A Shot in the Dark

 Alangus Aussies, Dogs and Fireworks, Microchip Dog  Comments Off on A Shot in the Dark
Sep 032014

fireworksI have had this post started for quite some time, but finally have the opportunity to finish my thoughts about fireworks and their impact on our fur friends.  The pyromania starts in my neighborhood a week before the 4th of July and ends when all the rockets have finally been spent and then whenever the grandchildren come to visit, another box seems to be found at the back of the closet for their entertainment.  Oftentimes, it becomes a block party with a competition for the loudest and brightest!

Fireworks are nice to watch and are a focal point for the neighborhood children, but our poor dogs have to suffer our human silliness.

This post isn’t about the fireworks themselves, but about keeping our dogs safely contained and calm during the foray.  My own dogs don’t seem to mind the noise too much as long as they are inside in their comfort zone, but some pets go into panic whether inside or outside so it is our responsibility to protect them.

This post is prompted by an experience that I had over this past Independence Day.  I got a call from the new owner of my previous pet sitting business who was out of town asking me to come to the aid of her employee who was trying to track a dog that had escaped his yard during the “shots in the dark”.  This particular dog was an older and very calm lab that had a doggy door and had never left his yard on a good day.  He was trained to an underground fence and knew his boundaries.

Since I knew Bert, I came in as a backup to help find him when apparently he got freaked out and escaped his yard, running for his life thinking the militia was behind him.  The good news is that Bert was found 3 days later and turned in to our local Animal Control.  The good news is that we were looking for him and had left our phone numbers with AC.  The good news is that he had a collar and his rabies tag so his vet could have also been contacted after the holiday weekend to determine his owner.  The good news is that he wasn’t hit by a car on the busy highways he crossed trying to find a safe place.  The bad news was that he was microchipped but his chip was never registered and couldn’t be traced by AC (always free by the way). Under different circumstances, that might have been his safety net.  The bad news was that we found out later his underground fence wasn’t active.  The bad news was that his owners should never have instructed the pet sitter to give him outside access without supervision during the holiday. The bad news was that Bert was traumatized and is still recovering from his fear of noise and being lost.

Lessons learned and applied are the ones that count!

May 072013

Should we microchip our dogs? My unequivocal answer is yes!

Yesterday, I was in the small town near where I live and a little Wheaten Terrier ran up to me and begged for some attention. No collar, no tags and obviously someone’s pet although she needed a good grooming. She was as thirsty as could be…hmmmm…I wondered who owned her and let her run lose to be hit by a car.

After asking around with folks I knew nearby and getting no information, I packed her up into the kennel in my van (and her willingly) and took her to our Animal Control office. When she was scanned, she did have a microchip! Hooray!

Now the bad news. When I called to check on her today, she was still there because the phone number listed on her Home Again chip was an answering machine and no one had called back. The question, where had the system failed because the chip identified the dog’s owners.

1–Was the owner on vacation or in the hospital and a neighbor or family member let her out to roam?

2-Did the family fail to update their phone number at the Home Again website when they moved?

3-Or, did the owners, just not care about her??  Unlikely, because she was a chubby missus.

It could be any of the three answers or others, but the chip did at least give an owner’s phone number and name so it served its purpose. The fault was on the owner’s side, no doubt.

Luckily, our Animal Control is a no-kill shelter, has a universal chip reader, and even enters screened dogs into the training program at Kentucky State Penitentiary.  If no one claims her within the week, I’ll bet she is inducted into the program before being rehomed. Even though a sad ending in some ways, it could have been much worse.

Back to microchipping, suppose the little lost terrier was your dog and someone like me picked her up and dropped her at a vet or Animal Control.  Assuming you had done your part to keep your information up to date on the directory, she would be back in her own little bed and chewing on her Nylabone by now.  (Note:  the directory for all the major microchip companies is free and the “additional charge” is for extras)

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 Posted by at 8:52 pm
Sep 212012

Because I am a pet sitter and I’m out in neighborhoods on a daily basis, I often see dogs roaming around with their owner’s blessings. I won’t sermonize that issue, but would like to relay my experience with micro chipped and non-micro chipped dogs.

I was doing vacation visits for a client’s dogs and at each visit I was greeted by a friendly English Shepherd just wanting some attention. I didn’t think much of it for the first 3-4 times, then I began to wonder if the dog might be lost so I visited several houses on the adjoining streets and was told the dog was new to the area and wandering. I made sure she had some water and continued on my way. It became obvious the dog was scavenging and was hungry, so I decided the next day to put her in the kennel in my car and have the local vet check for a microchip to find the owner. No luck, so she went home with me for the night. She was obviously crate and potty trained so I knew someone had to be missing her.  I took her to our local Animal Control which is a no kill shelter and they checked again for a chip. The story does have a sad and a happy ending, but not as you’d expect. She was never reunited with her owner because they couldn’t be found, but she was placed in the prison training program at Kentucky State Prison and after the time there was adopted into a loving home where she would be kept contained and safe.

The second story is more personal.  My parents live on a farm in rural southern Kentucky.  Dad was driving down the road to his barn and saw a little dog sitting on the side of the road and being a dog lover like me, he stopped and checked him out.  When he opened the truck door, in hopped a little Miniature Schnauzer, freshly groomed and sweet as could be.  Once again, Dad took now “Ralphie” to the vet to be scanned for a chip and also advertised in the local newspapers and on the radio for the owner to possibly retrieve their pet.   No luck.  There was no doubt, Ralphie belonged to someone and had been well cared for…but he was a runner, and a dog that gets on a scent and runs can actually go miles and then be disoriented and totally lost.  Dad fell in love with Ralphie and he now is pampered.  Another sad but happy ending because the owners could not be identified.  He continues to have that will to “run” so has to be walked on a leash or kept inside.

The third story has a totally different ending.  I was driving on a two lane road near my home and came upon a dog laying in the road that had been hit and killed by a car and his buddy was standing watch over the friend he had lost.  I zoomed in a driveway to keep the second dog from being hit and slipped a lead on him and put him in my kennel once again.  This time, the remaining dog had a HomeAgain tag on his collar indicating he was micro chipped.  It wasn’t necessary to have him scanned, but I just called the HA phone number and they contacted the owner who called me.  I was able to return the dog to his owners who lived nearby.  In this case, they were new to the community and the children let the dogs out without their electronic fence collars and they wandered away to the busy highway. As you know by reading, had the tag been gone, I would have had the dog checked and it would have led me to the owners.

My dogs wear collars and also tags with my phone numbers most of the time.  However, there are certain instances where I have their collars off and there is always the possibility the collars or tags can be lost.  All five of my dogs have a microchip although I know it is no guarantee they would be returned to me.  People are sometimes unethical and would keep or resell a nice dog or would never think to have it scanned.  However, I feel better knowing the chip is there and if they did end up at a vet’s office or animal facility, the chances are good I could be notified.

I personally have my vets insert HomeAgain chips and have all my data in their online system (free) so I can keep it updated should I move or change my phone number. The information is only worthwhile if it is correct.  They do have a yearly fee for the “extras” but I have never subscribed.  HA chips can be read by their proprietary scanners or by the universal scanners that many veterinarians and animal control officers now use. A local vet gave me some additional information which made me even more proactive. Vets that do use the HomeAgain chips have been provided with universal scanners which will read all brands of chips and the office was given a list of companies and the code system for their numbers so it helps to further trace the owner directly by the brand chip the animal has.  This particular vet said they scan and identify owners for approximately one dog per week, and knowing they are only one of several vets in my area, this seems significant.

It may be a false sense of security, but I do feel better having my dogs micro chipped and it is inexpensive insurance. Luckily, my Iphone  and Ipad can now be located with GPS as well.  Now, I just need to find a way to keep from losing my glasses!

 Posted by at 2:24 pm