A recent dog napping incident ended well, but many people lose their dogs and never get them back. Jojo the dog was reunited with Nicholas and Marie Gaffney and their three-year-old son of San Francisco, when a San Rafael veterinarian was able to identify the stolen canine by scanning for Jojo’s microchip when the dog was brought in for a check-up by its so-called “new owners”.
The five-year-old Australian cattle dog disappeared initially when an unidentified woman untied the animal from where he had been left outside the Safeway on Market and Church streets and walked away. A vet in San Rafael said two people brought the dog in several days later. They explained they had gotten the animal from a homeless person on Market Street.
This story obviously has a happy ending, but many people have their dogs stolen and never get them back. K.T. Boyle, a spokesperson for the Friends of Dogs Action Line, sees cases like Jojo’s every day throughout the country, she said.
“If you have a coveted breed, maybe you should refrain from leaving your dog tethered in front of a restaurant or a store,” Boyle said. “Obviously, people are stealing dogs, and not just for pets. There are people out there who will snap up your dog for re-sale to biomedical research labs, for fighting, or in cases with truly sick individuals--to perform acts of sadism and abuse.”
William “Jess” Crosslin, owner of Pampered Pooch Pet Care in Pacific Heights, thinks people are insane to leave their dogs tethered in front of any establishment, he said. “I left my dog one time in front of Walgreen’s on Fillmore, and when I came out four minutes later, he was gone,” Crosslin said. “So, I looked around the corner and there he was in some guy’s car. I jumped across the hood of the vehicle and told him, ‘this is a group deal and I don’t think you want me to move in with you!’” The mutt napper lamely responded by saying, “I thought the dog was lost.”
Dog trainer John Van Olden, owner of Expert Canine Behavior Training & Consultation in San Francisco, is surprised to see so many dogs in the city tethered on the street. He sees it as more of a safety issue, he said.
“I'm not a fan of tying dogs up and leaving them outside completely unattended,” Van Olden said. “Too many things can happen. Even if the dog is good with people and other dogs, there are so many variables. What if a person is petting the dog and an aggressive dog tries to attack it? The dog is defenseless, and could potentially bite that person. Dogs are more fearful when they’re tied up and can also become protective of their space. Is the dog really okay with kids? What if a child who isn't being watched pulls the dog's ears or tail? This doesn't even address the issue of theft.”
To find out how S.F. dog owners feel about the “the tethering issue”, I went to three popular dog spots in the city (Lafayette Park, Crissy Field and Baker Beach) to poll canine owners about the topic. Of the 20 owners I talked to, only two admitted they leave their dog unattended for more than five minutes while they go into a store to buy groceries, for instance.
“When I leave my dog in front of a place, I feel guilty. It’s like cheating on my wife,” one man with a beautiful black Lab named “Critter” admitted. A woman with a Border Collie will tie up her dog but only if she can monitor it closely while doing so, she explained. “If I can see the dog through the front window of a place, like the Warming Hut, I feel secure. But, I won’t take my dog along if I don’t feel safe doing it, because otherwise I get stressed and have to check on him every two minutes.”
The message here is don’t leave your dog tied to a pole while you shop or eat at places where the animal can be stolen. It’s common sense, and the odds tell you that your dog probably won't get snatched. But are you willing to roll the dice with your best friend? Would you tether one of your family members to a pole so you can get a cup of coffee? (Don’t answer that.)