By Jenny Anderson
Special to Today’s News-Herald
I witnessed as tragic incident recently while enjoying a day out in our beautiful Arizona desert. A gentleman from another town arrived with his unleashed dog in his jeep—one he had recently adopted from the shelter in his community. He had adopted him just a couple weeks prior to this outing. We were all exploring some buildings in the ghost town of Swansea, and for a time the dog stayed fairly close to him. However, something caused the dog to take off running for the hills, and we didn’t see it again. As we left the area several hours later, we saw the sad man sitting with bowed head. He had been hiking the town site and calling in vain for his lost friend.
Many of us enjoy letting our dogs off leash while in the desert, but there are some cautions we need keep in mind. If it is a wilderness area, or an old mining site (as this one was), the dangers mine shafts or wild animals pose are very real. For this reason, I recommend keeping a dog leashed, even if it is well-behaved. When coupled with the fact this dog was relatively new to his owner, it was especially risky to let him roam off-leash. A dog can become distracted when it finds an interesting scent. My own dog’s instinct kicks-in as soon as she scents rabbit, and no amount of training has changed her impulse to chase. A leash has been invaluable in keeping her from taking off.
We can do several things to prevent this kind of unhappy outcome:
A simple collar and tag may not seem like a big deal, but for many animals it is the ticket home. Many dogs will be returned to their owners without a trip to the shelter when a tag has a phone contact engraved on it. A stray cat, on the other hand, may not be as lucky when picked up by animal control. The Humane Society of the United States once stated, “If every pet cat in the country had a collar and tag, the number of cats euthanized in shelters in the United States would drop dramatically”.
Teach your dog to come immediately on command and “leave it!” when it encounters something you know can be potentially unhealthy. Don’t let them sniff or chew on an animal carcass. There are so many dangers out there. It’s not worth taking a chance with your pet’s health.
Some of these hazards are: desert plants with thorns or stickers which can become embedded in a pet’s fur or skin; wild animals of all kinds posing a threat with the diseases or parasites they can transmit to our domesticated pets; microscopic organisms off the scat, feathers, or other remnants of wild critters; snakebite, skunk “perfume”, or a face full of porcupine quills just by poking a curious nose in the wrong spot; hundreds of vertical mine shafts left from bygone days; off road vehicles, people shooting guns, and other free-roaming dogs. All of these pose a threat. My philosophy is “better to be safe than sorry”.
Valentine’s Day probably brought some great candy or floral gifts to your household. Be sure to keep them out of reach and away from kids and pets. Arizona has been ranked the #10 most “Puppy Loving” U.S. state, according to the Milk-Bone Doggy Love Index. In this survey many noted that their dog helped them be more loving and patient. 71% also noted a dog reminds them to take time and enjoy life more. Since many of our families include dogs, we might consider a fun outing to celebrate that special bond.
The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at