Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Licence fee nothing compared to cost of losing your dog

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Dog licenses work. If you don't believe me, host a canine sleepover. It's something my family discovered first-hand when we took in a dog a few weeks ago. Holly, an 18 month old, energetic, large mixed-breed taught our family a lot.

I met Holly when she ran out into traffic while I was on a walk with my dog, Bella. My first instinct, of course, was to find out if someone was looking for her.

Unsuccessful at that, I wrapped one end of Bella's leash around her collar and latched the other onto Holly's pink collar. The walk home was difficult. It was like trying to stabilize a bundle of helium balloons tethered to lift a boulder off the ground.

Holly had tags but she wouldn't sit still long enough for me to check them. She was too excited to have a new playmate. My middle-aged dog liked Holly but was beginning to tire of the games, figuratively and literally.

After endless attempts, I discovered the telephone number of a local animal hospital. So, I left a message.

Unfortunately, I had to head off to perform a job many Winnipeg parents have, that of sport chauffeur. With half a soccer team in tow, I couldn't forgo the game. Instead, my 13 year old twins gleefully kept watch over their new canine bud. While gone, my twins bonded with the new dog.

I returned home too late to make other inquiries. This meant Holly had to sleep over.

Not knowing whether Holly would burn the midnight oil and chew her way through doors, I chose to dog-proof my room and have her sleep there. With my husband out of town, my girls suddenly became clingy. They typically use my husband's vacancy as an excuse to watch TV in my king-sized bed. But this time was different. They used me to hang out with the dogs.

When I went to my room, I found my daughters on each side of the mattress with two large dogs positioned at the bottom. They looked like they were part of an Egyptian monument. I needed a shoehorn to slip under the covers.

My cat was downstairs fretting, likely about whether I had brought home yet another canine mistake.

After a long, uncomfortable night, my neck felt out of joint. And Bella awoke with her nose out of joint -- she'd been shimmied off the bed. Holly had claimed the entire space for herself. Bella was not impressed.

My girls begged me to keep her, but I knew better. This dog was loved: someone wanted her to return home, aside from Bella, that is.

I called Animal Services to report Holly had been found. Within 15 minutes I got a call. Holly's owner sniffed when she said, "I was told that you have my dog." When I confirmed her hope, I could hear the sigh of relief every owner of a lost pet exhales seconds after discovering their animal is safe.

Holly's owner told me that she couldn't sleep all night. I didn't have the heart to share that I hadn't either.

I didn't interview Holly's owner, because I never meant to write about this story. My family and I didn't do anything unique. We understood that neighbours help out when they can.

Faced with another lost dog, and nights' sleep, I'd do it again. However, I would change a few things. I would have ensured that I got in touch with Animal Services or the Winnipeg Humane Society first. The owner recalled having seen the clinic number on their phone's call display, but thought it was about re-booking shots.

Winnipeg Humane Society works alongside WAS. When I phoned, I didn't have to attempt to describe the dog. No picture had to be sent. I merely repeated Holly's tag number.

I was reminded of Holly's sleepover when WAS announced that after August Winnipeg will fine owners without any warning if their dogs aren't licensed. It's a $250 fine. WAS hopes to increase their current rate of licensed dogs from approximately 40 per cent. More important, WAS would help a lost dog with a licence find its way home.

No matter how closely you watch your pet, it still might get away. Holly escaped when a landscaper neglected to latch the gate. Accidents happen.

Excuses abound for those who don't license. Some forget to do it; others see it as a tax. I view the licence like insurance. You pay the fee in the hopes that it will never be useful. But when you need it, the service is priceless.

No doubt Holly's owner would agree. Come to think of it, so would Bella.

For further information on dog licenses, go on to Winnipeg.ca

char.adam@mts.net

twitter.com/charspetpage

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2011 D5

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