“This Dog”: Is He Yours?

A little while ago, the little girl from next door knocked on my door to ask if I knew where “this dog” lived. “This dog” is a cute little beagle cross, clean, well-kept, neutered, and very friendly. But no collar.

So as the neighbors and I were standing in their front yard debating what to do with “this dog”, their daughter said she thought she might know which house the little guy lives in. So Mom, daughter, and “this dog” hopped into her truck to go see.

They hadn’t been gone 30 seconds when a vehicle came down the road, with the driver hanging out the window hollering for “Atticus”. Atticus? The little guy could be an Atticus. And she described him as a little brown dog…sounded like our visitor.

It wasn’t. So now that’s two little brown dogs with no collars roaming our neighborhood. Wonderful.

About that time, the little boy playing with my neighbors’ son came outside and observed that it looked like his best friend’s dog. Where does your best friend live? Over there somewhere. Does your mom know where your best friend lives? Yeah, sure. Can we call her? Well, you could, but I don’t know her number. (REALLY? Way to go, mom. Let your kid roam the neighborhood alone on a bike without knowing his own phone number.)

Astonishingly, though, he did know his house number, so now my neighbor is on her way to his house to see if his mom knows his best friend’s mom’s number on the off chance that the visiting dog might be his.

In the meanwhile, “this dog” is safely confined to a crate at my neighbors’ house. If it turns out that he doesn’t belong to the little boy’s best friend’s mom, they’ll take pictures of him, make “Found” posters, and do their best to find his people. At least the one visiting my neighbors is safe, while Atticus’ distraught mom is still driving around calling for him.

I know accidents happen, but two lost dogs in five minutes begs the question. WHY do people not supervise and protect their pets better? Not to mention WHY do people not put identification on their pets?!

Not every escaped pet has a happy ending, but identification sure does improve the odds.

Holiday Travel With Pets Part II: Other People’s Homes

Taking your pet into someone else’s home on a holiday presents all sorts of extra potential challenges, especially if lots of people are coming.

First, check out the environment. What other pets are there? Are they friendly? Is yours? No one needs a dog fight in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner because the visiting dog decides to play with the host dog’s toys. Is the environment safe? Is the yard fenced appropriately? Are the floors clean enough? (I know, tacky. But let’s be honest. People drop all kinds of things, and we don’t want our pets to be the ones to find them.)

Second, check out the guest list. Is your pet okay with adults but not with kids? Then you definitely need to know whether Cousin Mary is bringing her 5 small children. Does your pet do well with individuals, but get overwhelmed in a crowd? Come prepared. Bring a crate or play yard you can set up in a back room to keep your pet safely away from the commotion. Is one of the guests definitely not a pet person? Then don’t invite him, because there is something seriously wrong. Or if that’s not avoidable, keep your pet as far from the weirdo as possible to avoid any potential incidents.

Third, make sure people understand the rules. Don’t allow anyone to feed your pet but you or someone you trust to feed him correctly. No table scraps, no plate licking. Watch your pet closely when small children or non-pet-people are present; keep him on leash if necessary to maintain control of the situation. Make sure your pet isn’t underfoot while people are cooking; hot grease and boiling water are dangerous to both people and pets. And don’t allow anyone to just let him dash in and out of the house at will unless you are totally certain that the yard is escape-proof and the gates are closed.

If you’re going to bring your pet to someone else’s home, do everything you can to protect your pet from new people and unknown surroundings, while also making sure your pet does not get put into a stressful situation that could cause him to behave badly. With a few precautions and some common sense, everyone including the dog can have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Travel With Pets Part I

As the holidays approach, and the traffic quadruples, it occurs to me that many of us will be travelling with pets. Taking our pets along for the holidays can be lots of fun, but it can also expose our pets to a lot of stress and potential hazards.

Car Travel

First, when travelling by car with your pets, please restrain them in pet seatbelts, car seats, or crates. If you have a small dog who is prone to carsickness, an elevated carseat is a good choice; being able to see out seems to help with the motion sickness. Car seats can be easily purchased from online specialty retailers; seatbelts and crates are available at pretty much any pet retail store in your neighborhood.

Confining your pet in the car keeps him safe; every year both pets and people are injured in vehicular accidents. For example, if the driver has to slam on the brakes, a small dog loose in the back seat can easily become a high velocity airborne projectile; if the dog hits someone in the car, both the dog and the person can be seriously hurt.

Public Places

At rest stops, if you get your dog out to walk him, make sure that he is firmly restrained on a leash, with a collar or harness that fits properly. Many a dog has been lost at rest stops because owners assume that their pets will obey as well in a strange environment as they do at home. And just in case, make sure your pet is microchipped and wears identification with current contact information; I like Boomerang Tags, because they fit flat to the collar or harness and won’t catch on things or make that annoying jingling noise. Bumble’s tag has his name, my number, the vet’s name and number, and also states that he is epileptic.


Once you and your pet arrive at your destination, please check out the environment for potential hazards. If you’re in a hotel, check the floors, including behind and under the bed, for anything the housekeeping staff might have missed; all it takes is one blood pressure pill dropped by a previous guest to turn a happy holiday into a frantic and potentially tragic visit to the emergency veterinary clinic.

Before you leave your pet in a hotel room, make sure that you put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign so the housekeepers don’t walk in and accidentally let your pet out. It would be best to crate your pet, too, just to be on the safe side. An anxious pet alone in a strange place may bark or engage in destructive behavior; in a familiar crate with a toy and blanket from home, he’ll feel safer and be much less able to get into trouble while you’re gone.

Next week, we’ll talk about visiting other people’s homes with your pet.

SPAY and NEUTER Already!

I know I’ve written about this topic before. And I know that most of my readers do spay and neuter. My irresponsible aunt, however, apparently does not. (I won’t name names, but most of you know of whom I speak.)

My aunt is currently on Facebook pushing a litter of accidental puppies that now need homes. Okay, I admit it. They are cute. All puppies are cute. And I’m no better than anyone else – I want to hug them and squeeze them and take them home.

But puppies grow up. And these particular puppies are going to grow up to be quite large. In a world where several million dogs and cats die every year because there are more animals than homes, another litter of accidental puppies should have been avoided. All it would have taken was to spay the female and/or neuter the male.

Last year, a sometime rescuer I know almost lost a dog to pyometritis – a horrible and potentially fatal uterine infection. Had the dog been spayed, this life-threatening illness would have been avoided. Her explanation: she thought we only spay dogs to avoid puppies, so she thought it was better for the dog to just keep her away from males when she was in heat.

Someone else I know lost a much loved family pet to testicular cancer. Again, this condition could have been completely avoided had the dog just been neutered.

There are a number of reproductive diseases and cancers that spaying and neutering avoid completely. Not to mention that spaying and neutering prevent accidental puppies to add to the pet overpopulation problem.

Granted, some animals – those being shown in conformation, or dogs that are being bred to perpetuate good bloodlines – should reproduce for the good of the canine gene pool. But we all know that such is usually not the case.

Advocate for the pet population. Spay or neuter, and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.

Do Your Homework Before You Bring the Dog Home

My friends in animal rescue have been posting an amazing variety of needy pets to their respective facebook pages over the last couple of days. As I read the back story on each animal, I realize how many of them are in rescues and shelters because their original owners chose a dog whose basic needs and behavioral traits they didn’t understand.

For example: I love Anatolian Shepherds. Every giant pound of them. I didn’t know anything about them before I found Harry abandoned and deathly ill on the side of the road near my parents’ farm. At the time, I thought that this bald, scabby, mangy puppy must have been four or five months old, by the size of his paws. It turned out that he was all of eight weeks old. Well, his hair grew back and he recovered completely; as an adult Anatolian, he is one of the most perfect examples of the breed you could ever hope to find, both in appearance and in temperament. Harry is a very happy boy out there on the farm, with other animals to guard, room to roam, and plenty of good food and attention.

I would have loved to bring baby Harry home with me. But since I currently live in a small house on a small lot in a subdivision, it would not be fair to have an Anatolian in my current circumstances. Why? Well, an adult Anatolian usually weighs well over 100 pounds (Harry weighs at least 150), and requires a considerable amount of space to roam in. Anatolians are livestock guard dogs, and consequently are driven to protect other animals within their purview. They love to sit where they can see over a long distance, they prefer to sleep in the day and guard at night, and at night they tend to bark at potential threats. Harry, for instance, totally ignores the deer who come to drink at the pond, but no coyote in the county would dare cross Harry’s fence lines.

In a subdivision where the houses are close together, over a hundred pounds of nocturnal barking with a big bass voice that rattles the windows five houses away would not be popular. A recent article about Anatolians in Dog World tells us that the majority of Anatolians in rescue are there simply because their original owners had no idea what they were getting into. They didn’t realize how big they get, or expect the snowdrifts of hair when their Anatolians began shedding their undercoats in the spring. There’s one in rescue in Texas (in Killeen, to be precise) right now who was turned in because his owners couldn’t afford to feed him. So these animals are suffering and in some cases are in mortal danger simply because people didn’t do a little research.

Here’s the bottom line: different breeds have different traits and needs that may or may not be appropriate for your particular situation. Do your homework, and make sure the animal you want to bring home is suitable for your circumstances before you commit to the animal.