On Monday morning, when Cameron and I were walking our dogs at local 30-acre dog park, we ran into our friend, Lauren, who told us about a Chihuahua who was lost there on Sunday. She described the poor owner, a man in his sixties with a pronounced limp, who was frantically asking for help, crying as he told people his very sad tale. He was inconsolable. We saw him there on Monday too, calling and calling to his dog—it was so heartbreaking.
On Tuesday morning, again we saw Lauren, who excitedly told us that she had “spotted” the dog but had been unable to catch her. So we decided to try to help and, after our walk, we set out to try to find her. We weren’t aware Lauren had gone back to where she had seen the dog and was trying to contact the owner.
It turned out that the little dog had wandered into a fairly remote area, outside the park boundary, where few people venture. Luckily that morning, Lauren and her Blackjack, a gorgeous German Shorthaired Pointer, decided to take their walk there, when true to his sporting dog nature, Blackjack “flushed” the small dog out from under a shrub. But the fearful pup simply scampered away.
When we arrived, Lauren pointed to the dog, who was huddled alongside a doorway of a communication tower building at the water’s edge, behind a 12-foot fence topped with barbed wire. We both tried to entice her to come but she wasn’t responding. Thankfully, after repeated attempts, Lauren got through to the man and he was on his way. A few minutes later, he drove up and we flagged him down. He ran up the path to the fence gate, crouched down and called to his dog, and magically she crawled under the gate and bolted into his arms. With tears streaming, he held her closely to his chest.
We were all very happy that we could help in any small measure, especially proud of Blackjack’s feat, and greatly relieved that a dog and her human were reunited. Even Lauren’s boss played a part in accepting why she needed to be so late to the office that day—there was no way, as she later told us, that she wasn’t going to stand guard over her “charge” until she was safely back with her owner.
There are a couple important lessons in this. #1 Teaching a solid and reliable recall is one of the main responsibilities we owe our dogs. You just never know what might spook or divert a dog, especially in unfamiliar situations. In the case of this small dog, she wasn’t used to dog parks at all and when a larger dog tried to play with her and she simply ran off.
#2 Some larger off-leash areas, especially those that aren’t fully fenced, might not be right for some dogs. It certainly seemed to be the case with this dog. She will need much more training, or simply a more secure alternative, like a nearby fenced-in dog park with an area set aside for small dogs, for her future off-leash recreation. Luckily, the man thought so too!
Have you ever lost (and hopefully found) a dog? Did you use any special strategies to find your dog?