Thank you. I don't believe you.
August 26, 2013 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Our dog was missing for over a week. We're suspicious of the people that returned her. A reward is at stake. Help us settle the debate as to what happened and whether or not we should pony up the reward.

Our dog got out of our back yard a couple weeks ago while we were at work. The dog is extremely friendly (black lab) and has very obvious tags with names and phone numbers and is micro chipped. She is healthy and happy and never runs too far because she's just so darn happy to see anybody. When we realized she had escaped, we looked and looked and put up signs and posted fliers and went to shelters and called everyone and didn't hear anything for more than a week. By that time, we were sure that she was hurt or dead because she simply would not have gone all that time on the streets by herself without going up to people or trying make a new friend.

8 days after going missing I got a call from someone in the neighborhood - they had our dog and had 'found her wandering the street last night'. The person was calling from 6 blocks away from my house - where she indicated that the dog was found roaming around. I was elated that we had found her and didn't get bogged down in the details. I was given a strange, partial story on the phone: 'The kids were playing outside with the dog after we found her and then it got too late to call. So we're calling now. Come get your dog or I will take her to the shelter.' We rushed right over and retrieved the dog.

Here's the weird part: The dog was returned without her collar. The person who was facilitating the return of the dog handed us her tags (from the original collar, detached and off their keyrings) and said she was 'sorry that the kids took her collar off'. The tags contained the phone number they used to contact me. We thanked them profusely and got out of there without questioning anything. The people returning the dog didn't mention the reward that we had been offering all over town and on all the fliers posted in the neighborhood and on Craigslist.


1) What happened here? The situation with the collar and tags is very strange. Taking tags off a collar takes some work and is only done intentionally, by an adult. We are theorizing that they had intended to keep the dog... first thing you do when you get a new dog is get it a collar! Then maybe the dog became a handful and they changed their minds?

2) Should we offer the reward to these people? We're leaning towards yes. Even if they were somewhat dishonest with the story - had intended to keep her - whatever - we think giving the reward is the right thing to do. If nothing else, it will inspire the people who found her to be honest/neighborly in the future.

Overall, none of the above matters. We have our dog back!
posted by shew to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Usually rewards are "no questions asked" - this policy helps encourage people to return lost things to their rightful owners. I'd give it to them.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:25 PM on August 26, 2013 [63 favorites]

Taking tags off a collar takes some work and is only done intentionally, by an adult.

Takes some work, yes. But have you not hung out with bored and/or industrious children? I have seen children take apart/ravage physical things, and quickly to boot.

It is also very possible that your dog found a yard with some other doggies food to enjoy, cozy places to sleep and adventure. Or was hanging out with some other family for 7 days.

Believe the story, offer the reward, snuggle your dog, buy a new collar.
posted by bilabial at 7:26 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think you're honor-bound to give the reward. But then immediately watch the film Seven Psychopaths, if you haven't already. I think you'll enjoy it.
posted by Shane at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Its possible the kids found the dog, and removed the collar and tags under a "it totally doesn't have any tags mom, honest!" plan that the parents might be too embarrassed to own up to.

Not that I ever did anything like that, no-sirree.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2013 [49 favorites]

Don't give them the reward if they don't ask. It's your freaking dog, and it's not like it was wandering around for six weeks. They had the collar and your contact info, and decided not to call you.

However, if they do ask, I suppose you will need to pay the ransom/blackmail money.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:33 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Upon further thinking about this, it might be a good idea to give the reward in front of the children. A little lesson for them about the good things that come of being honest, and a little guilt trip if anyone had been thinking of trying to keep the dog they knew wasn't theirs....
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:34 PM on August 26, 2013

Another option would just be to give them a thank you gift, like giving them a card and baking them some brownies or something. But in case they had seen the posters and just been too shy/ashamed to ask about the reward, it would be awkward.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:36 PM on August 26, 2013

Taking tags off a collar takes some work and is only done intentionally, by an adult.

As a five year old I took apart my mom's camera, slowly and deliberately, with a screwdriver. I can't imagine getting the dog tags off a friendly dog's collar would have posed some sort of difficulty.

Anyway, your dog is back. If you want to be a decent person, honor your commitment to a reward for the return of your dog even if you suspect the people don't deserve it or don't know about it. Because your dog was gone and now your dog is back and these people are why. I bet it'll weigh on your conscience a lot less than spending future times wondering if you didn't follow through on something you said you'd do for a person who just did you a serious solid.
posted by griphus at 7:37 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm with treehorn+bunny, the "no questions asked" part of a reward is implicitly about getting what you've lost back, even if it's from the people who stole it/kept it from you. I've always assumed that it's often the "villain" who'd be getting the reward (or a friend who's ratting them out). Lots of times upstanding citizen types will turn down a reward anyway; in this case, maybe they'll do that, or maybe they'll use the reward to buy a dog of their own.
posted by looli at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I agree that it sounds fishy, but I doubt the reward money was a factor. Let's say they'd intended to keep the dog (or that their kids did) then saw the posters - at that point the only logical thing to do is to throw away the collar and tags, then call you and say "hey, this looks like the dog from your ad" so that you'd know they know about the reward. There's no reason for them to own up about the removed collar / tags if they'd seen the posters and could've plausibly gotten your contact info any other way. I'd say give them the reward.
posted by storminator7 at 7:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Give them the reward. That's why you offered it, isn't it? I understand you may not quite have known why, and just done it because it's a convention, but this is why it's a convention. Most decent people will try their hardest to return a dog to its owners without the incentive of a reward. For the rest, there are rewards.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: ok, we're going to give them the reward. Appreciate the reinforcement.

We're still very curious about the tag/collar situation. Remember, they didn't take the collar off and toss it. They took the collar off. Removed the tags from the collar. Got rid of the collar. Kept the tags. Returned the dog and then HANDED us the tags. I can't think of any logical reason (nefarious or otherwise) why anyone would do that.

Why would the kids take the collar off, remove the tags from the collar and then give the parent the tags and lose the collar? Kids do weird things?

I guess :)
posted by shew at 7:58 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As far as "what happened here?", I think Pogo_Fuzzybutt is onto something. Imagine the following scenario!

Kids find dog. Kids want to keep dog. Kid #1 says "mom is going to make us give him back!" Kid #2 gets the bright idea to flush the collar & tags down the toilet. Kids tell mom they found a dog with no collar and ask if they can pleeeeeeeeeease keep him. Mom says "if no one comes looking for him then I'll think about it." At some point after that, the toilet stops flushing properly. Mom calls the plumber. Plumber snakes the toilet and finds a collar with tags attached. Mom grounds the kids for life, sanitizes the tags, calls you, and throws out the collar, because ewww. Mortified, mom returns the dog and tags to you, and is not under any circumstances going to tell you the actual truth.

Is this what happened? Who knows. Is this something my best friend and totally I might have tried to pull off as kids? Abso-freakin'-lutely.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [24 favorites]

> Its possible the kids found the dog, and removed the collar and tags under a "it totally doesn't have any tags mom, honest!" plan that the parents might be too embarrassed to own up to.

That was my first thought too -- that the kids just cut the collar right off and the parents were embarrassed to present that sort of suspicious-looking evidence.

My other, less charitable first thought was that they changed their plans when they discovered that she's 'chipped. Either a) from the vet because they intended to keep her or b) from the shelter because they intended to leave her there until they deduced that there might be a reward.

Regardless, give them the reward, because this is exactly what it's for.
posted by desuetude at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Was it a nice collar? A posh expensive one I could almost imagine someone keeping as they can get very expensive. I also could totally see the kids trying the old it followed me home can we keep it thing, and then they take the dog to the vets and it's got a chip so now they have to return it sort of scenario playing out.
posted by wwax at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As an aside, our similar lab was missing for a week or two as a kid, and turned up in the park across the street happy as can be to have found a baseball game to join. I don't think it really follows that they had the dog for the whole time. Maybe the dog followed some friendly runner, some other runner, ended up who knows where and then spent the week getting back (almost) home.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:28 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Those who provided the dog get the reward, no questions asked.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not reasonable to suspect the adults of planning on keeping the dog by removing the collar because you don't involuntarily rehome a dog that lives six blocks away. It's too easy to run into the original owners while walking it (and then have the dog greet them joyfully and be easily recognized), having the dog try to run home, etc. They'd have to be remarkably shortsighted to think it would work.

Kids, OTOH...
posted by fatbird at 8:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

and is it possible that the collar could have been in poor shape at that point and the people removed it, chucked it and saved the tags?
posted by Sassyfras at 9:18 PM on August 26, 2013

collar could have been gross and been pitched. kid could have stolen the collar and left the tags laying around. parents could be into collars and thought the dog's was nice.
posted by nadawi at 9:21 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

also,I agree that a bored kid could and would take anything apart that they're left alone with. I was known to take apart radios.
posted by nadawi at 9:23 PM on August 26, 2013

Reward granted, combo lock on the gate. You can't do anything else. I'm so glad you got your dog back!
posted by Lyn Never at 9:36 PM on August 26, 2013

Maybe the parents took off the tags, intending to call you right away, then put the collar back on the dog, instructing the kids to go give the dog a walk. (They have a spare leash, maybe?) Parents get distracted and don't call until too late. The kids, meanwhile, take off the collar and immediately lose it.
posted by salvia at 10:38 PM on August 26, 2013

glad you got your dog back and are giving them the reward. i don't know what happened to the collar but their story sounds plausible to me. it could be the collar got ruined somehow. years ago i lost a cat and because he had tags i got him back 4 1/2 months later. talk about a miracle. he was about 4 blocks away when he was found. he looked terrible but with some tlc he was just fine.
posted by wildflower at 11:44 PM on August 26, 2013

I agree, give them the reward.

But I do think you're right that they intended to keep your dog, and also that they probably had her for most of the time she was missing, but decided to return her when they saw one of the things you put out, or more likely, when somebody else did and told them about it.

Because otherwise, the defensiveness of 'The kids were playing outside with the dog after we found her and then it got too late to call. So we're calling now. Come get your dog or I will take her to the shelter.', and the threat of taking her to the shelter in order to imply they didn't want her around at all make little sense.

Chances are you could find out what really happened by asking the neighbors, who are not likely to have missed the addition of a large dog to their immediate environment for two whole weeks, but that sort of enquiry could lead to more trouble than the information would be worth, in my opinion.
posted by jamjam at 12:04 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, weird story. I think that what makes the most sense is that they had the dog, probably for longer than they said, and intended to keep the dog, but either a) found that taking care of a dog was not as fun as anticipated (if they were keeping her inside, and were inexperienced with dogs, she probably had indoor peeing and pooping incidents, for example), or b) realized that they were too close to your dog's home, and the likelihood of someone eventually recognizing the dog was pretty high. Or c) both.

A possible scenario is > Kids find dog and beg to keep her > Parents aren't really knowledgeable about dogs, and don't think it's really such a huge big deal to keep a lost dog and/or "can't say no" to kids > They remove collar and throw it away (replacing with their own), but keep the tags, "just in case" > Dog quickly proves to be kind of a pain in the ass to care for > So now what? Put the tags onto the new collar and release her somewhere? Or make up story and return her? > Decency (eventually) prevails.

In this scenario, they would not have seen the reward posters, because otherwise they wouldn't have needed to let you know they had the tags (in order to call you). But I'd give them the reward, because I can't actually know what really happened, and they did return my dog... under whatever circumstances.
posted by taz at 12:05 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

When you give them the reward, ask them what happened to the collar. It seems like a normal question, I don't understand why you wouldn't have asked it at the time. All we can do here is speculate.
posted by mannequito at 12:45 AM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'd suspect they took the dog to a local vet who asked some uncomfortable questions once the discovery was made your dog was chipped to someone in the area with a different name than the people who brought the dog to the vet. They were afraid the vet would call you, so they called you first.
posted by winna at 3:42 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd send them the reward along with a cheery, heartfelt thank you note for returning the dog to you. If they are telling the truth they deserve it, if they were not entirely truthful you may ping their conscience a little as well as maybe encouraging them to be better people in the future.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:38 AM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Can you give them the reward and ask what happened to the collar? Just in a curious, non accusatory way?
posted by whalebreath at 5:03 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

>give the reward in front of the children. A little lesson for them about the good things that come of being honest

Or a great incentive to start dog-napping for rewards!
posted by scruss at 6:06 AM on August 27, 2013

We had an English setter go missing for 6 months when we lived in the country. He showed back up on valentines day - clearly having been fed all that time. I don't know if the people that took him found out he really wasn't hunting dog after all or if he got loose and came home. I think it is very possible he wasn;t with those people all the time or that he was too much to handle. i doubt they would have kept the tags and thrown away the collar if that was the case though. they would have just chunked the whole thing. maybe the dog got hung up and the collar got torn up. who knows. I can see them taking the tags off to get at the information on them. "come get your dog or I will take her to shelter" is not a statement of a dog lover. Maybe getting to close to the dogs happy mouth to read the tags and they tore up the collar getting them off.

I would probably just ask them - "hey, thanks so much for returning fifi - do you still have the collar those tags were on? because i would be seriously curious. i would probably also throw in a couple of statements about how weird it was noone found her earlier since she is chipped just for the heck of it.
posted by domino at 6:23 AM on August 27, 2013

Why wouldn't you believe their story? You have your dog, and kids do things like this.

Give them the reward so that the parents can adopt a dog for their kids.

Also, a reward is totally a "give me the backstory" fee.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:44 AM on August 27, 2013

That was my first thought too -- that the kids just cut the collar right off and the parents were embarrassed to present that sort of suspicious-looking evidence.

I would have done this, as a kid. It would have been a shitty thing to do, but I desperately wanted a dog for most of my childhood. If one came along and was even kind of wet or cold-looking, I imagine I would have tried to rationalize "Look how they treated their dog! I would never do that! I would love it forever!"

Parents don't want to rat on their kids, they did give you your dog back.
posted by corb at 7:16 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kids do weird things?

Yes. I think this is far more plausible than the idea that the adults kept a dog for 8 days because they were waiting to see if there'd be a reward.

I suspect the strange line about the kids playing with the dog "until it was too late to call" really translates to "the kids were hiding your dog in our tool shed/garage/somewhere and we didn't notice until today--but we're going to gloss over the timeline because it doesn't say great things about our parenting."
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:29 AM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]

I could see that the parents may have taken the tags off the collar so that they could read the phone numbers and info, and give you a call. Then they put the collar back on the dog, and the kids take the collar off the dog and it might be still sitting in the house/yard and the parents just don't know/care where exactly.
posted by aimedwander at 7:49 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

One way you could follow up with the family themselves is to use the reward as an opportunity to ask a few more questions. Your post doesn't say if you specified a cash reward. If that is the case, you could drop by with brownies as a thank you and casually ask about what happened to your dog's collar. Alternately, if you think its the kids who removed the collar, you could offer to babysit the kids at your house so the parents can get a night out and the kids can have the chance to play with your dog again.

I would only recommend going this route if you are (a) really concerned about what is happening, (b) believe that you can ask opened ended questions without betraying you are suspicious, (c) are willing to risk offending this family.
posted by emilynoa at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2013

I got an idea: kids found the dog, took the collar off, stuffed it in the trash can, say the dog didn't have a collar when they found it. Parents see signs up around the neighborhood, grill the kids about whether the dog had a collar on when they find it. Kids admit it but it's at the bottom of the trash can, covered in muck. Parents fish the collar out, cut the tags off, wash those off, and toss the grungy collar.
posted by jabes at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

> I could see that the parents may have taken the tags off the collar so that they could read the phone numbers and info, and give you a call.

Oh, that gives me another thought. If the parents strongly dislike or are scared of dogs, they might have been uncomfortable with how close dog's teeth are to the collar while trying to read the small print on the tags. If they cut the collar off in panic or irritation, that would be a pretty embarrassing thing to admit to the nice folks coming to get their beloved dog.

Fear or strong aversion to dogs by the adults would explain their cold/curt attitude and evasiveness, and would also support a scenario where the kids determinedly hid their "new pet" somewhere for a most of week.
posted by desuetude at 10:03 PM on August 27, 2013

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