Monday, April 25, 2011

Public Service Announcement

Today, I witness one of the worst accidents an animal lover can see: I watched a dog get hit by a car on the highway. Between rescue and nursing, I have seen Death's swift scythe fall more than once, and it never cease to shock and humble me. There is no fanfare, no choir of angels to sing thee to thy rest. One instant there's a running, breathing being, and somewhere between one heartbeat and the next, it's gone. Life is so fierce and so fragile. Death is the ultimate, immutable fact: rain falls from the sky, haters gonna hate, and little black dogs do not win fights against Suburbans.

These past two weeks have been a showcase of bad behaviors (although I'm cautiously optimistic that Rubi's brain has come back from spring break). Tonight's tragedy is the almost the only event that could have distracted me from my planned rant on last night's incident. Sunday night, Rubi was attacked by another dog on our walk. And I can say that honestly - Rubi didn't instigate the fight at all, although she tried damn hard to finish it. She has a nasty scratch and a puncture on her chest, but nothing to run to the vet about. I don't know how the other dog fared because its coward of an "owner" ran away while I was still trying to get B back under control. I suppose that's probably the only smart thing he did. One of my less shining qualities is a deep instinct for reciprocity. I feel that if you are responsible for hurting someone who belongs to me, I should have the right to Hurt. You. Back.

I'm not perfect. I think I've mentioned that before.

The infuriating and frustrating part about both these incidents is they probably could have been prevented. I'm not saying that even the most paranoid of minds doesn't occasionally fall victim to fate or rogue chance. But playing ball with your unleashed dog in your unfenced yard isn't an accident. Playing ball with your unleashed dog in your unfenced yard is why stupidity should be painful.

This time of year in particular it seems hard to deny our dogs the freedom of a good romp. Do it anyway. Leash laws are there for a reason - to keep your dog from getting hit by a car or chewed up by a pit bull. Leashes are cheap, too - hell, just say the word and I will give you one if you promise to use it. Please, for the love of all that is good, leash your dog. And while you're at it, check to make sure the leash and the collar are in good condition and not liable to break at a moment's hard yank. Collars should be properly fitted and not loose enough to fit over the dog's head if he or she pulls backward suddenly. I check my equipment each time I put it on a dog. I also make sure to purchase solid, sturdy collars and leashes. Both can save a lot of grief down the road.

Another often over-looked piece of safety equipment is your fence. Look at something everyday, and it's easy to get complacent about it. So every time I go out in the backyard to play ball with the dogs, I walk the fence. I look for loose boards, new gaps in the line, protruding nails, or anything the dogs could possibly use to get into trouble (they're quite ingenious). I do this about 4-5 times per week. It might be overkill but at least I'm not forgetting to do it.

So check your equipment. Double check your equipment. Take a good, hard look at your fence. And give your sweet, sweet dogs an extra cookie in memory of the little guy who didn't make it home.


  1. I am so so sorry for what happened to Rubi. Have you had any setbacks with her reactivity from the incident?

    As sad as the risks are for letting my dogs play off leash I think it's worth it. While i try and go to fenced areas or skating rinks in the summer it's usually not possible. Almost all disc dog practice sessions we illegally play at soccer/baseball fields and even at agility trials there is often nothing more then that yellow tape defining the boundaries. I worry much more about other dogs coming after mine then I do about my dogs running off. I guess I can somewhat protect my dogs through lots of training and be willing to take the risk but i can't control the other idiots out there :(

  2. I was a little worried about Rubi's mental status after the event, but she seems to be okay (and by "okay," I mean normal for her ;). She was a little spazzy last night at class, but that could be because we haven't been to class in two weeks. So, if she's worse, it's not by a noticeable amount. Lucky for us.

    I've found that a surprising number of places have "on leash or under verbal control" in their dog ordinances (St Paul Park has this, for instance). That said, I think 99% of loose dogs I meet have no business being off leash. We get approached by at least one a week, even avoiding places that don't have the "or verbal control" clause. I don't imagine these idiots are the people reading my blog, but I had to say something after this last week.

  3. I'm so sorry you had to witness such a horrible thing, and have Rubi get attacked all in a week. I get so irritated with people who can't be bothered to hold a leash and put their dogs at risk because of it. And where I live the leash laws are seldom enforced because there just aren't enough officers.
    Last weekend I was at my behaviourist friend's class, which is outside, all pit bulls (on leash) and a Jack Russell terrier came running at us from the jogging path.... dragging his leash. The jogger kept running and calling him, he paid no attention and finally someone in our group who was dogless had to go send him back. The classic moment was when he finally went to his owner, she punished him for running off. Yeah, the dog will really connect the punishment to that, not to coming back to you lady. It could have been a nice snack for the big dogs.... but I'm sure it's hard to hang onto the leash and jog.