I didn't think anything of it until I realized that the dogs were not only off leash, but alone.
The smaller one (a Pekingese, perhaps) darted over to Marge and me and jumped in the car after Marge when I loaded her in. Suffice to say, I quickly scooped the little smush-faced guy up and put him down on the ground to prevent an altercation from occurring in my front seat.
I then locked Marge in my car and pondered what to do next. The little guy ran off with his elder and larger buddy, some sort of tan-colored mix. I called out to them, but they didn't respond. They were now walking down the main road, and the little one had his eye on the field across the street.
I started to walk back towards my car, thinking that there was nothing I could do, but the small dog darted back towards me. I grabbed him. No Frogger for the frog-faced dog, I decided. I couldn't let this dog get hit by a car. This is someone's pet. I discovered that he had tags, and went back over to my house to ask my sister for her cell phone.
I called, and didn't get a response. I REALLY had to leave. Thankfully, my neighbor was out and said I could put the dog in her yard. The sweet little guy played nicely with my other neighbor's dog through the fence and seemed to be in paradise while waiting in the yard, running around it and peeing on the trees with reckless abandon.
Long story short, we finally connected with the dog's owners via telephone and after I had left, the dog was picked up from my neighbor's yard. Apparently, the bad storms recently had blown down the fence, which led to the jailbreak of these two dogs. The owner was not worried about the older dog (ugh) and said that he would walk home on his own (I would have still been out looking if I were her, of course).
In thinking about this incident, I realized that there are some things that all dog owners really should do to ensure the safety of their dogs.
For one, the fact that this dog was wearing identification while he was out on the town led to his quick reunion with his owner. I know that people have their qualms about dogs wearing collars in the house (and I get that completely - most importantly, dogs left unsupervised in crates should probably have their collars taken off). However, I'm not sure what would have happened if this dog wasn't wearing ID. I had to leave; I'm not sure if my neighbor would have kept him indefinitely. I, of course, cannot have a second dog in my house. Would I have had to let him loose and hope that he found his way home?
Also, I feel like it's common sense to check the perimeter of your property/fencing, particularly after bad weather, before letting your dog out. This dog got out because the wind from the previous night's storm had damaged the fence. I know that any time we get a bad wind storm here, I stay right by the door while Marge is out and check the gate beforehand (it has blown open in the past, even when locked). If someone else in my family is going to be letting her out, I leave a note on the door telling them to do the same. Paranoid? Maybe. But better safe than sorry.
Lastly.. although it wouldn't have helped much in this case, where the owner was unaware that the dog was loose, I truly believe in the importance of a solid recall or emergency word. There have been times I've dropped the leash accidentally or the gate was left unlatched. But, thanks to a reliable "Marge, come!," I have been able to avert crisis. When Marge hears the magic C word, she is all ears. I reinforce it every single time (sometimes with jackpots, sometimes releasing her to a fun activity a la Premack) and never use it if I am not certain that she will respond to it. We have other "recall" phrases as well, such as "want a cookie?" and "are you hungry?" that can be used in an emergency. Many people feel that because their dog just stays on their property and never walks off leash that it's not an important skill to have. But a recall sure is a handy thing to have in the dog training toolbox when the toddler lets the dog out the front door or the leash somehow wiggles free from your hand... or the fence blows down and you forget to check your yard.
Nothing is foolproof, including life, gates, and leashes. I think that we should do our best to ensure the safety of our pets and attempt to keep Murphy's Law at bay.