Yep, I’m still behind you!

I am spending a few days at my parents’ house in Connecticut and while putting away the dishes, I noticed a dog in their back yard. After throwing on my boots and my sweater-shawl (? Read: no sleeves), I ventured outside. Expecting the dog to make its way to me pretty quickly, I didn’t think twice about my wardrobe choice. I should have.

The adorable Weimaraner did not at all respond to me as I expected him to. Instead, he barked fearfully and high-tailed it (low-tailed, actually) down the driveway. When an animal doesn’t immediately come to me, I get frustrated. And confused. Can’t they see how awesome I am? Not easily deterred, I followed him. He parked himself in my neighbor’s driveway and continued barking at me. I used every bit of a cajoling voice I had but he wouldn’t stop, nor would he allow me to get close. He went out into the road and at this point, I had to stop a Jeep from hitting him. (Side bar: Throughout this entire ordeal, I had multiple drivers give me that look that said, “Control your dog, you worthless pet owner. I cannot even begin to believe you aren’t using a leash.” And I wanted to have a sign that read: “He’s NOT MINE! I’m trying to find out where he lives!” Life does not always hand us easy outs like this, though.)

He went up one of the side streets and in between sniffing and eating snow, he’d look back fearfully at me. Whenever I tried to get close, he’d start to bark. He seemed familiar with another neighbor’s house. My hopes were up until I noticed a worker sticking his head out the window, watching the two of us, who said “Nope, but I found him in the walk-in dumpster earlier” when asked if he lived there. The dog moved onto another house and followed a canine trail around to the back. Since he did it so nonchalantly, I thought we might have hit the house jackpot this time. I followed him around back to make sure he’d stopped there and went back to ring the doorbell. One of my parent’s friends answered and I asked if they had a Weimaraner. No dice. Now I had the added pleasure of getting him out of their backyard. This proved pretty easy when I went climbed into the knee deep snow after him and he ran away.

Our next stop was another side street, via another neighbor’s driveway (fingers crossed! sigh). He walked into every driveway like it was his own. Every. Driveway. This was exhausting. By this point, he was becoming resigned to the fact that I was not going away. If I got too close, he’d still bark on the top of his lungs, but if I kept my distance, he’d continue making false leads. But the amount of ground between us was shrinking. Unfortunately around this time, someone’s recycling bin filled with bottles clattered to the ground. It scared him so much his tail was tucked between his legs as he barked. I switched from coaxing him to comforting him and I think that he actually started responding to me at this point. I felt really bad though that he was so fearful and started wondering about his family.

Since I knew he wasn’t going to let me touch his collar, I actually got down on my hands and knees, trying for glimpses of his tag. He moved just enough that it was almost impossible to read. I finally made out a street name and some numbers. Having just a street name was good enough for me.

At this point, I took charge and was happily surprised at how easily he started following me. I also figured out that instead of giving him my hand to smell, which he simply would not do, if I stopped and faced away from him, he would come sniff me. Baby steps but successful ones! As I walked ahead of him and called to him (I still didn’t know his name, but “Dog” and “Doggie” both worked well), he followed. On our way, we walked by two dogs who were standing behind an electric fence. I had no idea how he’d react but as he started to walk over to them, I corrected him lightly and he stopped walking. Nice!

I thought the number on his collar was in the 500’s so we went left down his road when we reached the t-intersection. My parent’s do not live in a busy area (at all) but that doesn’t mean it’s free of cars passing through. With the combined snow and no leash, we had to walk in the road. And because I still couldn’t touch him to grab his collar, he was running from side to side, at will. But he was beginning to spend more time at my side and now if a car or van was approaching, I could successfully use my voice to keep him close. (This is where those looks really popped up since I was the idiot who was letting my dog walk in the road.)

We got to the 400’s and were about to go up a giant hill when I made an attempt at actually touching his collar just to make sure we actually had to hike up it. Wouldn’t you know it? He let me! His name was Monty and his house was in the 900’s which were, of course, all the way back in the other direction! We traipsed through the intersection, and once again it had cars passing through it. Only this time, what’s this? Did he just jump on me? Does somebody finally trust me?? And when a car came by, I was even able to hold onto his collar while he looked up at me in adoration. Yes!

Almost an hour after I found him, we finally got to his driveway, which of course he went into like it was his own. He did make noises of excitement when we waited at the door, so that was promising. His owner answered and was nice, but I couldn’t help but note that she was typical of so many pet owners who, I have no doubt, love their pets but don’t respect them. The two things she said that stuck out the most were, “I let him out this morning and he just kept running” and “We drove around for a while and gave up”. Huh.

You just “let him out”? Regardless of the fact that this is a safe neighborhood, CARS. ARE. NOT. SAFE!!!!!!!!! And cars do NOT expect to see a lone dog running on the road. I witnessed Monty’s instincts and they were full of notions to walk in front of them. I mentioned that I prevented him from being hit and she sort of “ohh”‘d her way through it. If you don’t have a fence of some sort, then use a leash, do not just release your dog to the world. A dog’s idea of freedom to roam is a lot different from a person’s. In addition, I’m not sure that Monty actually knew where his house was so that he could return on his own!

And they gave up looking for him??? So, had I not looked out my window when I did and been concerned about the welfare of THEIR BELOVED pet, he’d have just continued wandering around? I had to work really, really hard to get him to trust me and I know I am not the norm. I bet five other people saw him out their window and thought “Hey, there’s a dog. What was I doing?” And if they did pull themselves outside (without a jacket, mind you!!!), they’d give up perhaps 20 minutes after he continuously barked at and avoided them and call Animal Control. And while they sat in their cozy houses, Monty would still be wandering around until AC showed up and who knows what could have happened!

I wish this was the first time that I’ve found a neighborhood dog wandering around. I wish this was the first person who responded as ignorantly as this woman did.

Care about your pets like you would care for yourself (I think this is really the only analogy that gets through to these people). If you can’t, then don’t have any.

I’m climbing down off my soap box now that the feeling is finally coming back to my arms.

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Filed under behavior, dogs

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