Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lost dog alert--be on the lookout for Sally, last seen in Fort Tryon Park

Sally escaped from her dog walker on the evening of January 5th, and her people are frantic about it--they are putting up flyers all over Inwood, and have likewise posted to Inwoof and other local dog forums, and there's also this lost pet ad on craigslist. Just adding my two cents with this blog article.

Sally slipped her collar, and therefore has no tags. She's a mixed breed, weighs about 30lbs, is shy with people, and generally friendly with other dogs.

If you see her, even think it's just barely possible you saw her, you should call Amy at 857-222-8270.

It's always a judgment call as to whether to try and get a hold of a lost dog. Dogs that run away from a dog walker, as Sally apparently did, are likely to be wary of strangers--if you speak to them gently, stay calm, and avoid any sudden moves, they might come to you, or allow you to approach them--or they might bolt. However, there's no guarantee they'll remain in the area you saw them, either. I think from now on I'll try to carry a small training lead with me, along with Max's leash. You never know when an extra lead will come in handy.

When I read accounts like this, I always wonder how the dog got lost--did the dog walker screw up somehow? Was Sally frightened by something? Was she trying to find her people? This is a recurring problem, and one we need to know more about, in order to avoid this kind of thing happening in the first place.

I mean no disrespect to professional dog walkers in general when I say that a lot of lost dog stories I hear involve the dog being looked after by someone he or she didn't know well enough to feel there was a bond between them. It isn't always possible to guarantee a close relationship between your dog and the person you leave him with, but a good dog walker should always know how to control and recall a dog without using a leash. The people who walk and care for our dogs when we're away provide an invaluable service, but they don't all have the same level of experience and aptitude. And not all dogs are equally ready to be walked by strangers--which is our responsibility, not the dog walker's.

We should remember that leashes do not guarantee perfect safety--any sufficiently well-motivated dog can slip a collar. Security comes from training and socialization, not physical restraints. Looking more closely at the larger of the two pictures of Sally, I believe she is wearing a Martingale-type collar--that is to say, it tightens when the dog pulls on the leash. It's not a true 'choke' collar, and only tightens to the point of snugness. This type of collar is supposed to prevent dogs from from getting out of it by pulling backwards. I don't know if Sally was wearing it when she got free, but the simple fact is that there's no such thing as a truly escape-proof collar. Harnesses are harder to get out of (and MUCH harder to get your dogs into), but some canine Houdinis can manage that trick as well.

Runs can also be dangerous--no fence is an insuperable obstacle to a dog who desperately wants to get outside, to find her people, or chase a squirrel. Kyla, one of our best-liked Rocky Run Regulars, has reportedly learned that she can jump the run fence whenever she likes, in her pursuit of arboreal rodents. She recently went over the fence and got all the way to 155th street--then came back to the run. She never tries to get away from her people--she just assumes she can find them once she's had some fun, and done some exploring. So far she's been proven right, but her experiments have been the source of a fair bit of stress and general exasperation on the part of her folks.

This is turning into another sermon, I'm afraid--it's important we keep learning how to minimize the chances of our dogs getting away, but no matter how careful people are, dogs will get lost sometimes. Then it's up to all of us to try and get them back home where they belong.

Sally probably won't come down our way, but let's keep an eye out, just in case. If she's friendly with other dogs, she might turn up at a run, or offleash area. If the dog people in the area can't get her back, maybe the dogs can.

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