A woman with a tiny Chihuahua passed by me when I was walking with my dogs one day. As the dogs said hello to each other, and it was a harness looped over her neck and the whole thing was about to come off.
I did not want to scare the little dog because if she took a step backwards, she’d be out of the hoop and become loose on the street. So I asked the woman to pick up the dog right away, and then told her that she was about to lose her Chihuahua if she continued on like that. I explained to her that the thing hanging over her neck was called a harness, and properly fitted it on the dog. The woman was thankful and said that she was a pet-sitter, and told me that the Chihuahua’s guardian did not show her how to put the harness on the dog, so she just looped it around her neck.
Thank goodness I happened to walk by this pet-sitter before she lost the dog. I wish I had a way to contact the Chihuahua’s guardian and tell them that just because someone is a “pet-sitter” does not mean the person always knows what she is doing because it is a self-proclaimed occupation with no certificate or regulated guidelines.
When you entrust your companion animals with anyone, you need to give them instructions as if they don’t know anything. Even if you hire a bona fide professional pet-sitter, you ought to go over every detail because it’s better to be possibly redundant than taking a chance of having your pet get lost. In fact, pets get lost mostly when their guardians are out of town and someone else is taking care of them.
The same applies when rescuers conduct the Home Safety Check. For instance, rescue volunteers need to physically show the adopters how to open the front door so that the dog or cat won’t slip out, how to use the martingale collar on dogs and why, how to hold the leash so that they won’t accidentally drop it, and so forth (By the way, if you’d like to learn how to keep your dogs safe, contact Forte Animal Rescue, and one of its volunteers will help you).
For seasoned dog guardians, these are common sense and second nature. But for first-time dog guardians, everything is new. So, the volunteers need to talk to them as if they’ve never seen a collar or leash; especially the martingale collar because even some trainers are not familiar with it.
On the other hand, believe it or not, when an adopter is an experienced dog guardian, more accidents can happen than when the dog is adopted by a first-timer because the latter could be more attentive and would try to follow the instructions, while too many things have become second nature to experienced dog guardians. It could actually be worse especially when the adopters have well-trained dogs because they often subconsciously expect every dog to behave the same.
Their own dogs may stay in the living room when they open the door to receive a pizza delivery, but their brand new dog may dash out. When they park their car, they may not think about grabbing the leash before they open the backseat door because their dogs stay there until they are told to get out of the car. It’s easy for them to forget a new dog is a different animal.
Whether you’re hiring a pet-sitter or placing a dog or cat in a new home, it’s better to be more persistent than you would normally speak to people. Even if you may feel that you are annoying the sitter or adopter a tad bit, it’s well worth it because it can spare you the heartache of losing the dogs or cats, let alone having to search for them day in and day out, rain or shine, until you find them.
And of course, your dogs and cats should be, not only microchipped, but wearing a tag at all times. Most people don’t have a microchip scanner, so make it easy for good Samaritans who may catch your companion animals by making sure that their tags are legible and have current phone numbers.
Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.