Last weekend, a dog from another nearby small town went missing. The owners of this lovely dog were seriously upset, made a Facebook posting about it, and as our community does, a lot of us shared the picture, upping the signal. And of course, mountain folk do know city folk (most of us work in the city) and so it finally got around to a family member of a couple who "rescued" a dog from said nearby town - it was the missing dog.
After much hemming and hawing, the "rescuers" decided to do the right thing and call the phone number and talk to the owners of the dog. The owners had to drive out to the far side of the city to get their dog back, and had to put up with all kinds of excuses from the people who took the dog in the first place.
Here's something to know about small mountain towns- small mountain towns have small mountain town dogs. Those dogs? They get to wander about, tend to be fairly friendly with everyone they meet, and they love car rides, so of course they'll get right on into your car.
THESE ARE NOT LOST DOGS. They are not starving, they are not abandoned, they have home they go to every evening, they have families who love them - we just have a different attitude about how our dogs get to live up here. If you, as a visitor, are worried about a dog you see out wandering about, GO TO A NEARBY BUSINESS OR HOME AND ASK. Yep, we do know our town dogs up here. Someone would quickly have told you that yes, this dog belongs here and has a home.
Now I do get the concern- all the time, dogs around here who like to go on a run get out of their yards, escape the house, take off - one of my dogs included. Most of them will come back within hours. Some, however, do get lost. And as a community, we pay attention to the posts on internet forums, and posted on the banks of mailboxes or in the post office and grocery stores.
And then there are dogs who come out of the city with their families, get away, and get lost, because they have no frame of reference to guide them back to where their family may be. More often than not, when they do get back there, their family has already left.
A few years ago, my son and I picked up a dog that looked lost and confused in the middle of the highway. Several people were trying to corral the dog; we pulled up, opened the car door and the dog got right in. Yes, I brought him home - about 3 miles from where he was found. I got out the camera right away, took pictures and got right on a community forum and posted the pictures and so forth. Within 24 hours, the owner was found, happy reunion.
But most of the small town dogs up here aren't on the highway. The really friendly ones you will find hanging out outside known tourist businesses in hopes of getting many pets and some food treats. Our dogs are attention seekers for sure.
But these dogs are not free to take. If the dog gets in your car, it doesn't mean he doesn't love his owners - it just means he hopes to get a car ride. Tell the dog to get back out of your car.
If you are worried that a dog looks wet, or dirty, or in your opinion, too skinny, then ask the locals. Call the police - they'll send animal control out. Or, what happens sometimes - they'll tell you the dog's name and that it lives there. If it's truly a lost dog, they take it to shelter and post the info themselves so people can find their dog. Otherwise, we have creeks, and tall grasses, and lovely elk poop to roll in. Our dogs love those things.
DO NOT TAKE OUR DOGS HOME. They don't live in the city, they don't know how to handle the city, and they are missed their family.
DON'T ASSUME A WANDERING DOG IS UNWANTED - mountain dogs, plains dogs, country dogs, small town dogs - nearly every small town or rural area has their wandering dogs. Just because the owners allow them freedom doesn't mean they are unwanted.
DON'T ASSUME THE DOG IS NOT ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY - in a lot of rural areas, people don't have fences (or they have cattle fencing) and they potentially own a lot of property. That dog out wandering in the field? He may well be on his own land and he's doing his job - patrolling and keeping predators away. One of my own dogs gets this freedom, and as she lay outside on the deck at twilight last night, she suddenly took off after a fox. She was doing her job, protecting our flock. I would be unbelievably pissed if she was out back and someone assumed she was lost and came onto my property and took her.
That dog laying outside a business? Willing to bet that the business owners are also his owner. There's lots of dogs like this in mountain towns and ski towns.
DON'T TAKE THE DOG HOME AND ASSUME ITS NOW YOURS. It's not. I've seen it done before. Not cool. And now, with microchipping, most dogs are tagged with their owner's names and usually addresses. Your vet can get the code and look it up in mere seconds. THE DOG IS NOT YOURS TO KEEP.
DON'T MAKE EXCUSES when you give the dog back. We don't want to hear it. We are not grateful that you took our dog and made us travel to get our dog back. I'm sorry if your kid is now attached to the dog you STOLE - why sugar coat it? You stole that dog from its home. Just apologize and give the dog back.
You want a dog that badly? The no kill shelters are FULL of them. Two weeks ago, one of the bigger shelters in the Denver area did an "adopt for free" event where getting a new dog cost people NOTHING.
Go to a shelter to get a dog, not come to our towns, our homes and take our pets. We don't care if you don't approve of allowing dogs to run free - this is not the city, this is not your town, these are not your dogs.
DO feel free to come visit our towns, but respect our ways. Pet the dog, but leave him here.