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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Kids, Dogs Deserve Protection

An ambulance had passed going double the speed limit only moments earlier, causing me to wonder who was ill or injured.

Then a speeding car passed, obviously unimpressed by the fact that the ambulance likely was on the way to an auto accident.

Next, a pickup stopped at the corner, ready to turn onto my street.

One of my Labrador retrievers was taking me for a walk, enjoying the cool air that temporarily made August seem like October in Arkansas.

The ambulance had caused me a moment of anxiety. The speeding car had irritated me. The truck made me outright angry.

A girl about 4 years old was riding in the bed of the truck, unrestrained by anything but her own instinct to sit low and her questionable ability to cling to a slick metal sidewall.

Mustering all the restraint in my being, I motioned to the pickup driver and stepped near his open window.

Telling him that riding in the back of a truck is extremely dangerous and recommending that he get his daughter inside the truck was the least I could do. The man stared blankly at me and did not respond.

No doubt, he was angry and surprised. I knew I was being pushy, maybe bordering on rude. But the child's safety is much more important than my dignity.

The man drove around the corner and stopped a half-block away. I stood watching, wondering whether he was about to walk back and try to improve my manners.

But, obviously, the man, however he felt about my interference, realized that my advice was correct. He helped the child into the cab of the pickup and drove away.

Nearly a year has passed since I last got on my high-horse about people and animals riding in open truck beds.

Saturday's incident, however, made me realize there is no way to emphasize too often that unrestrained pickup passengers are at risk.

The time has come to begin refreshing the training of hunting dogs, and such cool spells as we had this week are perfect for exercise, both for hunters and dogs.

Few owners of quality pointers and hounds allow their dogs to ride free in trucks. Far too many owners of retrievers, however, seem to believe the beauty of a big dog hanging over the side of a pickup bed is something that will last forever.

Ask any veterinarian and you likely will learn that a great many dogs are thrown from trucks each year. Many die, many are crippled.

Occasionally, I ask a person driving a pickup with a dog in the bed whether he will sell the dog. The answer is always negative. Then I say, suppressing the sarcasm as much as possible, that it would appear that the driver doesn't care for the dog and ought to be happy to sell it.

The same sort of comment could have been directed to the man with the child loose in his truck. Did he want to put her up for adoption? Obviously, he wasn't thinking much about her safety.

Many of us rode in pickup beds years ago and thought nothing of it. And maybe adults ought to have the right to ride in open truck beds. But children ought to be protected. And so should animals.

Editor's note: In the years since this column was first written, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, has passed a law requiring animals in the beds of pickups to be in a cage or tethered. What's the law in your town? What is the law for human beings riding in pickup beds? You might be surprised!


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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