Posted in Compost on April 27, 2013
I’m seeing many of my Facebook contacts post a link to an article, all offering some version of this comment: “My dogs never wear collars, and this is why.” And yet, Nancy Kerns’ very nice piece in the Whole Dog Journal does not suggest “going naked” 24/7 but rather to control and minimize risk while preserving the value of a collar with ID tags:
Here are five things you can do to keep your dog safe when he’s playing with other dogs.
Just because you “once heard of a dog somewhere” dying when his collar was caught on a heater grate doesn’t mean your dog should go naked all the time. In any given year I’ll pull 12-15 strays off the road (as true out here in “the country” as it was in “the ‘burbs”). The dogs with collars and ID* are home within the hour, typically. The others go to the county pound after I take their picture for posting fliers, online and in the neighborhood. Wanna guess what happens to most of the strays at the county pound?
Because I have a Flat-Coated Retriever, I know a lot of people with Flat-Coated Retrievers. We think they’re really special, but there’s a reason why Golden Retrievers are more popular by a factor of something like 1,000 to 1: Flat-Coats look “generic.” How so? There was one time I met my my friend and business partner Christie Keith at a half-way point for coffee (at the time, we lived two hours apart). I had my beautiful, well-mannered, good-natured champion retriever McKenzie with me, and she had her dog Rawley, a half-grown Deerhound puppy. My dog was background noise; hers made eyes pop.
So, to flat-coat owners: How much effort do you think anyone is going to put into finding the owner of yet another “black Lab mix”? I once found a pair of Borzoi (Borzini!) roaming free. That was novel enough that even though they had no tags I was able to figure out whose Borzini they were within hours. But a “black retriever mix” will be unlikely to ring any “Whoa, rare breed dog! Someone is looking for this dog!” bells either with a Good Samaritan or a shelter worker. Instead, you’ll be (anonymously) considered as just another dirtbag too damn lazy to put a tag on your dog. Once at the pound, you’ll be d lucky if your dog lives long enough for you to find him there (although as a lazy dirtbag, that’s totally your fault). Oh, if you doubt that’s how many many shelters operate, you should be reading Yes, Biscuit.
Moral of this story: Quit obsessing about the things that happen very rarely, and look instead at the things that happen more commonly. Then, put your efforts there. Your dog should play naked, yes, he should. Your dog might be better off living naked, I don’t know, maybe you really do have an escape-proof life. I have double gates with locks, work at home and so am with my dogs more often than not, and lock them in the house when I leave. And my dogs have collars. And ID tags. And microchips.
Does this mean my dogs are guaranteed not to die of their collar getting caught on something? Of course not. You cannot eliminate risk entirely, nor, frankly, would you want to, because the risk then would be that you’d kill yourself out of boredom. And dogs, since they cannot enjoy the media we use to thrill ourselves vicariously, would be really really bored if they never did anything slightly risky, like … oh … eat.
It’s human nature to freak out over the unusual and ignore the common. That’s why we don’t leave our homes when there’s a sniper at large in a metro area of million people, but think nothing of the much more risky behaviors of texting while driving, or eating a shitty diet every day.
As my friend and co-author Dr. Paul Pion is found of saying when talking about medicine, “We’re all gonna die, that’s a given.” His point is that we do what we can to forestall the inevitable, but it truly is inevitable.
So … I’d advise you to make an effort to ignore those Social Media Freak-Outs De Jour. Use the big brain evolution put at the top of your spine. Risk really isn’t that hard to figure out if you look at things rationally.
Note: Yes, I know someone is going to say, “I don’t collar my dogs because it ruins the fur around their neck for the show ring.” OK, well, that’s a variable. It’s not my variable (I’m don’t have show dogs now, and my dogs wore collars and still became champions even when I did) but it’s one of yours. Put it in the mix, sure, but do consider that your purdy dog is going to look just as dead as the one in the body bag next to him if the person charged with killing at the pound that day fills like emptying all the cages, hold period or no.
Maybe you get lucky and your local shelter is one of the good ones. Maybe not. On my side of the river my dogs’ chances of survival at large are far worse than they are one the other side of the river, just a couple miles away. The City of Sacramento has a pretty good municipal shelter. Yolo County does not. Another item to put in the mix, and another reason why my dogs wear collars and ID, unless, yes, thanks Nancy, not when they’re playing.
Image: Worrying about my dog sometimes drives me to drink.
*A microchip might help save your dog if he makes it to the municipal shelter. Or it might not. It might help if his finder is savvy enough to take a dog to the closest veterinary office for a chip scan, but what are the odds someone knows enough to do that?