Microchipping has changed the fate of the lost dog in ways I never imagined. The news of dogs found hundreds of miles from home and years after they were lost comes every day. How is this happening? A recent story of a dog who was admitted to a shelter 900 miles from home just two days after becoming lost has me asking some questions, though.
In the mid atlantic states, a majority of lost dogs are reclaimed by their owners. There are also dogs given up by their owners but this does not account for all the lost dogs who never show up at the shelter at all. Where are all those dogs?
Story #1 A person found a chihuahua but refused to notify animal control. There was no convincing her that someone might be desperately searching for this dog because she had determined the owner was evil and should never be able to get the little dog back. Common sense would accept that a tiny dog lost for days would lose weight and therefore be thin but logic would not be applied in this case.
Story #2 A doctor at a local hospital took two stray dogs who chased his cat on more than one occasion to a shelter several counties away from where he lived in hopes the owner would never find out. Since they had microchips, the owner was notified by the shelter. When he asked how the dogs had ended up so far from home, the shelter realized the finder lived near the owner. Both the finder and loser realized they worked in the same hospital.
Story #3 A dog named Piper, now famous, was lost from a petsitter’s home and ended up in a shelter who passed him on to a rescue group. When the owner was back in town the rescue group put up a $10,000.00 bond in order to keep the dog away from his owner during a lengthy court appeals process. The case is still in the courts but for now, Piper is home with his legal owner while the parties fight over his future.
Story #4 A 17 year old retired police dog spends her days outside with access to a dog house, inside a shed, inside a fenced back yard because she is incontinent. She is being treated for an ear infection which is definitely causing her discomfort. Neighbor’s arrange a “rescue” mission during which they plan to steal the dog for her own good, potentially having her euthanized at a veterinarian since the owners have refused to do so. They were caught in the act but they continued to pressure local authorities and the owners until they euthanized their dog despite a veterinarian stating that the dog’s ear infection was not life threatening and medication was likely to clear it up completely with time. Had the neighbors succeeded in their mission, this family might never have known what happened to their dog.
Our local lost and found facebook page is full of stories of finders who do not want to give dogs they’ve found back. Most often this is because the finder believes any condition the dog has developed while lost is proof that his owner is unworthy of him. The only thing I can say is that even people who are experienced, careful dog owners can lose a dog without even making a mistake. Dogs are living beings who make choices. I know of a dog who pushed a window air conditioner out of the house, left through the window, and was on the front porch waiting for her owner to come home. Assuming you know the story because everything seems so obvious to you is unfair. Have you ever been judged harshly for something you didn’t actually do? What about a mistake you actually made but will not make again?
For all those families who lost a dog and were told, “maybe he went off to die”, I’d rethink. Get a microchip, keep a close eye on your dog. But if he goes missing, consider all the options. I used to tell people who lost a dog and believed she’d been stolen, that it was unlikely unless you saw someone leaving the area with your dog. Even the rumors that people would steal dogs for research or dog fighting were overblown based on how these groups actually acquire and use dogs. But now, that rescue groups are importing dogs to areas where second hand dogs are in demand, I’m not so sure. 900 miles in two days is a pretty clear indication of human involvement. There are very few reasons that a person would take a dog 900 miles away and not report finding the dog that make sense.