Monday, April 18, 2011

How To Save Your Dog's Life

Sunday morning, I walked out of my house and crossed the street to my car, Marge's leash in hand.  I glanced towards the corner of my block and saw two dogs standing next to the bus stop pole, presumably lifting their leg and marking it.

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.


Sue April 18, 2011 at 5:54 PM  

You can't repeat this too often. I always check the gate when letting the dogs out in case Rob has forgotten to lock it. We also had a car smash into the corner of the fence one time and it left an opening.

I had a dog with no identification follow me on a city street one day. I detoured to the nearest police station and left the pooch in their capable hands. I couldn't bear the thought of her getting hit by a car.

KB April 18, 2011 at 6:20 PM  

Good job! I hope that the older dog made it home safely too.

We have a different problem up in the mountains. People move up here and then think that it's OK to let their dogs roam. Funny, as I was writing this comment, a dog zoomed through our property and my dogs went crazy barking (from inside the house). By the time I got to the front door, he was gone. I hope that he gets home OK. Contrary to popular myth, living in the country doesn't make it safe for your dog to roam.

Chris and Ricky April 18, 2011 at 7:01 PM  

Thanks for saving the little dog! All good advice - the last time I brought a stray home that had a tag with the phone number I called the number and a nice woman answered and said she didn't have a dog. Well the dog's owner had moved and never updated the tag with the new number. Luckily while walking around my neighborhood someone recognized the dog and knew where she lived.

Kathy Mocharnuk April 18, 2011 at 8:10 PM  

SUCH GOOD WORDS OF ADVICE!!! and so important. I know a lot of people are not into the collars but I just feel like things happen and my dogs are all chipped but it is tags that seem to get dogs home safe and sound so much faster. I think people are more willing to help a dog when they see a tag because they know there is likely to be a reunion and they are not going to be stuck with a doggie forever by helping the dog. I have also on my own tracked down owners when I have done shelter checks and saw tags on dogs, even when the owners moved a check on the computer helped me find their owners, wish the shelter had tried that, but....
so glad you were there to help the little doggie and glad it ended well, although sounds like the owners could have taken things more seriously. We have a wooden fence and when ever there is wind I am out and check the fence,and we have double fencing where they would have to get out of at least two places, but it can happen....glad you reminded all of us to make sure we have done all we can to keep the fur friends safe!

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ April 18, 2011 at 8:53 PM  

Great post and kudos to you for what you did. We hope the older dog made it home too.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Tucker The Crestie April 18, 2011 at 9:50 PM  

All great points! Hope the other dog made it home. :(

Diana April 19, 2011 at 6:15 AM  

Thanks for taking care of the little dog! My dogs wear tags but they are the boomerang tags. They lie flat on the collar so no noise, no tangling or getting caught on anything.

Never Say Never Greyhounds April 19, 2011 at 7:54 AM  

I am so anal about having a collar and tag on my dogs. A collar and tag says "Call me, I want my dog back."

andrea April 19, 2011 at 8:22 AM  

I agree totally - it makes me insane that Thea and Sally can't wear collars :( they are chipped but I worry much more about them then I do Sam and Brody who can both happily wear collars

Jules April 19, 2011 at 9:02 AM  

Very scary. That pup is very lucky you saw it!

Fred April 19, 2011 at 9:18 AM  

Such smart advice! And we're so glad you helped the puppy make it home safely! Sheesh!

Anna the GSD April 19, 2011 at 9:38 AM  

Thanks for saving the little guy! Mom found a hound dog one day, all it had was the rabies tag, so when we called the vet they tried to call the peoples...incorrect phone number!! Luckily the peoples drove by and saw mom with their dog...but then they acted like mom was trying to STEAL their dog!! AS IF!!

Correct ID is very important!!

Pedro April 19, 2011 at 12:43 PM  

Hmmm... My mom has saved more than one dawg who escaped like that. As a matter of fact, she's talking about getting new fencing at our dawg house because the old fence is getting weak. I hope the other dawg made it home ok...


Cinnamon and Mint April 21, 2011 at 3:44 AM  

I am glad that those dogs went back to their home safely in the end. I have to admit that my recall is not that reliable. So, my humans always keep a close eye on me when they let me off leash in the park. Also, the fence around our backyard is not high enough. So, my humans never let me stay in the backyard alone. I am always kept inside when they can't watch me.

Kari in Alaska April 23, 2011 at 11:49 PM  

all I can say is at least the pups had tags on


Dawn April 24, 2011 at 7:25 AM  

I agree. I was out for a walk last fall when a beautiful young golden followed me a mile or so home. She had been out chasing cars when I walked by. She had a tag and I called her Dad who came right over and got her. But still..what was she doing out loose chasing cars? I never saw her again on my walks and always wondered if she got hit...

One of Katie's instructors told us that we were responsible for keeping them safe. I've never forgotten that. I wish all owners felt the same.

ForPetsSake April 24, 2011 at 10:56 PM  

Great, great post! At the clinic where I work we've seen a ton of dogs recently that have been picked up by kind dog lovers and brought for a check up. We've recovered some of the dogs via microchips, but not all. The nasty storms are making the kiddos panic and jump or break out of fences, windows, etc. A friend of mine has had alot of recent runaway dog issues and it's a terrifying experience!

Stella April 27, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

Hooray for you, Sam for recovering this little guy. Everybody has said what needed to be said, but I am saying to you, you are a terrific animal care person. Just the best!

Stella and Jo

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