Your heart stops. Your breath quickens. You have that half-second hesitation – do you run or do you hurry to your car? Do you grab the treats or grab the leash? Almost every pet parent has been there…the moment your dog (or cat!) escapes.
Two days ago, this was me. My house backs up to trail/reservoir/field…and the fence planks seem to shift daily. My little chihuahua Amigo is a master at scouting out unseen holes, loose planks, and soil that is settled to provide a crawl space. As vigilant as I am (and I am VERY vigilant), a few days ago we all went out back for a routine potty break. I was holding my son, and looked down at him for maybe 20 seconds…when I looked up Buffy was staring intently through a tiny gap in the fence planks, Amigo nowhere to be seen. I just knew.
Amigo relaxing in front of our questionable fence
Not his first escape (Amigo has also been known to bolt out the front door as well), I have my Amigo recovery tactics down pretty well. Jumping over a fence or quickly grabbing the keys as I run to the car – I have been quite successful in bringing him home in a matter of minutes. This was all pre-baby boy Sebastian, though. As all moms can attest too – there is no “running out the door” with a baby. I could obviously not leave him unattended at home…so chasing after Amigo would require involving a car seat. (Time is of the essence here!) Oh – and did I mention I was barefoot…and in my pjs??
Of course, all these thoughts were whizzing through my head in what was probably .25 seconds. As soon as I began to move – I was spinning in circles, literally. First, I have to put the kid down….no, first I have to get Buffy inside….ok now I have to get dressed….no, I should just put shoes on….oh, shoot, I’m still holding the kid…you get the picture. All the while, I’m frantically calling Amigo’s name.
There is obviously no accurate statistic or number on just how many pets are lost every year, it is estimated somewhere around the 2 MILLION mark. A survey conducted by the ASPCA found that 15 % of us had lost a pet in the last 5 years…at that 85% of those pets were recovered. (A high percentage…until you realize that that means 15% of them never saw their furbabies again.) Not surprisingly, locating missing cats proved to be more difficult and had a lower success rate than that of missing dogs.
In every dog training book I have read, it advises you have an “emergency word”. A word that will get your dogs attention and make him return to you no matter what the circumstance. A word that your dog knows means business…that will recall him to your side even in the most dire situation. A word that your dog will respond to without question. How you manage to teach your dog this word is something I have never quite figured out.
…cut back to the scene of me frantically calling for Amigo while running around my house trying to figure out how to get out the door to catch him. (Meanwhile, in the back of my head I’m thinking of all the horrible things that might be currently happening to him.) Now, I might now have an “emergency word”, but I do have a sound. A sound that will catch Amigo’s attention no matter what is going on around him. A sound that will have him running to me no matter where is his in the house or the yard. That sound, my friends, is the sound of his treats rattling in his glass treat jar.
GENIUS! I think. THIS HAS WORKED BEFORE! I assure myself. Grabbing the jar, shaking it like mad woman…I run to the backyard. Shaking and screaming. (Lord knows what the neighbors thought.) 10 seconds of shaking…nothing. 20 seconds…nothing. A minute…nothing. Tears spring to my eyes. I have lost my dog. He is already dead in a ditch somewhere. I give up the shaking and screaming. He has broken his paw and is crying to me for help. I will never see him again. And then…Amigo is trotting towards me!!! He sits at my feet ready to receive his treat. No worse for the wear….like nothing has happened. (Dogs!)
Needless to say, he got many treats and lots of love that day!
In those minutes that Amigo was gone, there were only two things that comforted me:
Amigo modeling his tags (one with his name and our information – one with his microchip info)
**One, he was wearing his collar with all of his tags attached. I cannot stress how important this is! Even if (your think!) your dog never leaves your home or your property…it is so important for your dog to be wearing tags in a situation like this. Obviously, having your name and phone number will expedite getting your dog back home safe and sound. What you might not realize, though, is that people are more likely to take an interest in your pet if he or she is wearing a collar with tags. While a neighbor might be wary to approach a possible stray dog…a collar can be spotted from far away and can provide instant confirmation that your dog or cat is indeed someones beloved pet out on the loose.
**Two, he is microchiped. I honestly, in my heart of hearts, cannot understand why everyone does not get their pet microchipped. This not only means that a shelter will call you if your pet is turned in (I know we have all heard at least one horror story of a pet being euthanized before the family was able to be contacted), but it also means that anyone can take your pet to ANY vet and be able to get your name and phone number. The process of microchipping is no more painful than vaccinations…and relatively inexpensive. (Can you really put a price on your pet’s safety?)
Luckily, it did not come down to a collar or a microchip to bring my little Amigo home. As frustrating and heart-attack-inducing as it is, he is one of those dogs that loves to escape and run all over the neighborhood…but at the end of the day never ventures too far from home.
…and really the whole ordeal was my son’s fault. How dare he distract me from my dogs with his cuteness!