Always keep a collar with tags on your dog!

The other night, just before we left to run some errands, I heard the dogs barking wildly in the backyard. Dog people can discern the subtleties of tone in their dog’s barks, and these were frantic, something-crazy-is-happening barks. We ran to the yard to see what the commotion was about. Turned out there was a large, sleek black lab running around, off leash, no collar.

Sweet girl we found wandering, collar-less.
Sweet girl we found wandering, collar-less.

My first thought was, Sigh, I don’t have time for this; we’re already late. And in a second, I remembered that horrible, horrible feeling I had when Pyrrha escaped from my parents’ house, and I had no idea where she was and thought I’d never see her again. Presumably, there was someone out there feeling that same way.

I ran inside, grabbed the first leash I could find, and Guion and I went to locate the dog. She had wandered a few yards over from ours, but we called to her with happy voices and she soon came running right up to us. (Color me amazed: I’m so used to these nervy shepherds who would never come to a stranger that I couldn’t believe she ran right to us.) I didn’t have time to find a collar, so I slipped the leash through the handle and made a slip-style lead for the lab. Meanwhile, Pyrrha and Eden are totally flipping out that we are on the other side of the fence with this new dog. We first thought she belonged to our neighbors behind us, because we knew they had a black lab… but when Guion entered the yard to inquire, another black lab (their lab) came running out to greet him. Dead end.

We asked several other neighbors if this dog was familiar to them, but no one had a clue. So we loaded her into the Jeep and took her to our local SPCA, which does a good job reuniting lost pets with their people. She rode happily and quietly in the back of the car, seemingly unruffled by the whole ordeal. We gave all the information we had about her at the SPCA, and the staff person told me she assumed this girl would be picked up in the morning. If not, they hold dogs for 7 days to give people a chance to find their pets, and if they’re not claimed by then, they go up for adoption.

I hope her people find her soon. She was a total sweetheart, a real gem of a dog. She had a sleek coat and seemed to be in good health, so I don’t imagine she’s a stray. The whole incident just reinforced my belief, though, that a dog should ALWAYS be wearing a collar with an ID tag with your current contact information on it. If we’d had that, this girl could have been reunited with her people that night. The SPCA scanned her, and she also was not microchipped.

Wear your collar with tags at all times, pups! Even when you’re in the house without a human. Even if you’re just in the backyard. You never know what could happen.

Custom Dog Tag  - Unique Pet ID Tag - Handstamped Nu Gold Dog Tag - Have Your People Call My People
Love this ID tag! From Etsy store CritterBling, $12.

Do your dogs wear collars with tags? Do you have ID tags that you particularly like that you’d recommend?

That time Rainer almost got lost

Last night, while brushing my teeth, I asked Guion, “Hey, would you let the dogs in?”

They had been out in our backyard for about three minutes, for their last potty break of the night.

Coming for youAbout a minute later, I hear a frantic knock on the door. It’s Guion, breathless and panicky. And he utters the three most dreaded words: “Rainer got out!”

Guion grabbed a flashlight and a leash and ran out the front. I dropped everything, pulled on some rain boots, and ran out to the back, calling frantically for Rainer. It’s dark and I can’t see anything. Pyrrha, however, has let herself into the sunroom and is looking at me with a fascinated expression.

Because here’s the impressive thing: Pyrrha didn’t leave the yard, even when Rainer did. A gate had been left open when Guion was showing a friend our garden, apparently. And so Rainer just sauntered out.

Rainer's bed

I put Pyrrha inside, grab another leash, and am about to dash out the front door, with all of these horrible thoughts in my mind — we are the worst fosters ever! We are never going to find him! He probably wouldn’t come to us! It’s so dark; what if he gets hit by a car? — but… then…

The front door opens, and it’s Guion and Rainer, who is slowly wagging his tail.

Guion said that Rainer had wandered a few houses over, and the neighbors had seen him. Guion could see Rainer, but he didn’t want to run up to him, wisely reasoning that Rainer would probably run in the other direction if he thought he was being “charged.” Instead, when he saw Guion, Rainer willingly trotted down the driveway and ran right up to our front door. Guion didn’t even leash him, but when he got close enough to Rainer, he slunk down and was very nervous. I think he was bewildered and disoriented, but wow, how surprised and grateful I am that he came back!

Lessons learned:

  1. ALWAYS LOCK THE DAMN GATE (cough, cough, husband).
  2. Pyrrha is a good girl! I am frankly astonished that she didn’t run out, too. I am so proud of her for staying in the yard. I still kind of can’t believe it, especially given her history of wandering off.
  3. Sometimes shy dogs will surprise you and just come on home. Good boy, Rainer!

Glad that we still have you. Shoo. Not a fun way to spend your Wednesday evening.

But the other bright news is that a potential adopter is coming to meet Rainer on Saturday! Will keep you posted!

The dog’s first Christmas

Enjoying her cow ear by the fire

We had a wonderful first Christmas with Pyrrha and a great holiday away for about two weeks. She is just a gem when we’re on the road and I think she prefers living with our respective families: She gets lavished with attention, multiple daily walks, and multiple family members slipping her food.

General field notes from our first Christmas with Pyrrha:

Walking and dog wrangling

Pack walk

Dog wrangling

My siblings were dog sitting for two neighborhood dogs while we were there: Dally, the Miss America of golden retrievers, whom you may recall from last year; and Spike, the workhorse black lab. And then, of course, there was Dublin, my dad’s surrogate dog, who also plays a big sister-like role to Pyrrha. We spent hours with these dogs, often on crazy pack walks (which, as you can see from the photos above, we weren’t always the smoothest at handling).

The almost constant company of other dogs is so good for Pyr’s confidence. She seems to blossom around them. She is afraid of fewer things; she doesn’t react as much to small children or strange sounds. AND, the big surprise: She peed on a walk for the very first time! This has never happened before. I think she was finally learning from the other dogs. Needless to say, we were shocked. She is still full of surprises.

Losing her for half an hour

Let's go

The absolute WORST part of our entire holiday occurred on a pleasant, sunny afternoon at my parents’ house. We were all lounging around the living room. I stood up after a spell and looked down the hallway. The back door was wide open and Pyrrha was nowhere in sight.

My parents live on a very busy street with an almost constant stream of cars, and I immediately flew into panic mode. I ran outside and could not see her anywhere. She wasn’t next door, waiting at Dublin’s fence. She wasn’t in the front or side yards. She wasn’t across the street.

Everyone split up in every direction and started looking for her. Guion got in the car; my brother-in-law started running toward campus. I grabbed a bike and started down one of the back residential streets, sobbing and calling her name. I was convinced: This is it. She’s gone for good this time. We won’t ever find her. She’s been hit and killed by a car. She will never be found…

I was biking and crying, calling her name, biking some more, and I had almost reached the next intersection, about a block and a half from the house, when I heard the blessed sound of tags jingling. I couldn’t see her, so I kept shouting her name. Then, out from behind a house and its backyard, my stupid, happy dog comes bounding up to me, having heard my calls. I have never been so happy to see her stupid face.

Lessons learned: a) My parents’ back door does not shut all the way, even when it appears closed; b) Pyrrha will wander off without a sound, c) But she will come to the sound of my voice, which is immensely relieving. I wasn’t even sure that would happen at all. I’m also relieved I’m the one to find her, because I’m honestly not sure she would have come to anyone else in the family, much less a well-meaning stranger. All in all, we were very, very lucky. But that is an experience I really don’t want to repeat ever again. Sheesh.

Practicing off-leash recall

Partially inspired by frightening afternoon of the lost dog, my dad and I decided to practice a few off-leash/recall exercises with Pyrrha. Dublin has the most perfect recall of any dog I’ve ever met; the girl will stop on a dime if you call her name. Our idea was to get in a big field with the dogs, and the various family members, and tie Pyrrha and Dublin together with leashes. If they wandered, we could always call Dublin back in a pinch.

I was delighted to learn that Pyrrha came to me every single time I called her, even when she was a good distance away. This, obviously, could be because of the unusual circumstances, but I was pleased nonetheless.

Things to work on: 1) Actually having treats with me when I try this again, and 2) Training her to come to other people, namely Guion. Right now, I am the only person that she will come to. Obviously something to improve.

Snuggling surprises

Snuggle buddies

For all of her sweetness, Pyrrha is not a very cuddly dog. This, obviously, is a function of her natural shyness. However, our two weeks away taught us that there is some snuggly people-love residing somewhere deep within our shy dog.

I was ASTONISHED one night while we were all watching TV as a family. The fire was blazing and my sister Grace (pictured above) was on the floor with Pyrrha somewhat nearby. In a moment, I was surprised to watch Pyrrha crawl up next to Grace and put her head on Grace’s legs, lining her body right up next to Grace’s. It was almost like they were spooning. Definitely a first for Pyrrha, and a heartwarming one at that. As my Dad said, on watching this cuddly scene: “It looks like P-dog has decided that she likes people.”

Nom nom

All in all, a happy Christmas for our pup. We all learned a lot, I think. (Lock the back door!)