On Saturday evening I was involved in my third Lost Dog Rescue Operation since we moved into this house a year ago (and in fact, today is the one-year anniversary of the day we moved in, so the timing of this post feels very apropos).
The first one was last fall, I think, during a huge snowstorm. A dog showed up on our lawn, if you can call it a lawn still when it's covered with a foot of snow. He was dirty and wet and covered with bits of ice and shivering. I saw him through the window in the morning. I was still wearing my pajamas so I just threw on my snow boots and down coat and ran outside to follow him up the street. I caught up with him a few houses away, and called the number on his tag, and spoke to the owner's sister. The owner wasn't home, but the sister gave me the code to open their garage, so I was able to put the dog in there where it was safe and warm and dry, and close the door behind him so he wouldn't get out again before his owner got home. The owner's sister thanked me profusely.
The second one was sometime this past winter, on a mild day. The dog was wandering from house to house when I came across her while walking Montana. She had a rabies tag but no ID tag, so I called the vet whose number was listed on the rabies tag and gave them the ID number. They told me that they couldn't give out the owner's information, but they could give my phone number to the owner, and that they could tell me the dog's name and that they would like me to please hang on to the dog until I heard from the owner, and if I didn't hear from the owner by that evening I should call them back and they would take care of the dog until they tracked down the owner. So we kept the dog in our yard all afternoon, until we heard from the owner. The dog desperately wanted to leave the house, and managed to chew half a board off our gate before we noticed, which meant that we had to tie her up in the yard so she wouldn't destroy our fence. When the owner came, she didn't seem particularly thankful or appreciative, and just said that they had a hole in their fence through which the dog escaped. I don't think it's a mystery how they got the hole in their fence to begin with.
This most recent time, this past weekend, was the scariest. I was driving home from the grocery store and saw the dog walking down the street. He then crossed the street right in front of my car, causing me to hit the brakes pretty hard. Then he walked onto our lawn and sniffed around for awhile before continuing up the street. I parked the car in our driveway and walked up the street after him. I caught up with him a few houses away. He wasn't wearing a collar, which is why this was scarier than the other times.
I knocked on the door of the house whose yard I caught him in, and they said it wasn't their dog and they'd never seen him before, but they were able to lend me a leash and collar, so we brought him home. We weren't sure if he'd been gone for awhile or what, but it was dinnertime, so we gave him a scoop of food and he scarfed it down right away. Then we gave him a treat and put him in the yard with a bowl of water. We tried to call the Dumb Friends League to see if they could scan him for a microchip, but they were already closed for the day. So, we figured we'd hang some signs in the neighborhood, see if anyone called, and if we hadn't heard from anyone by Monday, we'd call them and bring him in.
So we made a cute little sign. Really, it was cute! It said "Found, brown male dog, maybe lab mix, about 70-80 pounds, older, no collar. Call [our number]." And then Torsten took a picture of the dog and we pasted it into the Word doc and printed out a bunch of copies in black and white. Then we walked around the neighborhood to hang them up. We had only hung two of them and were walking down the street carrying the rest when a guy drove by, rolled down his window, and said, "Hey, have you guys seen a chocolate lab anywhere?"
It was so exciting! I had had visions of having to give him up to the shelter, and drive him there and everything, and in the meantime take care of him and have him sleep in our garage in case he was the destructive type, and having to worry about finding a no-kill shelter, and potentially removing him from his neighborhood instead of just letting him be to find his own way home. But we had never seen him before and had no idea if Home was anywhere nearby, or if he would have to cross busy streets and potentially get hit by a car to get there, you know? So it seemed safer to keep him in our yard and try to find the owner ourselves. And it worked out!
The story was, as it turned out, that the family had literally just moved into the house that day, and while they were hauling stuff the dog escaped, and they didn't notice right away, and when they did notice they panicked, and he wasn't wearing his collar because it was packed. (And no, I didn't ask why they would possibly have packed his collar instead of just letting him wear it... it did seem strange, like, their kids weren't naked, you know? They didn't pack all their clothes, so why would they packed their dog's collar? But I couldn't think of a polite way to ask this question, so I just let it go.)
Anyway, they were VERY thankful, and the guy had two little kids in the car who were very glad to see the dog, and the guy asked us if he could keep one of our signs so he could show his wife how nice the people were who found the dog, and he told us where he lives in case we ever find the dog roaming again. So all's well that ends well, I suppose.
But, my question is, am I the only person in the neighborhood who actually picks up stray dogs? Is this not the norm? The reason I do it is that Montana is absolutely the type of dog to run out the front door and down the street at the first opportunity, and when that happens we panic that she will get hit by a car, or never come back for whatever reason, and I would be THRILLED if a neighbor picked her up and called us to let her know they had her. So I try to extend the same courtesy to other dog owners in the neighborhood. And two out of the three times that I've done it, the owners have seemed very, very thankful that we picked up the dog.
So, is it weird that I do this? Would most people just notice a dog running around the neighborhood, shrug, and do nothing? Do people think it's better to let the dog run so that it can find its own way home? What would you do if you saw a strange dog on your lawn, clearly unattended?
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