Like many committed pet parents, we at i Love Dogs are very concerned with the safety and well-being of our furry friends. We have written at length about removing potential toxins from your home, the effective use of canine citamins & supplements, water safety tips with your pup, using intuition to connect to your dog’s emotions, and many more issues that we hope will help you care for your dog more effectively and further support the bond you already have with your canine companion.
As many of you well know, watching over your dog’s health is only half the battle. Dogs will be dogs, and we need to be sure that our yards are safe for them to play in, that their outside areas are securely enclosed, and that they are registered and microchipped, in the event that something happens. Stopping to chat with other pet parents on walks, and getting to know people at the dog park and in our own canine community can also be an important resource.
While my husband and I consider ourselves to be responsible and educated pet parents, over the past two weeks we have learned this the hard way.
As some of you may know, we rescued Shelby, a 13-month-old lab/pit mix, in November, 2008. She was the perfect addition to our family, but a challenging one–she was afraid to be left alone, and effectively destroyed the house every day while we were at work. I remember one day in late December I came home to find the Christmas tree lying in a puddle of sappy water and broken ornaments covering the living room floor.
We decided to install a doggy door. My husband went to Home Depot, found one that was her size, had no sharp edges, and had a closure so we could still secure our home if we all went away. Problem solved. Shelby had more freedom, more space and activities to keep her occupied, and the destruction ceased. Happy ending, right? Well…
Last Friday, my husband picked up a voicemail on his way home from work: “Hi, please call me. I have your dog.” Apparently, Shelby had been found on the street trying to avoid traffic right outside the dog park we go to every day–about a mile walk across busy streets from our house. A woman and her son, thinking she must have gotten loose from the gated park, shooed her up in that direction, where she was noticed by another regular parkgoer. Recognizing Shelby, but seeing that neither my husband nor I were with her, the woman brought her home with her and her dogs and called the number on Shelby’s license tag.
The skin on Shelby’s paws was worn almost completely down from the ordeal. My husband brought her to our vet, who bandaged her up and gave us some antibiotics to prevent infection.
While this was a very upsetting experience for both us and Miss Shelby, who slept for two days straight after we got her home, it turned out the best way it possibly could have. Once Shelby realized she was out of our yard and couldn’t get back in (she had used a stationary garbage bin to vault over a five-foot cinder block wall), she immediately went to a place she recognized as safe–the dog park. Since she and my husband go there almost every day, she was recognized and taken in almost immediately, thus preventing any further injury or–possibly worse–any issues with animal control. Her rescuer was able to find us quickly from her license tag, but even if that had somehow been lost, Shelby is microchipped, so it will always be possible to find us.
As devoted pet parents, we all know how important licensing and microchipping our pets is. But it’s situations like this, when things that happen to “other people” happen to us, that make us really take stock of our dogs’ surroundings and identifying information. Is your dog licensed? Have you moved or changed your phone number since you last licensed your furry friend? If someone tracks the information in your dog’s microchip, will they find you, or will it lead them to a disconnected phone number back from before you got that cross-country transfer?
Registering your dog is easy and, usually, inexpensive–information about when and where you can get your dog registered can be found on your city’s official website. Microchipping can be done by any vet. The cost for this service varies from clinic to clinic, but don’t let finances stop you from taking this important step for your pup. Many shelters and local rescue groups hold low-cost chipping clinics as part of their commitment to making sure that all dogs who are lucky enough to find their forever homes have everything they need to stay there.
Karma Rescue, a non-profit, no-kill rescue organization in Los Angeles, even offers to leave their own information on the chips of newly adopted dogs. “This is so that if the adopters cannot be reached through the license information, we can always be there for the dog ASAP,” explained Karma Rescue founder Rande Levine.
When microchipping pets first arose as a service, I remember thinking how bizarre and futuristic–almost Big Brotherish–it seemed to have an electronic identifier inserted into a dog. As is often the case, though, sometimes we don’t realize how important things are until the awful day comes when we actually need them.
Miss Shelby’s recent vaults over our back wall have made us realize the importance not only of registration and microchipping, but also of getting to know other pet parents in our community. Ultimately, the wonderful people we’ve met on our regular activities with Shelby are the ones who made sure she got home safe and sound. We all know the familiar saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As my husband and I are learning, this proverb holds true for dogs, too.
Have you ever lost a dog, temporarily or otherwise? What do you do to make sure you can find your pooch if something happens? Let us know here.