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Be sure to keep your fellow creatures in mind this summer

Oh Mama, hold my shoes--dang if it isn't summer.

It looks good coming in, for a change. We had all that rain, so the plants and critters are plumped up, in better shape than they've been in five or six years. It's been hard watching the slowly dying sycamores and pinched-up cactus all this time, and such a relief to see the results of one wet winter. Most of the sycamores are now gone, lovely wash-bottom trees planted where they cannot live without constant attention. But the saguaros are going just nuts. Taut and pudgy with stored rain, they can't cram in enough buds on their tops, so they're flowering right down their trunks and arms, going full-blast on that whole pollen-nectar-fruit thing that keeps the world turning. It's terrific.

My feeling about summer in Tucson is that if you've got cooling in your house and your car, you can stop whining or move.

Yes, it's hot here. In fact, we've just learned that the average summer lows are more than 10 degrees higher than in the 1960s, and while global warming could have something to do with it, local warming sure the hell does. All that asphalt and concrete and roofing soaks up the heat all day and radiates it back all night. In other words, we're all making the heat worse by being here, so really, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the heat island.

Or you can adapt. At my house, the cooler is working; the shutters are closed; the iceman cometh to Circle K, and the voice of the ceiling fan is heard in the land. The pinot grigio is getting slushy in the freezer, and my husband's done teaching. What's not to like?

Some of us, though, are less swaddled in comfort. Some of us, for instance, don't wear shoes. Never forget that the temperature of the asphalt outside is of critical importance to your barefoot dog. Canines are stoic animals, and too many of them trot along in silent pain because their owners thoughtlessly take them out when the pavement is scorching. My vet's rule is to put your hand flat on the pavement and see if you can hold it there before you take your dog walking. I assume you already know about Tucson's dead-serious parked-car law.

And another thing: If you happen to be out in the sticks and see someone on foot who looks thirsty, give him the gallon jug of water that you wisely always carry in your trunk. And if he, or they, are injured, or seem exhausted, incoherent, or sick, call 911 and stay with them until help arrives. More than 200 people died in the desert last summer, and no matter what you think about illegal immigration, hyperthermia is a horrible way to go. Most of the people who get into trouble out there are poor, uneducated peasants who have been lied to--coyotes are not above assuring them that Los Angeles is an easy walk from Altar or Naco, and pointing them north. Many come from much milder climates and have no idea what they're getting themselves into.

(But is it safe to help? Samaritans, a local humanitarian group, has assisted literally hundreds of migrants during the three years it's been out looking for people in trouble, and has not had one scare. There are no guarantees, but that's their experience. Set the water on the road up ahead and drive away if you're nervous, and, obviously, don't go checking out parked cars down dirt tracks.)

So help if you can: It is not against the law to assist a person in distress, no matter who that person might be. You can offer water, food or a wet bandana to anybody you want. As a citizen of the United States of America, you are free to behave like a human being. And to support meaningful immigration reform that would put an end to the practice of funneling a desperate human tide through the Sonoran Desert.

What you cannot do is give someone who might be undocumented a ride. That is transporting, and you can get in big trouble for doing it. So, unlike Jesus' Good Samaritan, you cannot put the broken traveler on your ass and carry him to an inn, not unless you're willing to risk arrest on federal charges and confiscation of your car. (Or ass.)

Stay cool this summer, and have some pity for those who can't.

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