Then, my cell phone rang.
It was my roommate. The dogs had escaped, he said ... again. I should have known this might happen. My girlfriend’s dogs are four-legged Houdinis and every time the thunder claps or the fireworks explode, they find a way to get over, under or through any fence stupid enough to get in their way.
Their wandering ways have taught me a few things I never considered about owning a dog. The worst I ever dealt with previous to Canyon and Layla were dogs who liked to bolt out the front door if it were left open a crack. Never before had I been responsible for a couple of escape artists. In the process of looking for them, I learned a few new things in addition to reaffirming a few things I already knew about responsible pet ownership.
My girlfriend’s dogs, a St. Bernard named Layla and a malamute mix named Canyon, have always been prone to leaving whatever yard they call home. In fact, they had broken through my wood fence just a few weeks before July Fourth and spent about 48 hours wandering the neighborhood. First and foremost, they had tags on their collars so I hoped someone might find them and just call. Anyone who saw them wandering around should immediately question why these two big beasts are out. As had happened on several occasions when my girlfriend lived in Sparks, neighbors found the dogs and called, thereby saving us the expense of bailing them out of the shelter.
The first thing we did that July Fourth day was call Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS) and report them missing. In doing so, we learned that if a patrol officer were to find them he or she would call and give us a chance to come retrieve them before taking the dogs to the pound. Fortunately, this is what happened when Layla and Canyon ran away in June. It appeared they tried to go home but since my neighborhood consists of rows of identical houses, they were about five streets away where we hadn’t looked. A call from WCRAS got them safely home.
Had they gone to the shelter, they both have microchips implanted in them with their registration information. In addition to having tags, having animals micro chipped is suggested by all area animal control agencies. They got the microchips during a previous incarceration.It is free to register the chip with the county but $12 to have them put in.
For Independence Day, Layla decided to come back but Canyon was gone. When she didn’t come home and our searches around the neighborhood were fruitless, we made posters and put them up on mailboxes and light poles. Our signs included Canyon’s picture and a phone number. Washoe County animal services suggests that posters include tear-away strips with your phone number for people to take.
It took us two days and a lucky drive down the right street at the right time to find her. A local resident had managed to get a leash on her and was trying to get the tired, thirsty, timid 13-year-old dog home. Since Canyon is shy around strangers, it amazed us that he got a leash onto her.
In situations where you find a stray dog, the first advice WCRAS gives is to not assume the animal is abandoned — Canyon was so dirty, tired and thirsty that she certainly looked abandoned. Animal services representatives also say not to approach a scared animal to avoid being bit and to not stop traffic for a loose animal to avoid getting squashed. Even with a sweetie like Canyon, you just never know what a frightened animal could do.
Because the state of Nevada considers pets to be property, there can be legal problems with keeping a stray. WCRAS says to bring the animal to the shelter and, if the rightful owner does not claim the pet, the finder can go through proper procedures to adopt it.
All of the above information on lost and found pets is online at www.co.washoe.nv.us/animal/lostandfound.html. There is also information about further steps to take if your animal is lost and you don’t get lucky and find it a few streets away. In a future Pets Place article, I will look into what a pet owner can do to reinforce a fence for diggers like Canyon and Layla.