Ranger is living up to his name (or, “How to Get Your Dog Back”)

I have very little interesting going on in my life this week on account of getting prepped for a dog-oriented road trip that starts in 3 days, and also due to a series of injuries. The interesting thing is, this time, it’s not my injury that slowed me down.

This week Ranger popped a small hole in one of his front toe pads, which caused him to limp. It took me several days to figure out how he got this injury. I figured it out on Friday afternoon when I came home to an empty dog run.

It turns out Ranger has taken after his mother in more than just appearance. He can climb the 6’ chain link fence around his pen. He climbed the fence (it’s not possible for him to dig or go under the fence and the gate was secure) and went on a little adventure. I’ll never know for sure what all he did on his day in the park, but I know I was pretty freaked out that he was missing. After driving around the park and making several phone calls I got a call on my cell from a family who’d found him.

Or rather, a family he’d found. When I got to where he was—about a half mile from my house—he was playing with their kids and little puppy at the playground. He was hot, tired, and very thirsty, but still didn’t want to go home just yet. Based on how worn out and hot he was I’m sure he covered much more than a half-mile.

Once I got him home I noticed he was limping on his other front foot from what had previously been injured. When I inspected his foot I saw that he had a matching injury to his previous one, and the big pad of his foot was blistered, maybe from the hot pavement. In any case, his feet are not as tough as they should be, and that certainly was a contributing factor.

I was going to soak his feet in black tea (the tannins can help toughen feet, and sometimes can soothe sore pads), but Ranger’s breeder suggested I wipe the pads with iodine to help toughen them (and I figure it’ll also help with the cuts on his pads—it’s an antiseptic). He was still sore on the blistered foot Saturday morning, but he’s improving. Once he’s healed up I’m going to step up his conditioning, which will help toughen his feet as well.

As for how he got home—I have a ton of information on his tags. Both boys wear water-resistant neon orange nylon collars. Their ID tags consist of two brass tags riveted to each of the collars. I have the tags riveted on so that the tags aren’t as likely to pop loose as they would be on a split ring or quick-link.

The info on each collar is:

Phone numbers—my home phone, my mobile phone, my office phone, and my parents’ home phone. This improves the odds of a human being answering the “I found your dog” call.

The town where I live—especially important while traveling.

Reward if Found—self-explanatory

Needs Daily Medication—this isn’t exactly true. Neither of my dogs currently needs any medication, but it might improve the odds of him being returned because people probably don’t want to keep a cool stray dog if it has some sort of medical problem. The other thought is that people are more likely to return the dog quickly if they think it has a medical condition.

I don’t have their names on their collars so that no one says “Hi, Ranger! You’re a neat dog! How’d you like to come live with me?”

An article I read not long ago (but long enough ago that I’ve forgotten where to look for the link) gave some suggestions on how to respond to your pet getting lost.

Have plenty of fliers on hand to post as soon as you know your pet is missing. It’s best if the pictures are in color, with one from the front and one from the side. Include the information I have on the collars (above). The general advice is to not have the dog’s name on the fliers for the same reason I gave above. It’s up to you to decide if you want to post your neighborhood, area of the city/county, etc.

Get the fliers out to local convenience stores, pet stores, veterinarians, etc. as quickly as possible. Depending on how long your pet’s been missing and where it went missing (as is the case when you travel), you may want to spread the word via facebook, twitter, email lists, message boards, etc. Those have been very helpful in the past when show/performance dogs go missing.

Have on hand your dog’s medical information in case you need these outside of business hours.

Get a photo that proves your dog belongs to you. This could be a picture of the two of you together, a picture of an unusual marking or tattoo, or their microchip information.

Keep your animal control number handy in case he gets picked up. Also the number of an emergency veterinarian, especially if traveling.

For what it’s worth, both of my dogs have been microchipped. Also, the family who found Ranger tried calling the numbers on his collar (the first one they tried was my office number, just a few minutes after everyone left for the day). I offered them a reward, because it was on his collar, but they wouldn’t accept it. They were just happy he got home safely.

I won’t be posting next weekend because I will be on the road, however I hope to post with stories of our travels when I return.