Every year, the same warning repeatedly goes out to the general public: Do not leave your pets in a car in the heat, even with windows cracked for air. Even more critical, don’t let your child(ren) in a car in the heat.

And, tragically, every year we get news reports about at least one young child, somewhere, that was forgotten, left behind and succumbed to an overheated vehicle. Such a loss and the agony of living with such a tragedy is beyond imaginable. And, we probably don’t hear so much about pets that suffer the same fate.

Because humans are, well, human, such unthinkably sad accidents do happen.

While small children and vehicle-riding pets are subject to human decisions, most animals (and people, if they are able) will seek out whatever cooler alternatives might be available when extreme heat threatens their well-being.

Thus, during our recent stretches of extreme heat, someone casually driving by here might assume that not a single animal lived on this farm. But the reality is that they’ve all sought shelter in the coolest, shadiest locations they can find, just like we humans do as much as we possibly can.

Our dairy barn was always the most comfortable spot on the farm during hot, humid weather, with a myriad of fans blasting air through the center and side alleyways. After being turned out while we cleaned the barn, the girls would be waiting at the back of the barn and almost stampede to get back in under the fans. And, on more than one almost unbearably hot stretch of such weather, I threatened to sleep out there.

And, unconfined animals not enjoying fan-blown cooling waves of air can be creative when it comes to finding available creature comfort.

To find the beef cows and calves on a sun-blasted, sweltering day, it would take a hike to the farthest tree-shaded corners of the meadow pasture — which none of us here is about to do. Even early in the morning on hot, humid, sultry summer days, it sometimes takes some searching to locate the “beefers.”

With the arrival of evening and slightly cooler temperatures, the beef cows will collectively meander up through the pasture to the feed bunk behind the barns, calves playing tag along the way. But, before sunshine burns off the next morning’s dew, they’ll be lounging again in the most distant, shaded haunts.

More Popular Shady Spaces

The cool concrete of our basement porch is a comfort magnet for the (supposed) barn cats at those times when our outside thermometer reads 103 degrees, as it did at noontime here one day last week. While the cats often seek out the soft comfort of porch chair cushions during cooler days and overnight, midday heat finds them sprawling, stretched to their maximum whisker-to-tail length, across the shaded, concrete porch floor. Getting around them entails some creative, hopscotch-like footwork on our part.

And, heaven forbid you accidentally step on a tail, because you’ll be nursing claw tracks on your ankle for the next several days.

Chickens, understandably, aren’t fond of either rain or sweltering heat. They, too, find comfort on the cool concrete of the basement porch. In fact, some steamy afternoons I have to almost shove a half-dozen or so of them away from the door to get past them to the outside. The soil-and-stone floor of the greenhouse nearby is another favorite steamy-day resting spot, especially if I’ve watered it down with a hose and the shaded ground under the plant bench is still damp.

The favorite place of most of the feathered girls, though, is under a volunteer cedar that sprouted up some years ago from a seed at a corner of the garage. Now a 10-foot-tall, wide-branched evergreen, it shades a patch of bare soil beneath which is ideal for dusting, digging holes and just chillin’ out. A small rubber-tub water-garden nearby is even handy for a quick drink.

As summer reaches its usual crescendo of mid-July heat, the backyard groundhog will sneak into the grass in early morning and snooze in its cool burrow through afternoon. Fence-row bunnies chomp through the soybeans in early morning, then return for more nibbles as the sun dips toward the western hills.

And, the woodlot deer will rise and stretch from their understory shade beds and meander out into the bean and hay fields to graze as the sun is setting against the hint of a slight evening breeze.

We humans expend considerable amounts of creativity and dollars chasing creature comforts though this season of outdoor overheating.

Meanwhile, the creatures just seek out what comforts come naturally.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.


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