So, let me start here: Carbon Monoxide can kill you. And that’s why CO detectors are a fairly standard item on both boats and RVs. For those who don’t know, carbon monoxide is created by “inefficient” combustion. It’s present in exhaust fumes, and can be created if propane is burning at the wrong gas/air mixture. Therefore, most enclosed boats and campers have at least one of these devices onboard because, again, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can kill you.
So, last year, during the widespread insurrections in major cities last year, Angela and I bought a small camper, and set it up on some undeveloped land we owned deep in the backwoods in case we needed to flee the city, and had nowhere safe to go.
Now that we’re all up here in small town Georgia, we actually use the camper as just that – a camper. Additionally, we share it with our daughter and son-in-law so they can take the grandkids on cool trips and stuff. And this is where our story begins.
The (adult) kids and grandkids have been touring the East Coast for the last 3 weeks while Angela and I have been holding down the Home Office. They left two dogs with us: Coco and Georgia. (Yes, that’s her name.) They brought Jax, their 85-pound Pit Bull/Bull Dog mix, on the trip. He is the gentlest, sweetest, most laid-back dog I’ve ever met. Jax is getting up in years, and he’s getting very frail. They wanted to take Jax along to spend some quality time with him since they don’t know how much time he might have left.
Jax has always been notorious for releasing sometimes silent/sometimes not gaseous emissions from his derriere that can clear an entire wing of a house. The kids have told us countless horror tales of waking in the dead of night to the overwhelming odor of doggie doo, only to find ole’ Jax sleeping soundly by the foot of the bed. I, myself, have witnessed the awesome devastation of a Jax fart. We were all sitting and watching TV together when suddenly, from the other side of the coffee table, came a loud and long HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS that had me for a moment convinced that, somehow, we had let a king cobra into the house. But, upon looking around the table, I spied nothing more than Jax lying there on his side, snoring. And, then I was hit broadside by a stench I can only describe as “Biblical.”
Yes, Jax can peel some paint off a wall. And, if you’re standing too close, he just might give you brain damage.
Now, before the family left for their trip, I went over all the electrical, water, and gas systems in the camper. It uses propane for the stove, the furnace, and the water heater so I installed two CO detectors. One is in the kitchen near the stove, which sits just a foot or so away from the furnace. And, the water heater is not far away from there – toward the bathroom. I installed a second one at the foot of the bed, down near the floor. Propane gas is heavier than air so it settles near the floor. CO detectors are known to be triggered by propane gas as well. The entire camper is only 27 feet long. So, if there was carbon monoxide present anywhere, it should trigger at least one of the alarms.
So, on their second night out, the carbon monoxide detector under the bed went off in the middle of the night. They grabbed the babies and ran out of the trailer, leaving it open to air out. I asked if they had the truck engine running or the water heater burning. They said no. Easy answer – the CO detector was malfunctioning. I told them that they could either get a replacement, or just rely on the one detector in the kitchen. Case closed.
But, the next night, they were talking to Angela on the phone, and mentioned that the CO detector went off twice more that day, and the Jax was lying in front of it both times. They said, “You don’t think his farts are setting it off, do you?”
“No way,” I replied, certain that I knew enough about carbon monoxide detectors that this was a ridiculous question. “Those things are made to detect carbon monoxide, not farts.” (That would be methane – a different gas altogether.)
I doubled down on my original position, assuring them that if they have nothing burning, and they don’t smell propane at the time the CO detector is beeping, then it is unquestionably the device itself. But, as the weeks went by, we received more alarming phone calls. They said the CO detector going off was becoming a regular occurrence, with Jax lying close to it each time. In fact, they would have to make him get up in order to silence the alarm.
Cute anecdote, I thought. But, I’d have to see it before I believed it. Once they were back in Georgia, I’d simply replace that device with a new one. I’d lived on a boat all by myself for nine years with a CO detector right in my little sleeping quarters with me, and I’d never set it off. Not even after 2-for-1 Burrito Night at Tajuana Flats. There was simply no way a dog’s farts were triggering that alarm. Not even Jax’s.
Well, this week we traveled up to Tennessee to spend some time with them while they were on the last leg of their trip home. Just before they left, we’d all made reservations at a KOA campground in Pigeon Forge, TN. It was one last chance for them to show Jack and McKenzie some beautiful scenery, take them to some exciting kid-friendly attractions and restaurants, and relax with us before heading back home. Plus, it was the easiest way for us to get Coco and Georgia back to them without them having to deviate two hours to the west to our place, and then double back to get back to their house near Rome, GA.
Angela and I rented a cabin. The only other “RV” we have is my small hunting camper, which doesn’t have running water, or a shower, or a real toilet. It’s a step up from tent camping, as it has a bed and a small refrigerator, and air conditioning. But it’s still “roughing it.”
On the first night, we all gathered around the fire pit at their campsite. They had bought strings of LED patio lights, and strung them all around the awning. They’d set up a big, fold-up table with a pizza oven (Yes, a pizza oven. They are both chefs, remember.) where we all got to make our own pizzas, and pop them in the oven for a wonderful dinner around the campfire. We’d left all three dogs inside the camper because Georgia and Coco have a tendency to put their noses to the ground, and start wandering, oblivious to the world around them (not to mention, oblivious to the shouts of “NO’ and “Come Here!!” from us.) It was about as perfect a family evening as you could get. All was right with the world…
And then, it happened. I had just popped the top on my second Corona (the beer, not the virus) when we all heard the loud, rhythmic “BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP!!!”
Angela’s daughter casually got up, and walked over to the camper, while saying “I’ll get it.” She went inside, and silenced the alarm.
I questioned our son-in law. No, the water heater wasn’t on. They were going to shower in the bath house that night. No, they had not cooked anything on the propane stove. It was all pizza in an electric oven – and the oven was OUTSIDE. And, the outside temp was in the 70s. They had the air conditioner running – not the furnace. I ventured inside and there was Jax – snoozing on the floor with his butt nestled up right against the CO detector.
And, about 30 minutes later, he let off another of his signature stink bombs, triggering the deafening “BEEEEP… BEEEEP … BEEEEP” yet again!
I was still incredulous. I hate to be wrong. No way was it dog farts! So, when I was back in our cabin later that night, I Googled it.
Looks like I was wrong. Really stinkin’ wrong! The first clue was that I didn’t even finish typing my search criteria “carbon monoxide detector farts” when a whole slew of suggested searches populated a dropdown menu. Clearly, I wasn’t the first human in the world to query this topic.
I found article after article, and forum after forum on this subject, including THIS ONE from the Good Sam Club online. There are even YouTube videos on RV channels discussing the issue. And, apparently, some guy in Dublin, Ireland emitted a back-blast strong enough to set off a CO detector after a night of drinking beer on St. Patty’s Day – and that made national news. Now that’s some strong beer!
And, I couldn’t help but follow some links down a rabbit hole about just how far a bunch of scientists in the U.K. were willing to go to study dog farts.
So, apparently, although they are not supposed to, enough people have experienced this phenomenon for me to believe that CO detectors will, indeed, trigger from the presence of a gas attack from Rover’s behind (or a hungover boyfriend).
And, I guess this is also proof positive that Jax is a normal dog. Nothing really unique about his farts when compared to all other dogs. But, I’m still never lighting a match in that camper with Jax anywhere around!
- Another Dent in the RV (Oops….)
- RV vs. Mother Nature
- Coco the Dog Warns Us of Trouble to Come!
- Is Coco Afraid of Spring Storms?
- A Severed Achilles Tendon and a Stray Cat Stuck in the Bilge! NON-STOP CHAOS!!
- 12 Paying Markets for Your Travel Writing! – by Emmanuel Nataf
Brian Whiddon is the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly.com and the Operations Manager at BookLocker.com. An Army vet and former police officer, Brian is the author of Blue Lives Matter: The Heart behind the Badge. He's an avid sailor, having lived and worked aboard his 36-foot sailboat, the “Floggin’ Molly” for 9 years after finding her abandoned in a boat yard and re-building her himself. Now, in northern Georgia, when not working on WritersWeekly and BookLocker, he divides his off-time between hiking, hunting, and farming.
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