How Reuniting Lost Dogs with their Owners Produces Mixed Reactions
Dog was dodging traffic in the town centre
Sometimes, I think lost dogs are drawn to me.
I can almost guarantee that at least once every few weeks, I will be walking, or driving, down the road and a lost dog will come wandering up to me wagging his tail, or go pelting past me in a panic, just begging to be caught.
I never just walk on by, preferring to stop, try to catch the dog and reunite him with his owner. I do so because this is how I hope strangers would react if ever my dogs went missing.
Over the years, I have found most owners are incredibly happy and grateful to be reunited with their canine pal. But sadly, some act like they don't care and I can't help worrying their dog going missing is a regular occurrence and one which doesn't concern them too much.
One of my favourite escapees was Bailey. It was a Saturday morning and I was driving through the busy town centre, where traffic tailbacks were particularly bad. It was the start of the summer season in the coastal resort where I live and the sun was shining, which had brought everyone out.
But there were also major roadworks and building works on one of the main roads, with diversions and temporary traffic lights in place, which was causing traffic jams. The whole town centre was gridlocked.
I then spotted a very large, light brown dog, wandering across the road and literally dodging traffic. I gasped when I thought he was about to be knocked down.
No-one stopped to pick up the wandering dog
It didn't surprise me when not one person stopped to try and catch the wandering dog, who was obviously lost.
I thought he had maybe been left tied up outside a shop and escaped his leash, as he wasn't wearing a collar, but looked well-fed and looked after, so was obviously not a stray.
As I was stuck in traffic, there was little I could do at that moment, but I watched to see where he went and he turned down a side street off the main road. As soon as the traffic moved, I turned off myself and sure enough spotted him about 100 yards down the road. He was plodding along with a quiet determination, looking very hot and panting a lot, his tongue lolling out of his mouth.
I hoped he might live in the area and was perhaps making his way home. But this wasn't the case, as I realised when he crossed the road, turned round and started walking back my way.
It was literally a 60-second task to catch him. I pulled the car over, opened the passenger door and shouted, "Come on, boy, come here!" and patted the seat.
He came across right away and clambered in, which was no mean feat considering he was absolutely huge and I had only a small, two-door car at the time! In fact, he was so big, I had to take him out again and persuade him to climb into the back seat so he could lie down, as he couldn't sit comfortably in the front.
Dog was taken to the vet to be scanned for microchip
He was not a young dog, but was very friendly and quite happily sat in the back seat of my car, looking out of the window and watching the world go by.
I decided to take him to a vet's and have him scanned to see if he was microchipped, as he had no other form of identification.
I drove him to a vet's near my home and the receptionist gave me a lead to walk him from my car into the surgery. I don't think he would have tried to run off anywhere - he was far too tired and as soon as he arrived in the reception area, he was given a bowl of water, which he drank quickly. Then he laid down and panted.
Thankfully, he was microchipped and belonged to a hotelier whose premises were in the town centre, about ten minutes' walk from where the dog - who was called Bailey - had been wandering. The owner was out of his mind with worry, as Bailey, a Great Dane cross, had never wandered off before, but someone had left the garden gate open.
I offered to drive Bailey home, but the veterinary receptionist told me that by law, she couldn't let me take him now, as he had to remain there to await his owner. I thought, "Fair enough," as this would deter any potential dog thief from trying their luck.
I left my telephone number and asked her to call me when Bailey had been safely reunited with his owner.
Bailey's owner was ecstatic his dog had been found
About 30 minutes later, I received a telephone call - it was Bailey's owner, who was thrilled that his boy was back home. He couldn't thank me enough and wanted my address to send me flowers!
I said it didn't matter and I was just pleased that he and his dog had been reunited. He told me to pop into his hotel any time to say hello and he would make me tea and cakes. So I was relieved to have been able to help.
This was a happy ending, but on another occasion, I was left wondering whether a lost dog's owners actually cared about him, judging by their reaction after I found him.
I was walking home and quite near my house, I saw a small, rough-coated, male Jack Russell running down the street, alone. He was not wearing a collar and appeared distressed and in a panic.
Dog started following me
There was nobody else about and the little dog ran up to me and started wagging his tail. Then he was trotting along beside me and followed me home.
When we arrived, I let him into my front garden. I had to leave him outside, although I gave him a drink, as my own dog, Susie, was quite territorial and wouldn't have taken kindly to this fluffy intruder on her "turf" had she come face-to-face with him!
The Jack Russell was very friendly, but also very hot and tired. He laid down on our concrete path, looking out on to the street through the wrought iron gate.
I walked to nearby park to look for his owner
There was a public park on the next street from my house, where a lot of dog walkers congregated, so I walked over to see if I could find anyone looking for a Jack Russell.
I asked various people walking their dogs and found out a young man had been walking a Jack Russell but it had run off and disappeared. There was no sign of the owner now.
I walked home again and decided I'd have to call the police and see if the dog had been reported missing, as this was in the days before the dog warden service had become solely responsible for taking care of lost pets.
However, as I walked into my front garden, the Jack Russell jumping up and pleased to see me, I saw a young guy strolling down the street carrying a collar and lead. The little dog spotted him at the same time and started leaping up and down at the gate, barking excitedly, so I realised calling the police wouldn't be necessary.
Owner seemed less than thrilled to see his dog
The youth, who looked about 16, ambled over and said, "You've got my dog," without any ring of excitement. He started untangling the lead, ready to secure his dog.
His tone and general mannerisms implied being out looking for the dog was more of an effort and that he had better things to do! I found this hard to understand.
When I asked him what had happened, he explained he had been walking the dog in the park, without the leash, when the dog had run off. After a brief look in the park, the youth had walked home (he lived at the opposite end of my street) because, he said, the dog "ran off all the time".
It was his mother's dog and when he had arrived home without it, she had sent him out to look again, but she had not bothered turning out to search herself. From what was being said, I got the impression the little Jack Russell escaped all the time and usually found his way home.
But even so, he would have had to cross two main roads, including a busy junction where four roads met at a roundabout, to walk home from the park to the owner's house on my street. I would have been beside myself with worry had I thought my dog was out on her own, crossing roads!
But at least he was reunited with his owner for now and I just hoped they would take more care with him in future.
Golden Retriever was walking in the park on her own
A much happier reunion was when I was walking through the park near my house and saw a beautiful Golden Retriever plodding across the grass, not stopping to sniff, but just padding along.
There were few dog walkers about that day and instinctively, I looked for her owner, but she appeared to be alone. I caught her up and spotted she wasn't wearing a collar. She seemed pleased to see me, but carried on walking - straight through the park and out the gate.
I asked a couple of people in the park if they had lost a dog - no, they hadn't, but they had seen the retriever wandering round for quite a while on her own.
I realised I had another case of a lost dog on my hands.
I caught the dog and put her in my car
Quickly, I gave chase, as the dog was leaving the park and I knew how easy it would be to lose her once she was on the streets. She seemed quite happy when I pulled up my car alongside her and opened the door, readily climbing in and sitting on the front seat. She wasn't a young dog, but was well cared for.
A quick check at the vet's revealed she wasn't microchipped and nor was she wearing a collar. I called the police to see if she had been reported missing, but they said not.
Taking her to my house wasn't an option, as I had eight dogs at the time, so I decided to try a local no-kill animal shelter, Easterleigh, to see if they could look after her. It was in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of St Annes on Sea and they had looked after a lost dog for me on an earlier occasion until the owner was found.
They didn't let me down when I explained my situation and they took the dog in right away.
Retriever's owner was elderly lady
Later that day, I received a call from the police. The retriever had been reported missing and they asked if they could pass my phone number to the owner. Of course, I said yes.
Soon afterwards, the owner rang me and explained the dog belonged to her very elderly mother, who was virtually bed-ridden and lived quite near the park. The dog was 12 years old and had been her mother's companion since a puppy, usually lying on the bed with her.
But on this occasion, the garden gate had been left open by a visitor and the dog had wandered off, for the first time in her life. The elderly lady was distraught and all the family had been out searching for their dog.
When I explained where I'd taken her, the daughter said they would arrange for a friend to give them a lift to Easterleigh, as they didn't have a car themselves. I told them I would give them a lift there myself right away, as they were crying with relief that their dog was okay.
Joyous reunion made me cry
I picked up the owner's daughter, a very pleasant lady, to take her to Easterleigh sanctuary, where the retriever was sitting in a pen near the door, ready to go. The two of them greeted each other ecstatically, with lots of tears, which made me cry, as I was so happy I had found the dog.
When I dropped them off at their house, the elderly lady was in the front garden, in her pyjamas and dressing gown, awaiting her dog's return and also crying. She hobbled down the path and the retriever leapt out of my car and ran over to her, tail wagging furiously!
The elderly lady came over and gave me a massive hug, saying, "God bless you for keeping her safe!" which is making me cry now thinking about what a moving occasion this was.
Missing terrier's owner could not have cared less
A less happy occasion was when I was driving home one night through the famous Blackpool Illuminations, when visitors pack the seafront to view the illuminated displays and the traffic is bumper-to-bumper.
Turning off the promenade, in the pouring rain, I spotted a small, terrier-type dog pelting along the pavement, soaking wet and looking very anxious. It was another of those occasions when I simply pulled the car over to the kerb, opened the passenger door and the dog came flying in!
He was very relieved and happy I had picked him up and jumped all over me, wagging his tail and licking my face in excitement. He was dripping wet with the rain, as if he had just had a bath.
I was relieved to see he had a collar and address tag. The house was about three blocks away and I imagined his owner would be delighted when I dropped him off.
Arriving at the address, I saw a double gate which was wide open, a car in the drive and could see the television was on in the lounge through the open curtains.
I knocked on the door, the little dog tucked under my arm, expecting an anxious owner to greet me. I was appalled when a woman answered the door, saw me with her dog and didn't even acknowledge me. I began to say how he had been running down the street, wet and in a panic, but she merely took the terrier off me and shouted to some other family member in the house, "The flaming dog's got out again!"
Without a word, she put the dog in the hall for him to run into the house and then she shut the door in my face. I was pretty astounded. I will never understand some people's attitude.
Escaped Yorkshire Terrier almost ran into the sea
But for every bad owner, there is a good one - and my experience when I found a tiny Yorkshire Terrier lost on the seafront more than compensated for my annoyance at those owners who couldn't care less about their missing dogs.
Again, I was driving down the seafront. On this occasion, it was out of season and thankfully not as busy as during the Illuminations, although there was a fair amount of traffic. The promenade was being refurbished by the council and there was a lot of building work ongoing too.
I then saw a tiny Yorkshire Terrier running through the building site where the seafront refurbishment was taking place. I don't know how I always manage to spot the lost dogs, but I do - and I always have to try and save them.
As always, I pulled my car over into a parking bay and gave chase. But the little dog was pretty fast for such short little legs and ran off like a whippet, totally spooked. I was particularly worried because the tide was high and he ran down the slip road that led to the beach. The sea was very choppy and I had visions of the dog falling in and my trying to save him from the water.
Dog enticed with sausage from a fast food takeaway
Luckily, when he saw the sea, the Yorkie thought better of it and ran back up the slip road again, but he just carried on running and shot across the promenade, in front of oncoming traffic. Thankfully, he wasn't hit and he stopped on a hotel carpark on the opposite side of the road.
However, he was extremely nervous and every time I got close to him, he ran off and hid behind another parked car. I could see this going on all day, as I had no chance of grabbing him. Then I had a brainwave, as I spotted a fast food takeaway on the next block, so I went and bought a fried sausage and decided to try and entice the dog out.
Amazingly, my plan worked - I broke the sausage up and threw bits of it nearer the dog, who came out and nervously grabbed them, all the time anxiously looking round as he ate. Eventually, I coaxed him closer to me and after a couple of failed attempts to grab him as he ate, I finally managed to hold on to him.
He struggled a lot and nipped my finger, but I knew he was just terrified, so I held on for dear life and began carrying him back to my car. He was struggling furiously all the way and I struggled to put him in, despite his small stature.
Elderly owner was delighted to see his dog again
Luckily, the dog calmed down once in the car and I was able to check his name and address tag. He lived some distance away, so I set off driving to his home and as I turned the corner, I saw an elderly man in the front garden, preparing to get into his car on the drive.
I pulled up behind him quickly and called, "I have your dog!"
The relief on his face was indescribable and as soon as the Yorkie saw him, he began bouncing around my car in unbridled excitement, barking and wagging his tail. The owner scooped up his dog and put him in the house quickly.
He told me the dog had been shopping with him and had escaped as he opened the car door to unload the bags 20 minutes earlier. The dog had never run off before and the owner had just called the police and was setting off to start searching himself.
He was so very happy and grateful that I had returned his pal home and was almost crying with relief. It was actually worth being bitten just to have reunited them!
I would always say to anyone who sees a dog straying, please try and catch him and if you can't keep him yourself until the owner is traced, ensure you contact the local police and dog wardens and let someone know where he is. You could be saving the dog's life and preventing a lot of heartache for the family.