Dog Gone: But Not for Long

Spoiler for the Hurried: Pet Tracker uses GPS to keep up with wayward pets.

One of us is a permissive pet owner who is willing to spend countless hours a year either hollering or searching for the dog or waiting frantically at home for him to come home on his own.

Tsuga of Goose Creek
Image by fred1st via Flickr

He deserves, yea it is claimed, requires this unleashed freedom to wander; otherwise, according to said permissive member, we are bad pet-parents and hold our poor beast in house arrest or keep him bound to a restraint seen as inhumane.

I say letting the dog get shot by a hunter or following a scent over into the next valley and near busy roads is inhumane.  And hours of anxious searching is a waste of time better spent doing other things.

So we have this constant tension, what with hunting season, baby deer, the pervasive scent of various dead things and feral dogs, cats, bear, bobcat, coons, possums, squirrels, groundhogs…

Yesterday, on her watch, Tsuga the yellow lab disappeared on a walk up and around the valley. He usually comes home in a short while. If he doesn’t, she takes the car up the road and finds him roaming somewhere in view. He hops in the back of the Subaru for his joy ride home and (always) a special treat (that rewards him for running off–but that’s another disputed difference in over-indulgence.)

Yesterday, he didn’t come home. And she heard a dog bark as she returned home without him. Either it was a strange dog, or it was our dog making a sound more like he would if he was hurt. Then, nothing. An hour passed. We hollered. We rang the bell. We shot the rifle. We drove up and down the road. Nothing.  What if an idiot bow hunter needed a moving target? What if the dog tangled with a bear?

Long story short–he finally showed up. But it got me thinking that there has to be a way to avoid the sense of helplessness (given the determination by one of us to continue to allow this freedom to roam) and KNOW where the dog was, even when he was out of sight.

Turns out, there is a pretty sophisticated system for keeping up with your pet. There is hardware, and a yearly subscription to a tracking service. TAGG Pet Tracker may be something to consider. You might have similar needs. Give it a look. This is a very polished product (from QualComm) that seems poised to make good use of GPS, smartphones, and the general angst we have when it comes to our surrogate children. You can set up a “home perimeter” area on the map, and get alerts only when Fido strays outside that GPS fence. Otherwise, and especially if he’s still moving, he’s okay.

This thing is not cheap. But what is our time worth? How much would we pay to not have to put LOST DOG posters up on telephone poles by the dumpsters or visit the Animal Shelter for two weeks hoping Tsuga (or the next dog) will show up? If we used it once, I’d consider it paid for. Still, a cowbell on his collar might be a cheaper near-term plan, and I’ll suggest it. Good luck with that.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, Glad all ended well. We did a test with the new dog, Buddy, seems once the leash comes off he becomes deaf and blind. After 20 minutes of intense anxiety on my part he came home. I am unwilling to do another test anytime soon and Bill thinks I am mean for not letting him run free. I’m with you on this one.

  2. There is another option called training. It’s unpopular because it takes time and effort. Reading a book about it helps if you don’t know where to start.

    Buying obedience training seems like a good idea but both the dog and the owner need training. I’m fairly sure the dog owner is harder to train than the dog.

  3. I opt for the high tech solution. Training, not so much. A trained dog doesn’t exercise his freedom if he is trained to have limits. Your wife doesn’t want limits for him, so, training isn’t the answer.