By Heather Mullinix
I’ve been losing sleep the last week or so because of the problem of wandering dogs.
I don’t mean that I’m kept awake trying to find an answer to why people let their dogs roam freely about residential neighborhoods, or worse, why people abandon their dogs, leaving them to fend for themselves.
It’s one dog that has me up nights. It’s the one that appeared on my street about a week ago and decided to set up shop. It regularly howls at the moon during the wee hours of the morning.
And that howling sets off a chain reaction with every dog within earshot, including my own four-legged friend.
I’m not sure if my new neighbor is a stray, lost or if he belongs to someone and they allow him to roam about Lake Tansi. He seems a little afraid of people and their pets. I’ve tried to get him to come to me and Bogey when we’re walking, hoping to find a collar with a name and number. While I’d appreciate the good night’s sleep that would bring, I’d also like to reunite this animal with his humans.
But he slinks away, not wanting anything to do with me or my dog. I suppose Bogey could be intimidating him, but I can’t really see that. Bogey’s more fluff and less ferocious than most dogs. Plus, he’s just as friendly as can be, wanting to play with every human, dog, cat, squirrel or other mammal encountered on our walks.
I wasn’t able to spot a collar as this strange dog took off through the woods, but I could see he was not starving. Someone is feeding this dog. And I suspect someone is missing this dog.
But this mystery dog isn’t the first non-human accompanied dog I’ve met while exploring the different streets of Lake Tansi. Most I’ve encountered have been very sweet animals. They trot out from their yards, sniff around and walk with you a few yards before returning to their home turf.
Some see a person coming and they bark, warning you not to come into their yard. They aren’t always tied, but some seem to know this side of the yard is theirs and the road isn’t. They just want you to know not to come into their yard.
Others make me shorten Bogey’s leash, bring him close to me, turn around and walk quickly away.
The problem is you never know which type of dog you’re running into if you’ve never met before. And, even a dog that’s been nice in the past could turn on you, especially if you don’t know about possible triggers.
I suspect that’s part of the reason our state has laws on the book that requires dog owners to keep their dogs under control, either through a leash or through voice command. And folks, even if your dog responds to your command, if he or she is running loose without you around, that well-trained dog is not under control.
Another part of the reason is, some folks would prefer their neighbor’s dog not come onto their property, making messes, probably disturbing their pets or scaring their children.
Pets roaming about are a nuisance to others. There’s the barking and there’s also the possibility of these animals carrying disease and spreading it to and fro. They can cause safety hazards, from running out in front of cars to attacking children playing in their own yards. It puts the animal at risk, as well, with injuries that could go untreated, having to scavenge for food, being attacked by undomesticated animals and more.
And if the roaming animal hasn’t been spayed or neutered, there is the risk of more stray dogs roaming our streets.
Pets are members of the family, and pet ownership isn’t a right, it’s a responsibility. You must provide that pet with, at a minimum, food, water and shelter. You are responsible if that dog harms another person or their property. You have to make sure the dog gets proper veterinary care and required vaccinations, like an annual rabies vaccination.
If you aren’t prepared to provide a home for your pet, you shouldn’t have one.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.