I write this column some time before it is published, and today as I put finger to keyboard, it is gloriously sunny. I am outside basking in the rare heat, determined to make the most of it while I can, even if I can barely see what I am writing on my screen.

As we Brits know only too well, this beautiful weather is likely to be short lived so I’m happy to squint as I work.

It is blissful and I think the wildlife in my garden are celebrating too. The birds seem extra chirpy and excitable, the bees and flies extra busy and buzzy, and the ants and beetles extra industrious as they hurry about their daily business.

My attention is caught by a couple of spiders on the decking having a standoff. They look to be eyeing each other up, keeping very, very still, until one moves a bit, then so does the other, without getting too close. It is quite a captivating little dance and I wonder if it is some kind of mating ritual, or whether one is preparing to attack the other. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to find out, as something startles them, and they scuttle off to safety below the decking.

Darlington and Stockton Times: A couple of spiders were having a stand off on my decking during recent hot weather

The swift change in temperature over the past couple of days has come as a shock to the system. It seemed to increase almost overnight by a whopping 15 degrees and took many of us by surprise when it comes to knowing what to wear. Moseying about town, some people were in coats and sweaters, while others wore shorts and flip flops.

It has also affected our four-legged friends, who are certainly unprepared. I have noticed them panting more and drinking far more water and we have cut short our dog walks, using routes that offer plenty of shade. It takes dogs a lot longer than us to adjust to changing weather conditions, and even when it seems pretty cool, they can still overheat.

My son Jasper was walking along a local shaded path when he came across a distressed woman with a large Dalmatian. Although she didn’t know Jasper, they had crossed paths regularly on their walks and so she asked him for help. The dog was panting very heavily and kept lying down and refusing to move.

Thankfully, they were not far from our house and they managed to coax the dog into walking and once it got here, it promptly flopped down on the lawn while Jasper dashed in for a bowl of water. The owner was clearly upset, and said she only lived 15 minutes away, but was fearful that her dog would not survive that short distance without a drink.

She was right to be concerned, because heat exhaustion can affect a dog very quickly, and can be fatal. A dog pants to cool itself down but finds it hard to regulate its body temperature in warm conditions. If you notice excessive panting, then it’s best to take it into the shade and give it some water as soon as possible. Other signs of heat exhaustion include difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, lethargy and lack of coordination.

If you think your dog has been affected, the immediate priority is to bring its temperature down. Cool tap water sprinkled across its body is best, making sure to avoid the head (a gasping dog can inhale water into its lungs). Avoid excessively cold water though, as this can cause the animal to go into shock.

Don’t be tempted to cover it with wet towels either as this can trap heat in and make the situation worse. Keep sprinkling the water over the dog until the panting eases. Try offering it small drinks of water too. If you are at all concerned, take it straight to the vet.

What I didn’t know was that, according to the RSPCA, heat-related illnesses affect ten times more dogs than leaving them in hot cars, and the charity is running a campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

I’m delighted to report that the Dalmatian made a full recovery and the grateful owner, who happened to own a café, has offered myself and Jasper a free meal to say thank you.

Now that’s what I call a happy ending.

  • Do you have opinions, memories or ideas to share with me? Contact me via my webpage at countrymansdaughter.com, or email dst@nne.co.uk.