by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF will be sharing their animal rescue adventures with us now every month.
Dogs have a way of finding people who need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.
My sister has a gigantic Pit Bull the color of coal with a head the size of a cinder block, and a bark that’s louder than a Boeing 747. She also has a cattle dog mix with amazing grey eyes, serious ball-chasing skills, and a crazy Jekyll & Hyde personality. To say there’s never a dull moment in that house would be an understatement.
Like all dog owners who love and adore their fuzzy friends, quirks and all, my sister would be devastated to discover one of them missing. Perhaps the back gate had inadvertently been left ajar, or the front door was mistakenly propped open, or maybe that pesky squirrel in the neighbor’s yard was just too tempting for a certain mutt with a history of digging. Whatever the reason, many dogs make a break for it, and end up wandering the streets trying to remember where they live and what their human looks like—and more importantly, where’s that darn squirrel?
As heart-wrenching as it is for the owner, it can also be stressful for the person who finds a loose dog. Say you’re sauntering out to the parking lot after stocking up on DiGiorno flatbread, Double-Stuf Oreos and a sixpack of Smirnoff Ice (hey, don’t judge), when out of the blue, you see a flash of black fur and four white socks speeding toward you. Before you know it, a slobbery pink tongue has slimed you from ear to ear. It must have been the pizza.
After all the licking and tail wagging has subsided, you realize this animal is not Cujo, but more like Lassie. Then you think, he’s so cute, I’ll name him George and take him home and give him treats and we’ll share my bed and that big afghan Aunt Hilda made, and … oh, wait: what the heck am I thinking? This isn’t my dog! This dog belongs to someone else. Someone who’s worried sick, and wants him back on their bed, and misses feeding him Milk Bones and sausages.
But how do you find his owner? Before you throw your hands up in dogged frustration, here are a few simple steps you can take to help get that wandering one back home. It’s easy-peasy, and you won’t even need to bust open those cocktails.
First of all, check your new companion for a collar and tags, which contain crucial information like the owner’s name, address and phone number. Hopefully the dog’s name is listed as well, so you don’t have to keep calling him “boy” when her real name is Fifi. If there’s a telephone number, whip out your smartphone and give it a ring. Make sure the owner can verify their pet using the tag information, description of the aforementioned white socks, and affinity for junk food.
If there aren’t any tags, your next move is to have the dog scanned for a microchip. And though this may sound all Star-Trek and futuristic, it’s basically a tiny computer chip containing I.D. information. It’s injected under pets’ skin to provide permanent and positive identification in the event that Rocky goes rogue. Just about every vet and animal shelter is equipped with a fancy microchip reader, and will scan the stray animal at no charge. If a chip is found, the business will try to contact the owner. If you’ve found a dog that’s chipped, but don’t know the issuing company (Home Again, 24-Hour PetWatch, etc.), just use this website.
Of course, the scenario above presumes the pooch is friendly and eager to accept the cheese crackers you’re offering. This may not always be the case, and instead of wanting to lick your hand is really more interested in taking a chunk out of your thumb. That pup may have been running loose for some time; he’s frightened, disoriented, and definitely hungry. He’s surrounded by people and places he doesn’t recognize. Remember that night back in ’84 when you went to TGI Friday’s with the gang and snuck out for a smoke, only to return and find everyone gone, so you stumbled around aimlessly while friends called your name and you had a meltdown anytime a stranger came near? It’s kind of like that. Hey, I’m not judging. In this situation, you may just want to distance yourself from a possible canine confrontation and call the local animal-control office.
You probably think that rescuing an animal on your own is a good idea, but not at the expense of any important digits. There’s nothing like a trip to the ER for shots and sutures to really ruin your day. Sometime the old adage, “his bark is worse than his bite” may be completely untrue. Woof!
One of the best things you can do for a stray critter is take it to your local humane society or animal shelter (please note that due to our limited space, ARF cannot accept strays). Before you get all weepy-eyed and say they’ll just put the dog down, wring out your hanky and give it some thought. According to www.missingpetpartnership.org, one of the most important reasons lost dogs are not reunited with their families is that the animal shelter is the first (and primary) location where dog owners search for their lost dogs—but it’s typically the last location where found dogs are taken due to the fear that the dog will be euthanized.”
Look at it this way: at least the dog will be safely off the streets, away from traffic, the elements, and other vagabond dogs. He will be housed and fed and might even stand a good chance of being adopted. Furthermore, all animal control facilities are required by law to hold strays for four to six business days before becoming eligible for adoption, rescue, or—yes—euthanasia. This gives the frantic owner a chance to come and claim their missing pet, thereby giving their story a happy ending. In addition, you can leave your contact information at the shelter, asking them to call you in the event an owner is never found. This gives you the fabulous opportunity to adopt a friend for life, which benefits both you and that lucky animal. Hooray!
Whether you have lost or found a dog, using social media is a fantastic way to spread the word. Craigslist has a section for both, and Facebook is chock full of pet sites for browsing. Here are just a few:
Flyers and posters are another great idea, and should include a description of the dog, a photo, when/where the animal was found, and your contact information. Getting flyers posted on bulletin boards, in store windows, and even emailing to rescue groups is a wonderful way to garner attention for that pet and family who are trying to find each other. Your handiwork hanging in the sandwich shop just might be the missing link! You can even go “old school” and place a free classified ad in the newspaper (for you Millennials, that’s the thing some people still read in the morning with their coffee: Google it).
Of course, the best way to hinder your hound from going missing is using common sense, along with a few inexpensive preventive measures. If it’s not drilled into your head by now, get thee to the nearest Petco and snag a good collar and some snazzy dog tags. They’re affordable and can hold a mess of important information.
Next, get your pet microchipped! Even if that brand new collar somehow shakes loose along with those biscuit shaped tags, that little chip can literally save your dog’s life. As an ARF volunteer, I have seen it happen many times. And since everyone has a phone glued to their side these days, check out the greatest thing to happen to dog owners since Pupperoni: Finding Rover. This amazing app uses facial recognition and a huge network of organizations and members to reunite missing mutts with their families. Awesome!
Other ways to keep Rover from roaming include keeping him on a leash in public, and double-checking your fence for any openings or loose boards. Also, have current photos displaying any scars or special markings, and make sure your neighbors are familiar with your best buddy. Finally, in the world of “duh,” be sure to crate your dog during the fireworks on New Year’s and July 4th. Throw on a few tunes to drown out the noise, something loud but soothing. How about a little Vivaldi? Or maybe Sinatra? Just use your best judgment. But please, no Kenny G; that’s enough to make anybody run for the hills!
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.