Prevention the best way to safeguard your pets

PETS AT HOME

July 24, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

This is my day: Feed the dogs, pet the dogs, go to work. Come home, pet the dogs, get the leashes. That's how they see it, anyway.

The routine's so familiar that when something's different I know it even before I can figure out exactly what has changed. That's why when I pulled into my driveway last week, I froze immediately, aware that something was wrong.

Then I saw it: My front gate had blown open.

I don't even remember parking the car, I was so panicked by the implications.

Would the dogs be gone? I ran for the door to find out.

There is a fail-safe at my house, a low fence in the back positioned to keep the dogs in a small, secure area far from the street. I put it there to give them just enough room to get through the dog door for a stretch.

But sometimes I catch myself leaving that back gate open while I move garden gear around. Could it be open, too? It seemed likely, since I couldn't hear the dogs barking in the house as they usually do when they hear me approach.

I burst into the house, rousing them from their late afternoon naps, and was happily enveloped by the familiar crush of fur.

I counted noses. All accounted for.

The back gate had been closed, so the dogs hadn't been able to see their opportunity on the far side of the house. Still, it could have been a disaster, and I've been correcting the problems ever since. I put a chain tether on the front gate, and I'm reminding myself to check the back gate every time I go through it and to double-check the lock on the front.

That sense of panic at the sight of an open gate is one I don't want to repeat. But accidents do happen, and should one come my way, my pets are as prepared as they can be. If they should get away, I'm ready to act.

Are your pets safe? Now's the time to make sure you've done your best to protect your pet. Here's a checklist:

* Check your fences and gates. Are there loose or missing boards, or enticing gaps at the baseline that could be opened up with a little digging? Are latches secure, with locks in place?

If not, fix them all.

* Check your animals. Cats should carry an ID tag with your phone number; dogs should carry both an ID tag and a license.

If your dog ends up in the shelter, a license will buy him extra time. And if someone finds him when the shelter's closed, an ID tag with your phone number will speed up the reunion.

Microchips are a good idea, as are tattoos, but both work best only if local shelters are looking for these permanent forms of ID.

If microchips are available in your area, ask your shelter if it's scanning -- and if the answer is "no," ask why not.

* Plan for the worst. Keep current, clear pictures of your pets on hand -- you'll need them to throw together a flier in an emergency.

If you lose your pet, put fliers everywhere you can, and place a lost ad in the paper right away -- don't waste precious time hoping your pet will wander home.

Check the shelters every other day in person. And don't give up too soon -- lost pets have been located weeks after their disappearance.

If you've never lost a pet, it's sometimes tough to stay vigilant -- but you must.

Make sure ID tags stay current and readable, and keep an eye on those gates. In this game, you make your own luck -- and keep hoping for the best.

*

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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