t in any condition to take care of her, and my sister wasn’t home,” he said. “They’re the only two people I trust.”
Because he was a new donor, Kincaid said he had to wait two hours before he could be seen.
During that time, Kincaid says he checked on Greedy every 10 minutes.
“I took her water, and I let her out to walk around,” he said. “I rolled the driver’s side window down all the way.”
While Kincaid says he was somewhat worried that she would jump out of the car, Greedy was well-trained.
“I thought if she did, she would just come over and sit by the front door,” he said.
Kincaid continued to monitor Greedy through a window and made repeated trips to the car to check on her, he said.
“But I was in a hurry, I was rushing, thinking they would call my name,” he said. “That was so stupid.”
It was during the approximately 20-minute interval when Kincaid was having a physical that Greedy succumbed to the heat.
The Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control Center received a call from 911 about a dog in distress. An officer responded immediately, but it was too late.
“I doused her with water, I gave her CPR, but there was nothing I could do,” Kincaid said. “People say it was just an accident, but I’m ashamed of myself.”
The judge agreed to dismiss the animal cruelty charges imposed on Kincaid for the incident on a recommendation from Animal Control Officer Wayne Thomas.
“He has been very responsive in talking to the media to share his story,” Thomas said. “And he has done so voluntarily, not by court order.”
Thomas hopes those who hear the story will be less apt to make the same mistake.
“When I saw how distraught he was, I thought it was an opportunity to raise public awareness about what can be a fatal mistake,” Thomas said. “By coming forward, he could save other animals.”
Kincaid hopes that is the case.
“I hope by what I’m saying, people will realize the danger,” he said. “Even if they (Animal Control) had taken her away from me, she would have another home and would still be alive. It’s a mistake I will never make again.”
Thomas, who responds to calls about animals in cars on a regular basis, carries a thermometer with him that can gauge the temperature inside a vehicle.
“The motor is still hot after the owner turns off the car, and it’s hot outside,” Thomas said. “The temperature in the car can reach 100 degrees before the owner has taken 10 steps away.”
Thomas said he once measured a 97-degree temperature in a car sitting in the mall parking lot with a pit bull inside.
“Nobody thinks it will happen to their pet. The owner thought it was hilarious we were even there,” Thomas said. “He may not be that lucky next time. We wonder how many owners do come back and find their pet dead that we never hear about.”
Signs of heat exhaustion in animals, according to Thomas, are a change in tongue color, glazed eyes, and the animal acting disoriented or lethargic.
Thomas said the only action owners can take once their pets have reached the level of heat exhaustion is to rehydrate them.
“But most of the time you can’t get them to drink once they’ve reached this point, and putting an overheated dog in ice cold water can shock its system,” he said. “It has to be intravenous. The best thing to do is get them to a vet.”
Heat exhaustion is not something that only occurs in cars, according to Thomas.
“Even outside in the yard or on a deck with no shade, animals can suffer,” he said, adding that dog houses can also get hot.
Despite Kincaid’s story, some people just aren’t getting the message, Thomas says.
“Since this happened on July 14, we’ve responded to eight to 10 calls (about animals left in vehicles,)” he said. “You don’t want to see us pulling up behind you or coming in (the store or business) to get you, because we will.”
The majority of calls, Thomas says, are from people reporting animals left in cars at Wal-mart, K-mart, and various grocery stores.
“People think they will only be gone for a few minutes, but you’re not going to be in there that short of a time,” he said.
Thomas breaks it down as 5 minutes to walk inside, 15 minutes to walk through the store, 5 to 10 minutes to stand in line, another 5 to walk back to the car.
“It will be a minimum of 35 minutes,” he said.
In cases where Animal Control is responding to calls regarding pets left in vehicles, Thomas said it usually takes owners 15 minutes to get outside once they have been paged.
“Until people realize this, we will continue to run into these fatalities,” he said.
According to Thomas, three options are available during hot weather: leave your pet at home; take your pet into the store with you; or leave your pet in the car with the air-conditioning running.
Kincaid said his car has a working air-conditioner.
“If I had thought about it, I could still have my baby,” he said. “She was my best friend.”