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November 7, 2009

Friday's misadventures with a lost pooch, and a humble plea to dog owners

I'm not a dog person. This doesn't mean I dislike dogs. I'm rather fond of some of my friends' dogs. I would just never choose to have a dog myself. I don't have a "dog" personality. Yes, I'm a cat person. Also, I wouldn't want to take on the very big responsibility and commitment it takes to have a dog.

Despite not being a dog person, I still find myself in the odd position of occasionally coming across lost doggies wandering in some neighborhood, and jumping in to help that dog find its way home. If I don't care about dogs, why do I do this? Well, I know how devastated I'd be if our cat disappeared. I also know my dog owner friends would feel likewise if they felt they the canine member of their family had run off.

I also understand that even the most conscientious dog owners can wind up dealing with a runaway Fido, even after installing all the reasonable safeguards in their homes and properties. Some dogs just have big cases of wanderlust, right, and they manage to find their way over, under, or around fences.

Bad, bad dogs, huh?

I've generally had a good, easy time getting lost dogs back to owner. The only time I actually spent a day or so babysitting a lost dog was back when my son was 2, I was a stay at home mom, and we lived in a small town up north. A very pretty black lab wandered through the forest into our back yard. Unfortunately, he had lost his tags along the way. I was in the situation, being at home, and we had the space in our house to let the dog stay, while waiting for the owners to check in with the town police department and come across my found dog report.

My son and I briefly got attached the the lab he named "Bobby," and my husband, who has fond memories of the black lab his grandparents had when he was a kid, contemplated that we might end up having to adopt him.

In most of my other found dog situations, the dogs had tags, and I was able to call the owners' numbers and connect with them almost immediately. I didn't have to deal with reporting the dog lost or taking it to the county's animal services shelter.

Well, yesterday, I had the frustrating experience of picking up a sweet lost beagle (not the one pictured here), and not being able to reach his owners for hours. It was actually one of those days where I was feeling a bit frazzled, from not sleeping much all week with my Moon Mania. Then I had been up much of the night trying to finish a work project, and I was looking forward to putting the finishing touches on said project yesterday afternoon.

But at around 1 p.m., while driving back to work after dropping my son off from school, I came across the poor wandering beagle.

I stopped my car, called the dog to me, and he came. He was friendly, sweet, obviously well cared for. His tag said his name was "Cody." I called the number and reached what sounded like the voicemail for a home number.

Great.

People, a home phone number in this situation, and in this day, is rather useless. That's because most people aren't at home during the day; they are out shopping, picking up the kids from school, at work, or out of town. Or they aren't picking up their phones if they are at home, because they don't want to deal with telemarketers.

There was an address on the dog's tags, but the street did not sound familiar to me. I noticed, just up the street, a U.S. postal truck. The dog happily hopped into my car, and I drove up to the truck. I asked the nice female postal worker if she knew the address. After all, this was her "beat." It didn't ring a bell to her, and, it turned out, she lived in the neighborhood. She called back to her office, and someone there tried, but failed, to find the street name in their database. She admitted that she had seen the beagle out in the neighborhood a couple hours earler.

Okay, I had to get back to work... I couldn't take Cody home, and I couldn't keep him for a few days. I was going out of town first thing Saturday for a work trip. ... I put Cody in my car, drove to my office, left the windows cracked open, left him in the car, and ran in to do my own search of his address, and to call around to see what my options were. Of course, he started to wail as soon as I left him alone in the car.

Still no answer at his owners' house. Like me, some co-workers were worried that if I called Contra Costa County Animal Services to come get him, he'd wind up at risk of being euthanized in a few days if his owners didn't claim him. As it happens, the worker I reached at Animals Services said they were so understaffed and so overwhelmed with service calls that they couldn't come out to get him anyway; I'd have to bring him to their office, unless I could keep him myself?

Not an option. I called the Animal Rescue Foundation, but someone there said they only take animals already at shelters. I called back to the Animal Services department, and a volunteer there convinced me that, in the absence of keeping him myself until the owners contacted me, my best bet would be to bring him to their shelter. He assured me that I had done the right thing in picking up up in the first place. "Better he come here than end up being hit by a car."

So, I took him out to the shelter out by the Interstate 680/Highway 4 intersection. It's actually a nice, newer building, and the staff there were really friendly and welcoming to Cody. They looked more carefully at his tags and found that they were old, from 2005. Their records showed a different address for the owners than the one on his tag. And on a street that, Google maps showed, was way the hell on the other side of Walnut Creek. Several miles. Could Cody have wandered that far to the place I found him? How long had he been missing?

The county's records also showed two different phone numbers. One was disconnected. But the other got me through to a voicemail that presumably belonged to the owner. Maybe a work number. Maybe a cell phone. I called and left yet another message.

I said good-bye to Cody and hoped for the best.

I got back to the office, but was too frazzled by the misadventures with Cody and concern about his well-being to get much more work done. I had spent nearly three hours dealing with poor Cody. I was also thinking how I had to get home, pack, and get ready to leave on a trip first thing Saturday morning.

My husband, son, and I were enjoying at dinner at Le Cheval when my cell phone rang. It was about 7 p.m. It was Cody's "mom." "You called several times?" she said. I explained I had found Cody wandering in this particular neighborhood, tried to reach her, and ended up having to take him to the shelter.

"He's such an escape artist!" she said, with a nervous laugh.

Ha ha.

"Well, thanks for your trouble," she said before hanging up.

I didn't really care about getting her thanks. Frankly, I was annoyed. Sure, I had lost some valuable work time dealing with her dog, but I would have done it anyway. What annoyed me is that, for her "escape artist," she had outdated tags and old or not very useful contact information on his licensing information

I mean, six hours went by before she finally got back to me!

I thought that, for some dog owners, their dogs are like members of their family. Isn't that right? I couldn't stand finding out that a valued member of my family had been missing for six hours, and I didn't know about it. With my son, there is all sorts of contact information on file at his school, or when he goes on a field trip. Yes, his home number is included in that contact information, but that would be mostly useless. That file has work numbers and cell phone numbers for me and his father, as well as phone numbers for other relatives.

I'm not saying Cody's tag needed to carry all his owners various contact numbers. But it would have been nice if it had contained that one phone number where his owner could be reached immediately--not six hours later.


So, dog owners, here is my humble plea. Check your pet's tags, and make sure the address is current, and that the phone number is the one where you will be most easily reached. There are lots of people in the community who would be happy to pick up your lost pet and help him or her find his way home to you. But try to make it as easy as possible, okay?

6 comments:

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

This same thing has happened to me on more than one occasion! By you having to deliver the dog to the Animal Services, it may have cost the owner a hefty fee. And, rightfully so - since they are the only ones who had the correct information.

I don't usually care about the thank you either, but I have met owners who are so casual about their lost dogs, as if it happens all the time. That's the sad part.

Cathy said...

I actually was thinking of the shelter the other day.. I was there Friday. I had adopted a kitty a couple months back and as part of the adoption fee I got the rabies and license paid for up front. So I took kitty in for rabies shot. I was waiting , they said "go in that room when the door opens." SO the door opened and before I could say anything a VERY old man was rushing the older woman out the door , I thought they were together. No the old man was the vet. No name tag, no medical coat , no identifying features at all . He asked 'what shot.' I told him rabies and took kitty out. He already had the rabies shot out laying on the counter. I sure the hell hope it was sterile. I was already worried about how old this guy was, he smelled , had absolutely no personality and didn't even greet me. As I get the scruff of the kitty in my hand as he told me to, he literally jabbed my poor kitty with the shot so hard and so deep I thought he must have gone clear thru the muscle and into her bones. My poor kitty screeched and hissed!!!! I've NEVER had an animal do that to a shot. NEVER. He turned and went to get the next "patient." I was sick. I wanted to push him down and make him break his hip. Ok, not seriously. But my god shelter, is that the ONLY FREAKIN vet you can afford?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?! I would have gladly paid my own vet to do the rabies had I know how horrible this guy was. What a jerk. He's definately someone who should've retired long ago! He didn't care. He didn't care to be friendly. He didn't care to care about the kitty. He didn't even pretend to care about whether she was even healthy for the shot or ask any questions whatsoever.

JERK!

Ok, got that off my chest now.

But add to that a dog I found a couple years ago. Like you , was worried about doggie going to shelter so I kept him. But I put the notice with the shelter, reported the "find" to them, and also got the info to their volunteer office. The story later is that the owner went there SEVERAL times and they showed no record of anyone finding this dog. If not for the signs I put up this family would've never been reunited with their dog.

ADD TO THAT , the g'dang 35 minutes I had to sit on hold with 7-8 callers in front of me to make said HORRIBLE rabies shot appt mentioned above. THEY SUCK. I know they "mean well" but my god, they need to try better!

Annie and Maggie said...

Thank you for picking up that cute little beagle. They ARE escape artists (we've had 2) but knowing that, the owner should have dog tags that are current, as well as a microchip (if the dog loses the tags, any Vets office can read them). And if the shelter was worth their salt, they'd make that a requirement for this lousy owner before she/he could take Cody home. One of my beagles did escape and were it not for the Oregon Humane Society ID tag AND the dog name tag, I'm sure we wouldn't have ever gotten him back. He, too, had traveled quite a distance -- beagles think with their noses and have very little brains. Good thing they're cute!

Anonymous said...

SM, you are giving all beagles a bad name...my beagle got dirty looks on our walk today!

AnnieandMaggie: I disagree that beagles have very litte brains...if humans could work out the existence our beagle has they would be very smart indeed. However, their noses do trump their brains when there is an interesting smell at hand...or nose, as it were.

Rebecca1219 said...

Hey SoccerMom,
I had an experience a few years ago when I worked a second job for this guy in Marin. He had a big pool, and I worked in the back office on weekend days, and evenings after my primary job. One evening (it was summer, so the sun was up late) I heard a loud splash. Ranout to find an older chesapeake retriever in the pool, and a blakc lab puppy running frantically around the pool, barking at his buddy. The older dog was probably about 13 years old, while the puppy was maybe a 6 months old at best. The dog in the pool didn't seem to know how to get to the stairs to get out... and to my dismay, when I finally pulled him out, I realized that the younger dog had a brand name collar with no tag (think COACH dog collar, or something equally as ridiculous) and the older dog had no collar at all. I was frantic. Me, I *AM* a dog person, with 2 of my own. I piled the dogs in to my car, and went door-to-door in that Marin neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking if they knew of any neighbors with dogs, etc. No luck. I drove home, upset, and my husband encouraged me to take them to the local animal shelter, which was further up the freeway in Novato. Realizing that I couldnt' keep 4 dogs in my condo until the next day when I thought I'd go around the neighborhood again, I begrudgingly drove to Novato to drop off the dogs. I cried the entire time, thinking that these dogs wouldn't be reunited with thier owner, or worse that they would be euthanized. I gave the shelter my phone number and to let me know if they couldn't reunite the dogs; that I would adopt them, etc. How I would have pulled that off in reality I didn't know, didn't care.
They called me the next morning: the older dog had been microchipped and they were able to call the number on file and get in touch with the housesitter who was frantic at realizing the dogs had gotten out.

I got my dogs microchipped after that. Their collars have tags with both my husband's and my cell number on it.
I was pissed that day - I couldn't believe that their dogs didn't have any form of identification. But the entire situation made me much more appreciative of animal microchipping, and a firm believer in the service.

Thank you for what you did for that beagle today; dog-person or not, it was a wonderful thing that you did, and not all people would stop to help any animal wandering in the street, etc.

Anonymous said...

Chipping is the only way to go. When the groomer came to our house to bathe and clip our dog she would remove the collar and I would often use that time to wash the collar (they get nasty). So for several hours, while the collar was drying the dog would be running around the house 'naked'.

If he had slipped out during this time there would have been no way to identify him other than the chip.

And beagles do have minds of their own and they will follow their noses pretty much anywhere.