I was at my job at the fire department yesterday, checking the apparatus like we do every morning, when I just happened to glance outside. What I saw was enough to send me out the bay door at a fast pace; a loose dog at the edge of our busy street, getting ready to cross the road. She didn’t have that look of a dog that was well aware of their surroundings, more like she was quite anxious and possibly looking for someone.
To make matters worse, a gentleman was walking his dog on the other side of the road, a site that as we know, can distract even the most street-wise of dogs. As I jogged across the street, a fast moving car (read: speeding) was passing by, the driver looking out the side window at nothing in particular; pretty much a disaster in the works. Luckily for everyone, I headed the dog off at the last second and she trotted into the small park nearby. I tried several times to approach her, but she was obviously very nervous, barking and running away every time I got near her. Even the nice guy walking his dog couldn’t get her near to his pup. I watched as she jumped up a stonewall bordering the park and into a private yard, where the less-than-understanding owner yelled at her and chased her back into the street. As she started an earnest run up the road, I let my captain know what was going on, and jumped in the pick up truck to follow her. Luckily, she was one of those dogs that just loves a ride and I was able to get ahead of her and coax her slowly into the truck.
Later, after getting her comfortable in my car (she was too scared to even walk in to the fire department) I made the usual calls to dispatch and the local veterinarians to let them know her name. Luckily, her owners had been responsible and she had a collar with her name and their phone numbers on it, so even though I couldn’t get them to answer, I did leave messages. About an hour later, I got a call from dispatch saying she had “grandma” on the phone. She had been watching the dog for her daughter while she was away on a trip and could she come get the wayward pooch?
We met up and all was well. But. This is where I get to the point of my story; this was not a new scenario at all, just one that ended well. As my regular readers know, I am very often to be found dog sitting, but I take that responsibility with an enormous amount of forethought and gravity. After all, this is someone’s precious pet and I can’t imagine watching them with anything less than a high level of concern and planning, that’s just the way I am. I won’t even go into the anxiety that ensues if I have to leave town without my dogs, just suffice it to say that dogs aren’t the only ones who suffer from separation issues.
In my job, I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of the bad things that happen when people leave their dogs with a friend to watch, and it’s very often heartbreaking. I’m sure that most of the time the owners are truly thinking that they’re doing what’s best for the dog, but maybe sometimes it’s just was easiest or cheapest for the owner.
This is not a promotion for kennels and boarding facilities, I’ve seen bad things happen there too; it’s just that very often our friends really aren’t prepared for the responsibility of your pet.
I’ve seen dogs hit by cars when they had been trying to make it back home from the sitter’s house, to others lost in the wilderness while out on a hike.
My only point in telling this story is this; even the most well meaning family and friends need all of the tools you can give them to keep your beloved dog safe while you’re away. You need to research commercial kennels and you need to really quiz your potential sitters to make sure they can do the job right. Then you need to give them all of the info about your pooch that will help them do their job well, that means vet info, diet and medication instructions, even walking guidelines (leash anyone?) and play preferences. Often bringing their bowls, a toy or two and their own cozy pet bed from home will also help keep them comfortable while you’re away, and lets not forget current tags and a collar. Most of all, give them the information they need to keep them safe, controlled and off the streets at all times. Oh, and have a nice trip!