By Jill Rosen
The Baltimore Sun
9:00 AM EDT, August 29, 2011
During one of the most stifling days of the year, Sally Harris got home from work to find her house thermostat registering a sweaty 93 degrees. After she took her dogout for a quick walk to relieve himself, she went to curse out her air-conditioning unit when she realized it said "savings" on the dial. BGE had turned off the air because she had signed up for the "peak rewards" savings plan.
As she tried to call the power company to get the air back on, Cody, her dog, began gyrating on the floor. He was having a seizure. She hung up the phone and went to hold him -- she thought he was dying.
After a rushed trip to the emergency vet, where Cody suffered another seizure during the drive, Harris learned Cody had suffered a heat stroke. She blames BGE and wants the company to pay Cody's vet bills.
"Since the vet visit was due to the heat that BGE caused I feel they should pay for it," Harris says. "I realize that I signed up for the program but I was never told that the A/C could be off on the hottest day of the year for the whole day. I was told I would probably never notice a difference which I hadn’t, until that day."
Harris said a BGE representative told her they might be interesting in settling but she has yet to get a definite answer. When contacted by The Sun, company officials declined to discuss the case.
"BGE is working directly with the customer to resolve this matter," BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy said. "I am not at liberty to share details."
Harris, who lives in Elkridge, is one of 70,000 households who had chosen BGE's "100 percent" cycling option who saw their AC shut off on July 22 from 11:30 am until late that night in some cases.
The following week, BGE apologized to customers and announced that they would review the peak rewards program. They also suggested people with health problems not sigh up for it.
But pets, which can be extremely sensitive to heat, were never part of the conversation.
"Other people should be aware of the dangers if they are on the peak rewards program and they have pets," Harris says.
Cody is a nine-year-old Pomeranian. Harris leaves him home, crated, during the day when she commutes to work in Washington.
She returned home that night at 6 p.m., where the furry animal likely already spent the entire day in a 90-degree home.
She noticed the first seizure while she was trying to get through to BGE -- no one there was picking up the phone.
"I thought he was scratching himself and got his paw caught in his fur," she says. "When I got closer I could see he was having a seizure. I hung up the phone and I picked him up to hold him until the seizure subsided.
"Every time I put him down he couldn’t stand and would fall over so I held him. I put him down on my bed under the fan to try and cool him off. He was drooling terribly ... and he went into another grand mal seizure. This time I thought he was dying"
She rushed him to Falls Road Animal Hospital, with the AC in the car trained directly at him. A vet took examined him immediately, and got his temperature down. Cody stayed in the intensive care unit overnight, to get IV fluids and to make sure his vital organs were stable.
The total bill was $545.45.
Cody has recovered. Harris, and many others, have since canceled peak rewards. She's still waiting to hear from BGE about any reimbursement.
"Nobody mentioned any of the drastic affects this shut off had," Harris says. "This happened as a result of the peak rewards. It was bad enough they almost killed my dog."
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