Help me find this dog, or at least make the owner try to do it.
July 3, 2011 2:45 PM   Subscribe

The dog I'm sitting for ran away. Now what?

I'm dog sitting for a cocker spaniel, owned by an older woman who is out of town until the 5th, visiting her niece. She came into the clinic where I work saying her usual sitter had backed out and she needed to find someone fast, so I took the job. We worked out a plan that I would come get the dog and take it to my apartment while she was away. Right before I went to pick the dog up, I called to tell her I was on my way, and she changed the plan, saying that him staying with me wouldn't work since I live in an apartment (although she wouldn't tell me exactly what she was worried about). She thought that it would be fine if I just locked the dog in the basement during the heat of the day, and let him out in the yard at night. I was really uncomfortable with the change of plans, because I just don't think a dog should be alone that much, but I agreed because I didn't want to back out and leave her with three hours to find another arrangement.

Last night I went over, fed the dog, put it outside and left, exactly as she told me to do, and when I went back in the morning, he had gotten out the front gate. I freaked out and talked to a few neighbors. It turns out this dog has gotten out that way a few times before, and his owner is well aware that this is a possibility. The neighbors spent about 1-2 hours this morning trying to corral the dog, but it's very skittish and ended up just running off. They called the police, who came while the dog was still running around within sight, but apparently animal control doesn't work weekends and the cops refused to chase down the dog and pick it up. I don't believe it has a collar on. In the end, I just drove around looking for awhile, then taped a message with my number on her front door, and left.

I've been in contact with the owner, who thinks he does have a collar on and has asked me to check her voicemail and go back and look for the dog further. She also wants me to talk to the neighbors again and spend more time looking around the neighborhood. I feel bad bothering these people any more, when they tried for so long to get the dog this morning. I also don't think driving around looking will be very effective; he could be in backyards or who knows where.

Aside from this, I'm just generally angry that this happened. I shouldn't have to deal with this. If the owner knew that the dog was capable of getting out of the yard, WHY would she devise her brilliant plan around him spending long amounts of time there? I'm insulted; just what was so awful about my apartment that keeping the dog in the unsecured backyard was so preferable? I also have a feeling that she won't be paying me after this, which makes me angry because this has added a lot of time and stress to the whole endeavor.

I feel terrible, but his getting out was not my fault. The owner doesn't plan to come back early from her trip (she drove, so she could if she wanted), and seems to expect me to just take care of the whole situation. I don't want to spend what little free time I have searching exhaustively for a dog due to his owner's negligence and bad planning. I tried to convince her to just let me take the dog with me; the arrangement went against every instinct I had, but in the end, he's her dog. Where does my obligation end here? What should I do to try and get the dog back, considering I don't have any pictures of it and can't put up signs?
posted by hoperaiseshell to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I say give it one more try. Go ask the neighbors if they've seen it - give one more drive around. I say put about an hour into it and call it good enough. Put a bowl of food and some water by the gate and go by every day when you would have normally come over. The dog will likely return. Now you know why she doesn't have a dog-sitter. I think you're right to be angry - and I think you'll probably not get paid either. This is why I don't watch pets for someone I don't know.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:51 PM on July 3, 2011

What a crappy situation for you to deal with. She should pay you extra for all the hassle.

You've done enough, but does she have a laptop or smartphone with her that might have a good pic of the dog that she can email to you?
posted by theperfectcrime at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Given how much you have already done, I'd say you're on the hook to check back when you can to see if the dog has come back, put out food and water so the dog can get to it outside in a pinch, and call it a day.
posted by Andrhia at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

How does the owner say she got her dog back the other times this happened?

I think the dog is sending a clear signal that it doesn't like being locked up all the time. Hopefully the owner will get the message. Since you were just following her instructions, you don't need to feel guilty about it.
posted by Net Prophet at 3:02 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Coupla thought...

-- if you didnt want to deal with it, you shoudnt have agreed to sit said pup.

-- if the dog has a history of getting out the gate, then the owner is a moron for not at least saying that was a possibility. She is at fault.

-- the owner is an ever bigger moron for not having a collar with the dogs name, rank, and serial number on it. She is at fault on that one, and probably in violation of a city ordinance. Mine has hs rabies tag, and a tag with his name and my cell phone# on it. All the neighbors know him, and on the two times he has strolled off, he was brought back by neighbors. Once by a middle aged mom who just was hooking him up to his leash thingie as I hit the drive way, and once by a 4-year old girl (he's a 105lb pure bred German Shepherd) just walked down the sidewalk patting him on the butt saying "Go home Milo! Yuu should go home!", and he walked right up to the front door with his tail between his legs.

-- as far as follow up, while you dont want to bother the neighbors, if you can contact them again just give then your cell#, and ask them to scoop him up and hold him and you will come get him. Frankly, just calling you and saying they just saw hm at the corner of walk and dont walk wont do you any good, unless you are on the next block.

-- all in all, the owner sounds a little shitty about this. Swear you're going to end up on one of those TV court shows. Regardless, good luck. You should feel free to accidentally drop any steaks she has in her fridge on the basement floor when you leave one he is coralled.. Things happen.
posted by timsteil at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is a crappy situation, and it absolutely isn't your fault that the dog ran away. I'm sorry that both you (and this innocent, probably frightened dog) have to deal with this.

It sounds as though most of the neighbors already know to be on the lookout, which is good - in the past, when the dog ran away, did the owner mention how that ended? Did he just come home on his own eventually, which is why she isn't concerned enough to come home early? If you don't have a picture, could you put up a few flyers that just have a written-out description?

Do be prepared for the dog to turn back up on his own - if by chance you're in the U.S., and if your dog is anything like the ones I know, maybe the fireworks tonight or tomorrow will have him looking for someplace safe and familiar to hunker down. Does he have food out and accessible? If someone finds him, is there a phone number on his tag? If someone calls and leaves a message at the house, can you access the voicemail there?
posted by amy lecteur at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2011

In addition to the above, I would also make sure neighbors have your mobile number in case the dog shows up. I would also check in periodically with local animal control to see if they pick up the dog. If it has no collar, it would be good for you to claim him promptly. Good luck.
posted by rglasmann at 3:06 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are in sucky situation. I would contact your local shelter and maybe put something on craigslist about the dog. A description of the dog and who should be contacted. The owner in my opinion is an idiot. I have a dog and would never leave him with access to an exit over night. I don't think he would leave but you never know for sure.

Be good to yourself. There is only so much you can do.
posted by cairnoflore at 3:07 PM on July 3, 2011

Best answer: I think I would put up signs for the next couple of days with my number on them, and have more signs made up with her number on them and hand them to her when she gets home, and say "I had these printed up for you, it is so sad that your dog got out again." You should look around some more, but if the dog doesn't know you or won't come to you/other people, you are sort of limited.

I think you need to worry about the dog right now and not the owner. It is really unfair she did this, but you can't really waste time being mad at her. Once she gets the dog back (I'm sure you or someone else will find it), I wouldn't be surprised if she calls you again to petsit with some sort of other crazy situation and plan.

I work as a petsitter, and I wouldn't be surprised if the first pet sitter only backed out when she heard this plan to leave the dog outside all night. Seriously, if someone has a crazy idea that makes me uncomfortable taking care of their pet, I'd say no.

In the meantime, I would put up the signs, check back when I can and avoid taking any jobs from her in the future. This is not your fault. If you decide to continue taking pet sitting jobs in the future, you might want to look into Pet Sitters International or another pet sitter organization that will offer you liability insurance and marketing tips and tips on how to avoid crazy people that want their dogs left out all night.
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:08 PM on July 3, 2011

i would return her key at the same time with the flyers. She may or may not pay you.
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:23 PM on July 3, 2011

Yikes. Not clear how far the neighborhood is from you, if it's convenient to where you want and need to go. If it's half-way close or convenient, maybe take a gander and ask the neighbors once a day?

(If nothing else, it would bolster your contention to the dog's owner that you went above and beyond what you could reasonably have expected, given the circumstances she related to you. If she insists that you should have devoted massive amounts of time to this, worked tirelessly to find the dog, walk away.)

The neighbors sound pretty great for taking as much time as they did to try to corral the dog so it seems a quick question once a day wouldn't displease them.
posted by ambient2 at 3:27 PM on July 3, 2011

I would call the owner and tell her she needs to come home from her trip IMMEDIATELY, find her dog and take better care of it. I would give my phone number to the neighbors and the animal care and control and put up some posters and then consider my obligation fulfilled. I would not expect to be paid.
posted by zia at 3:34 PM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Leave the gate open and put food out.
posted by Edward L at 3:39 PM on July 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

This should really be the owner's problem, not yours. Call the owner. Explain that you did what you agreed to, and you can't do any more. You will go over there every night when you would have gone anyway, and you will check to see if the dog is there. You will put out food. If she wants anything more than that done, she's going to have to make her own arrangements. I would also leave a message with animal control, so they can come look for the dog if they can and also so they can check out the owner and make sure she's competent to own a pet.
posted by craichead at 3:45 PM on July 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

SOP for a missing pet is to contact animal control, local shelters, and vets with photos & info (microchip numbers, vaccination license) - failing that, a description of the animal (age, breed, name) will probably do as well. Notes on Craigslist and in the paper wouldn't go amiss here.

That is the responsibility of the (idiot) owner, not you -- though, with what you've said I would not expect them to go to the bother of any of it. In your situation I'd do it for the sake of the dog, but I'm a total pushover for animals.

In the meantime, leave food out and make sure there's a way the dog can get back into its yard if it finds its way home. Maybe the neighbors will keep an eye out, too.

This is not your fault. You did precisely what you were asked to do. The owner is a flake. I hope the dog is all right.
posted by cmyk at 4:02 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might also want to explain this story to the clinic where you work, in case the owner decides this is in some way your fault. (It isn't.)

You would have gone over twice a day to feed the dog, right? So go over twice a day to look for the dog. If you do find it, you would not be out of line just bringing it to your place until the owber returns, if you still would like to.
posted by jeather at 4:20 PM on July 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you do find it, def bring it back to your place.
posted by katinka-katinka at 4:43 PM on July 3, 2011

Just want to tell you that I was in a very similar situation with a friend's dog once, and he ended up strolling into the yard just as the owner returned -- despite all the food and other enticements I left out, the dog wasn't comfortable returning until his owner did. But still, happy ending. Hope you get one too.
posted by apparently at 5:36 PM on July 3, 2011

Your feelings about the owner are incidental, as is their poor care. The dog is what matters, so please don't allow your anger to prevent you from doing everything you possibly can to get it home safely. This is a rotten situation, but you have to be the responsible one despite the owner's failure to do so. I wouldn't consider myself "off the hook" in your situation until the dog was found or the owner returned to take over the search.
posted by itstheclamsname at 5:51 PM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Life long dog/animal lover and care taker here. Let it go and try not to take it personally or be offended by what has happened. That dog is a serial escapee. Many dogs are and there is no stopping it. It seems that the owner is aware of that. Typically with that size and breed it won't be "stolen" and will eventually end up back with the owner.

So take a break and try not to be personally offended by this experience. Just reading between the lines it sounds like you work at a vet clinic so you'll often find yourself in situations in which you can do some side work as a rescuer giving shelter etc. So I hope this experience won't totally turn you off. FWIW, I think you were right on with your initial instinct to keep this dog under your watchful eye.

I know it's tough, but I'd just take this as a learning experience and continue on.

(My current rescue animal is a little bunny named Boo Boo the Stunt Bunny, who was mauled by coyotes. She's a keeper...not looking for a home for her!)
posted by snsranch at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

hal_c_on has it. Your obligation is over.

Everybody here is very concerned about the dog. Well, duh. But there are many, many dogs in bad situations, and OP isn't required to seek them out and call animal control and blah blah blah. Everybody who's suggesting OP spend hours of unpaid labor finding poor doggie -- might consider doing just that themselves. Why is OP any more obligated than they are?

This is another sad case of an unworthy dog owner. Not an unworthy dog sitter.
posted by LonnieK at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would post an ad in the craigslist pets section explaining what happened and also explaining that you don't want the responsibility of finding the dog.

My bet is that there are at least a couple animal lovers who will be concerned as I am about this poor innocent dog getting back to safety, and would be willing to take it upon themselves to play a large role in helping to find it. If you are in Montreal then I volunteer to go give the neighbours my phone number and replenish the food inside the open gate and do whatever else needs to be done to help this poor guy find his way home. If you are not in Montreal then I'm sure someone will be willing to do the same if you're willing to put out feelers.

Also the owner sounds callous and irresponsible and there are just all kinds of sad about this post.
posted by whalebreath at 8:09 PM on July 3, 2011

Best answer: Definitely post in the Craigslist pets section, and contact the local shelters and private animal rescue groups. Doing both of those would take about 30 minutes total.

If you have a key to the house, ask the owner to suggest a piece of her clothing that you can leave on the front/back porch. Scent is powerful and might help to keep the dog around if he happens to wander by, or stop off for food.

Leave food in the yard with the gate open.

List a description of the dog, his name, the house address, the woman's name and cellphone on posters and hand out to neighbors, and post another on the gate and front door. If the dog DOES have a collar with address, someone might bring him by the house.

I assume the dog is not microchipped?

Try to separate the situation into two parts: 1) Dog is missing and must be found, and 2) You are rightfully feeling anger at the owner, and you might be annoyed at yourself for agreeing to do something that you did not want to do. Each of these two parts can be dealt with separately.

Tomorrow morning, tell your fellow co-workers at the clinic what happened. They might have other ideas based on the local dog rescue and shelter situation.

Good luck, hope the doggy comes home soon!
posted by barnone at 9:48 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses! Owner was at least right about the dog having tags. He was picked up running around a parking garage about three miles away from his house. The woman who picked him up brought him back this evening (thankfully!).

I will definitely explain the situation to the clinic, just in case. Thanks for that suggestion.

The dog is spending the rest of owner's trip at my apartment. Again, thanks for all the help! Should this ever happen again (please please please no), I'll be coming right back to this thread. You guys are awesome!
posted by hoperaiseshell at 9:59 PM on July 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

Great ending!
posted by LonnieK at 5:16 AM on July 4, 2011

Good on you! Glad it turned out well.
posted by timsteil at 7:10 AM on July 4, 2011

Good for you and the dog. Thank you for doing your part. Even though you weren't obligated. You should feel good about yourself.

Also, since he is an escape artist and tonight is the 4th. Do keep a good eye on him tonight.

(now go and adopt the poor pup to someone who is a better owner! just kidding, but kinda not)
posted by Vaike at 2:00 PM on July 4, 2011

Yay! Super happy ending! Make sure the dog is microchipped too, in case there is a next time!
posted by barnone at 10:47 PM on July 6, 2011

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