It’s not often a phone call will set me off on a rant or makes me mad. There are certain calls that get me to the point where I’m boiling and I was mad yesterday.
After helping found three animal rescues in the Lubbock area and sitting on the board of another rescue, my phone number is still roaming around out there, especially with veterinarian offices. It’s not fun when you get the call from a vet saying you owe us money and you have to tell them sorry, but I’m no longer associated with the organization. It’s not pleasant when the caller starts complaining about an organization. Again, sorry no longer associated with the organization. It’s really not fun when the Comptroller’s office calls you while on vacation saying you owe us money. The list could go on.
However, the calls that get me the most upset are from people that got my number: “Please help me I’ve lost my dog!” I have to remember to breathe and not get mad at the caller because they don’t need that, but what they do need is a serious dose of reality after I ask if they’ve contacted the local shelter, is the dog microchipped, or is it wearing a collar and tags? Often the answers to the inquiries are “no.”
Seriously, it is time for you to get stop neglecting your dog to protecting your dog! Yes – you may feed it, water it and give it shelter, but that’s not the end of the protecting. Lubbock and this region have an increased problem of dogs getting out and getting lost. Mostly its due to our high winds that are so strong they can push around driving cars on the road, make it impossible to walk down the street, to destroying or damaging structures and outlying construction to even knocking down fences or blowing open gates. I will always be the first to say I hate West Texas winds because of the dust they bring and the damage they can cause. Wind and weather aside – how can you become a better pet owner to protect your dogs?
There are simple steps to make every dog safer in this region. Guess what – they really don’t cost an arm and leg.
First – buy some damn locks for your gates! We have all three of our gates locked. Locks keep the gates from opening unexpectedly during a storm, keeps people from opening your gates from the outside, plus the other advantage it keeps you and your family safer.
Second – get your dog a dang microchip! How does that little chip inserted under your dog’s skin help protect it? If someone finds your dog they can take it to a local vet’s office or even the local shelter to get it scanned to locate you, as the owner in a timely manner. The important thing about microchipping is keeping your contact information updated annually. Plus, make sure if you go to a new vet they scan that microchip and record the number on your dog’s charts. Every year make sure your vet scans for the chip as a precautionary measure. I used to scan my own dogs’ microchips at Dr. J’s office at Above and Beyond because she had the microchip scanner in the patient rooms. One great local rescue, Animal Rescue of Crosby County offers microchip clinics so you can get microchips at a reasonable cost. Some of the other local rescues may offer microchipping too, as well as your vet’s office.
Third – dog tags and collars! Honestly, how hard is this one? I don’t know how many times I’ve seen on Facebook that a dog was found or lost and guess what no collar or tags! Keep a collar on your dog at all times and keep tags on their collars to id them and you as their owner. Place basic information on the tag: dog’s name, your name, phone number. Tags and collars are reasonable in price these days. The only time my girl has her collar off is right after she’s bathed. Plus – her tag has an extra-added line “Return Me or You Will Die” that I snagged from the movie “Seven Psychopaths.” She even has a microchip tag identifying that she is indeed microchipped.
Fourth – shore up your fence and ALWAYS check it after a storm or high winds – BEFORE you let your dog outside. Securing your fence can be either simple or a challenge, but if you love your dog then do it. One way that we incorporated this safety measure is using landscape timbers secured with short pieces of rebar at the bottom of the fence. Another friend used plywood to secure the inside of their fence.
Fifth – every phone now has a camera. Please use it. Take photos of your dog often. In the event it does get out then you will be able to choose a couple of good photos to share and post to help recover your dog. Never use a crappy photo because to the hearts of rescuers that tells us you really didn’t care about your dog in the first place. The marvel of the phone camera – you can take hundreds of photos and delete the bad ones.
Sixth – if your dog does get out – immediately contact the local city animal shelter to put your dog on their radar. I don’t know how many times the caller on the other end said they were told not to contact the local shelter or they just did not think about it. Yes – I know some of you will balk at that, but in all reality, they would rather return your dog than have to put it down. The jobs of animal control officers are not easy, especially when overwhelmed with calls from the public on loose or lost dogs. Euthanizing dogs is even harder for them. Don’t add to that burden of an animal control officers’ already difficult job. Give them a reason to smile at the end of their hard days knowing that they were able to return your dog to you.
Seventh – social media can be your friend if you lose your dog. Post on local rescue Facebook pages and request a “courtesy share.” The poor lady who called me that started all this did not realize that other rescue organizations like Humane Society of West Texas, Dusty Puddles, etc. existed and are resources she could go to request for help.
Eighth – if your dog is part of the family and only goes out to potty – keep a watchful eye on them. Don’t open the door, let them go and leave them outside for an unspecified amount of time. Shit happens and it can occur quickly. My babe is trained to come back to the door as soon as she takes care of business and jumps to the height of the patio door to get back in. While I know most pet owners are not that lucky – please keep a watchful eye on your pets.
Ninth – my last rant if your dog(s) is not apart of your family then seriously don’t have them. Often these dogs that go missing are backyard dogs who have no home life. The dog is better off with another family if it cannot be fully apart of yours. In re-watching “Signs” the other night it chapped my hide that the German Shepherd in the movie was tied to a dog house away from the main house and not with the family. Then the dog gets killed by aliens. Hate that movie now. Dogs should never be tied or chained up or left in the backyards for all their lives.
Responsibility starts with you – the pet owner. Be responsible. Protect your pet. Please, I beg you, along with others in rescue start with these simple steps – locks on gates, microchips, collar and tags, and securing your fence. It will keep your heart from breaking, as well as me and others who work in rescue from getting mad at you.
Photographs © Christena Stephens Photography