I was getting ready for work today and heard the yelp of a dog and screeching car tires. I looked out to the street to see a big, black SUV in front of a small white dog, Bella. Without much thought, outside of grabbing my Dog First Aid book, I ran downstairs. Bella's mom had already moved her to the sidewalk. Bella was not responsive but I tried to perform CPR. It was unclear where she was hit so for the most part I tried to breath for her, not wanting to further inflict any pain on her internal injuries. Her mom said, "She was trying to chase another dog." After placing Bella on a wood board, we drove to the closest vet. The doctor was not in yet and the closest emergency vet at least 20 minutes away. I left Bella with her mom and her friends to say their goodbyes.
The car was speeding down the street. Bella was not on a leash. We saw her everyday. A beautiful happy girl who's life could have been spared with the use of a simple piece of nylon.
I wrote the post below last week but didn't publish it. I thought it would come off too harsh. Maybe it can save lives. RIP Bella. You will live on through my warnings to anyone that will listen.
It wasn't a question growing up that we leashed our dog when we went out for a walk. It was a small subdivision in a small suburb in Illinois. There were no sidewalks but a lot of dirty gutters, forests, and "treats" left by the plethora of geese. There were also the occasional car zooming through the curvy streets.
This is why when I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, I thought it was strange that a large number of people thought it unnecessary to leash his/her dog(s). Now immersed in a sprawling metropolis where the local park are surrounded by busy streets on all sides, I was confused when owners would allow their pets to roam free. I asked myself, "Why?"
This question became even more personal when I adopted Berlin (not to mention heartbreaking every time someone comes to the shelter looking for their lost dog). As Berlin and I were getting used to each other, me unaware of her tolerance of other dogs, and her unsure of who I was in her life, we were constantly berated by other people's dogs. "Oh, he's friendly", they would try to reassure me. Great, but what if my dog is not? When my disgust began verbalizing itself ("Your dog needs to be on leash"), I often heard, "Well he listens to me. He's a good dog." Well than why is he following us into the street?
Perhaps I sound too harsh but I just don't see the benefit. If it is a matter of giving your dog freedom, I feel that training is just being ignored. Most likely, the dog off leash does not know how to heal. Maybe the owner does not want to limit the dog's areas of exploration. But what if, across the street, there is the prize that excites all dogs - cats! As your dog runs carelessly across the street, your neighbor is driving down the street. Is it worth it?
The downsides of letting your dog off leash are endless (getting hit by a car, eating bad things, approaching aggressive dogs, etc) and the pros minimal to none. Keep your dog safe. Keep them on leash. Next, how to hold a leash properly and why I dislike retractable leashes (but after the events of today, I'll take them over nothing).