Whether you’ve had your current dog for years or have just acquired a new one, it’s always important to make sure your contact information is on your dog at all times. My dog-loving niece in Austin tells me she routinely celebrates “Naked Friday Nights” at her house (dogs only!) when she removes her dogs’ collars for a couple of hours and lets them be “naked” while safe inside her home. But she assures me that she gets them “dressed” again before she lets them outside for potty at bedtime. After all, you never know when you might need to make a quick nocturnal escape due to fire or some other disaster and you want to be able to leash-up your dogs quickly.
I can’t tell you how many dogs I’ve encountered over the years wandering around lost, some with and some without tags to tell me who to call. I got lucky once with a Sheltie-Mix in my neighborhood who was, shall we say, “tagless.” We were working out front and she came trotting up to us, tail wagging fiercely and flirty as could be. After she drank nearly an entire bowl of water I put her on-leash and took her for a walk. I was hoping someone would see her and come running out to accuse me of dog-napping or something. As we walked down the street I carefully observed her behavior and she kept looking at a certain house. I walked her away from it to test my theory and she did it again. Never one to jeopardize a dog rescue by looking foolish, I bounded up to the door and rang the bell. Sure enough, the dog belonged to the woman who answered, but instead of the, “Thank you so much kind citizen, how can we ever re-pay you?!” response I expected, she rolled her eyes and began complaining about the dog. Now I know why the dog was so happy to leave!
Most recently I “rescued” a sweet old Basset Hound from a very busy street in my hometown for the THIRD time in as many years. Luckily I knew where she lived and she was always happy to come to me and get inside my car for the journey back home. Her house has a big electronic gate around it, so I needed to call her owner to open the gate and meet us. Much to my dismay, I was unable to read the phone number on her tag, since it was old and worn off from rubbing on her other tags. In this particular case, I had her phone number in my cell phone from the last time I got her off that busy street. You can be sure the owners got a big dose of, “This is the 3rd time I’ve rescued your dog from the middle of this busy street and what is WRONG with you, plus the phone number is worn off,” etc.
Here’s what I propose: Just like you check the batteries in your smoke detectors once a year, say on New Year’s Day, be sure to regularly check your contact information on your dog’s tag to make sure it’s legible and current. The telephone number that is most likely to reach you quickly makes the most sense. Your home phone number won’t do much good if you’re gone all day. “Big Box” pet supply stores make it easy to engrave a tag yourself in minutes! They even have cool designs on the reverse side these days, like the Peace sign that Niki is modeling.
Without your contact information, your dog is at the mercy of the system. Finding a dog that is not taken to an animal shelter is like finding a needle in a haystack–you’ll need much more than luck. I’ve had students in my Basic Skills & Manners classes who are quick to tell me, “My dog is microchipped.” I’m all for microchips myself, but your neighbors are not likely to have a microchip scanner at their home. So if you want to get your dog back BEFORE he or she is taken to a local animal shelter (where the microchip can probably be read) put your phone number on a tag that your dog wears all the time. If it happens to be “Naked Friday Night” be sure your dog cannot escape and remember to dress them again before bedtime!