THE KINDNESS OF NEIGHBORS CAN HELP STRAY PETS FIND THEIR WAY HOME
In the couple of weeks on either side of the Fourth of July, I lost one pet and found another. Both stories had happy endings because both the owners and the finders knew what to do. One pet made it home because of a high-tech strategy, the other because of a low-tech one.
First, the pet I found, a healthy young yellow Labrador. I worried that I'd have to find him a home, since he didn't have a collar or tag. I live in an area more rural than suburban, and I feared he might have been dumped by owners hoping a farmer had room for a nice dog they couldn't keep. (We rarely do out here because we all have pets already, but that doesn't stop people from hoping ... and dumping.)
I took the dog to our neighborhood veterinary hospital to be checked for a microchip. I was delighted to be wrong about my guess that the dog had been dumped in the neighborhood. Score one for high-tech: The Labrador was not only chipped and registered, but the owner was a neighbor who was actively looking for his dog.
The lost pet was my own -- one of my two indoor cats. Ilario slipped out unnoticed and had been gone several hours before I realized he was missing. He was microchipped and wearing a collar ID tag, and I reported him missing to the neighbors, the microchip registry and the county. As the days then weeks passed with no sign of him dead or alive, I sadly figured that he had been grabbed by one of the neighborhood coyotes.
But then, a lucky break: One neighbor mentioned to another that she'd seen a new cat wandering not far from my house, and that he seemed to be spending his days near yet another neighbor's outdoor aviary. That neighbor confirmed my cat was trying to eat his birds, and after two tries, I caught Ilario in a live-release trap. He was thin, dirty and scared, but he was alive after a month on the lam.
Score that one for low-tech: Even though Ilario had a microchip and ID tag, he was too frightened to be approached, not even by me. But with the help of my neighbors and a Havahart trap, I have my cat back.
The lessons? Cover your bases with collar, tag and microchip, and don't give up when your pet goes astray. And if you find someone's pet, don't assume he's been dumped because he isn't wearing a collar. Start looking for an owner by taking the animal to a nearby veterinarian or shelter to be checked for a microchip.
And don't give up on the possibility of a reunion. Although the Labrador had escaped from his family less than 24 hours before I found him, my own cat was missing for almost a month before he was noticed by the neighbors.
Finally, be a good neighbor. Many pets, especially cats, don't roam far from home. If we all work together, we can get more pets reunited with the families who are missing them. If you see a pet who seems to be lost, help that animal and its owner. We can all use more happy endings -- don't you think?
Owners need to watch
their dogs at the park
Q: There's a new dog park in our area, and the rules are generally pretty good, as long as people follow them. We have a couple of people who bring in multiple dogs at once, including one person who is being paid to exercise dogs. We don't have a limit on the number of dogs a single person can bring in, but after a couple of incidents, we're thinking about it. What do you think? -- via email
A: People with multiple dogs, no matter how well-mannered their pets are, simply cannot stay on top of what all their dogs are doing once the animals fan out. That's why many parks have guidelines that address professional dog walkers or people with many dogs of their own.
Everyone who takes a pet into an off-leash dog park needs to be responsible for the behavior of that animal, watching to be sure the dog is neither bully nor victim and that no one gets hurt. The dog park is not for catching up on one's reading or visiting with other people. It is for safely exercising and socializing a dog. One dog is hard enough to monitor properly; more than two would be nearly impossible.
Further, dogs who live together or see each other regularly are more likely to gang up on those animals who aren't in their "pack." Dog packs have a different dynamic than individual dogs, and having a regular pack frequent the park could be a dangerous situation indeed.
To operate safely, dog parks need good basic rules, an active community to police through peer pressure and plenty of common sense. Work to put common-sense rules in place at the off-leash park not to limit the number of dogs, but rather to ban inattentive behavior on the part of the owners.
If that fails, it may be necessary to set an arbitrary limit as to how many dogs a single person could have in an off-leash area at one time. -- Gina Spadafori
Sled dogs the oldest
of American canines
-- The oldest evidence of dogs in North America comes from the northernmost outposts, where Inuit sled dogs can be traced back to animals who lived there more than 10,000 years ago. Discovery News reports that the genetics of the animals suggests that they originated in Asia, and are thought to have followed people across the landmass that once covered the Bering Strait. These dogs show no European heritage in their genetic makeup, making them rare among American dogs, most of whom can be genetically linked to animals brought over with European settlers of the New World.
-- The biggest litter box you can find may not be big enough for your cat's preferences. Some cats like their boxes long and wide and their litter deep. Feline behavior experts say that looking in the "storage" department of your favorite big-box retailer instead of the area set aside for pet supplies offers larger and sometimes less-expensive options. Check out storage boxes meant for sweaters, or that are designed to fit under the bed. Used without their lids, these can work well as litter boxes.
-- Petting zoos are popular with children and parents alike, especially during the season for fairs around the country that feature livestock among the attractions. But many parents are unaware of the risks of deadly strains of bacteria that may be present. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control cautions that children should be supervised to ensure they don't put their fingers in their mouths while petting animals or coming into contact with bedding or fecal material, and that everyone washes his or her hands thoroughly with soap and water on leaving such exhibits. — Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.