When I was 10 my family’s beloved dog Jingles ran off one summer day. My sisters and I cried our eyes out, certain she was gone forever.
Jingles was part Collie with a touch of Irish Setter and goodness knows what else. She barked like a howling coyote.
Though she never got treats from the gourmet pet aisle at the supermarket, as my 28-month-old Labrador Thurber does often, she loved her daily can of Ken-L Ration and the occasional leftover burger.
She also enjoyed a freedom that few pets ever get to know, which afforded her the freedom to run away.
Why Our Dogs Feel the Need to Run Away
I know now that there are many reasons a dog may feel the need to run away.
Fear and anxiety can cause them to run. Some are scared by thunderstorms or other stressful events, such as fireworks.
But the most common reason involves boredom and a need for exercise and mental stimulation.
A dog who is left alone too long without attention — one with pent up energy — may find an escape into the woods, which is filled with exciting new smells and sounds, too great to pass up.
Pets.Webmd.com offers additional reasons why dogs run away.
In Jingles’ case, my father was adamant that she never be chained. We taught her the boundaries of our yard well enough, but every so often she felt the need to set off for the woods.
Then my father had to drive our station wagon all over the place until she heard his booming voice calling for her, which prompted her to come home.
But when Jingles ran off on that summer day long ago my father couldn’t find her.
How Dog Owners Should Prepare for a Lost Dog
I would be beside myself if my yellow Labrador Thurber were to ever attempt to run off.
Sure, I have trained him well and he is never chained, but I keep a close eye on him in our big yard when we are playing or he is tending to his business.
Still, there are steps all of us should take to prepare for the unlikely event our beloved pets might stray from our homes this National Lost Dog Awareness Day:
ID tags are an obvious first step. Name, phone number and address can help anyone who finds your pup promptly return him to you.
I had Thurber microchipped during a routine visit to his veterinarian. This involves implanting a small chip under your dog’s skin that contains contact information. Most veterinarians have the ability to read these chips.
Dog GPS collars are gaining popularity and a fence or wireless dog fence, though pricey, will give you added peace of mind.
However, if your dog were to run off, contact your animal shelter immediately. Provide recent photos and details about any medications your pet may be taking.
Do likewise on social media. Neighborhood sites, such as NextDoor.com, are very helpful in getting folks near your home to keep a look out for your pet.
Last, drive around your neighborhood calling for your pet, using a sound familiar to him or her or a standard dog whistle, which I use with Thurber if he’s too focused on something that smells good in the woods bordering our yard.
We Were Lucky with Jingles
By the third day of Jingles’ absence in 1974, a tremendous funk settled over our home.
As I lay in bed sobbing that night, I heard the faucet dripping in the kitchen, a couple squabbling a few blocks away and Johnny Carson’s monologue on someone’s television over the next hill.
Then I heard a far-off dog howling like a coyote!
I jumped out of bed and raced out the front door. I met Jingles in front of the Kerns’ house. I was crying as I held her in my arms, the two of us rolling around under the street lamp.
Soon the rest of my family was awake and outside hugging her, overcome with incredible relief.
I never want to have such an experience with Thurber, and hope the plans and preparations I’ve made will prevent that from ever happening!
Visit www.ThurbersTail.com for regular column updates, funny dog videos and Tom’s new book, “Tips from a New Dog Dad.” The Thurber’s Tail blog is managed by nationally syndicated humor columnist Tom Purcell and his beloved Labrador puppy, Thurber!