As many of you might be aware, I am a dog person. I mean, I am a person who loves dogs, not a person who is part dog as well as person. Obviously. Anyway, I have always loved dogs as far back as I can remember. One time when I was about 4 years old and I snuck out of the house (frightening the crap out of my poor babysitter) so I could sneak into a neighbor’s garage to play with their puppies.*
In what is probably a classic stroke of ironic karma, nearly all of the dogs I have had in my life have managed to sneak off at least once, much like I did all those years ago. Not to point fingers, but usually it is because some younger humans leave a door or gate open when they shouldn’t. Sometimes the dogs came back when we called them, sometimes we found them while out combing the neighborhood, and sometimes they were returned to us by friendly folks who got our phone number off their name tags. Anyway, they’ve always come back to us in one way or another, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying when it happens; I always worry that this will be the time when they don’t come back at all.
So naturally, if I find a loose dog, I try to catch it and bring it home (to its own house, if possible). I keep a leash in my car at all times, for the specific purpose of catching loose dogs I might encounter when I’m out. You might be surprised at how often this has happened to me. (Or maybe not; perhaps I see them more often because I am looking for them.)
This happened to us on Sunday. As we were returning home after a weekend trip to the cities, we spotted a yellow lab on the other side of the road just around the corner from our house. I hopped out of the car immediately (well, I did wait until the car had stopped moving first) and called him over. He was quite timid but did slowly come to me. Eventually I was able to grab his collar and pull him over to the side of the road so the several cars now stuck behind ours could continue on their merry ways. He had a rabies tag and city license, but no name tag, address, or phone number. If it had been a Monday afternoon, no problem – we could just call the city and find out where he belonged, then take him home. However, it was a Sunday. That means no one was working at the city pound or the vet’s office where the rabies tag was issued, so there was no way to find his home without knocking on doors, which is what we did.
We were surprised to find that the second person we approached actually knew the dog’s name. “That’s Buddy!** I found him running around last summer!” But when asked if he remembered where the dog lived, details were a bit fuzzier. “Umm… I THINK he lives on the xx00 block of that street over there… somewhere in the middle, on the south side.” We tried every house in the middle of that block. Only 2 people answered their doors but neither of them knew the dog, so we took him home for dinner. I put a Found ad on craigslist, and shared the dog’s picture to Facebook and Twitter. We went out again after dinner, knocking on more doors. We hoped that the dog might recognize his house when we passed it and turn up the driveway or something, but no dice. After an hour or two, we gave up. We fed him dinner and went to bed. In the morning I called the city: “Oh yes. His name IS Buddy. He is known to run off.” Turns out he did in fact live right where the neighbor said he did: smack in the middle of the xx00 block on the south side of that street over there. The family had all been out looking for Buddy while we were knocking on their door the previous day. If only they had put a name tag on him with their phone number or address, we could have brought him straight home instead of wandering the entire neighborhood all afternoon and evening in complete futility.***
So, the moral of this story is, if you want your dog to come home again when he gets out, please make it easy for the person who finds your dog to find you by doing these three things:
- Put a tag on your dog’s collar which has his name and your phone number and/or address. Be sure to replace the tag immediately if you get a new phone number. I can’t stress this enough. We can’t call you if we don’t know who you are. Don’t count on the finder being able to call the city or your vet, because those numbers are of no use on evenings and weekends when the offices are closed. Not everyone who finds a stray dog is willing or able to do what we did – many people will just call the pound.
- Microchip your dog, even if you have a collar with your phone number on it. Sometimes collars break or get chewed off, so it is important to have another way of identifying your pet. Many pet rescue groups give free or discounted microchipping for pets; I beg you to make use of this service. Keep in mind though, microchipping is not a foolproof solution. Microchips need to scanned by the city or a vet clinic or they mean nothing.
- Your best bet is to have both a collar with tags and a microchip, and keep your information updated!! If you move or change your number, be sure to notify your vet clinic, the city, your microchip company, and update any tags that might have outdated info. If they don’t have your correct phone number, then neither does the person who found your dog.
From one dog lover to another, please do this for your dog, and yourselves. You’ll thank me later.
* Sorry again, Mom.
** Names and other details have been changed to protect the privacy of our neighbors. I am not writing this to point fingers or hurt anyone’s feelings, I write this purely for educational purposes.
*** On the plus side, I did get a lot of exercise that day.