The French love their pets — no one will debate that. But when loose dogs roam the streets, either because they’re lost or just out for a careless stroll, it seems that passersby don’t really seem to care. So earlier this week when I was out walking Dagny, we came across a soaking wet Bernese Mountain Dog who appeared to be lost. And because I’m the type of person that always helps, I couldn’t just turn my back on him and let him fend for himself and probably get hit by a car. I used Dagny to help get him safely to the neighborhood vet. And yes, this story ends well.
Here’s how Dagny and I helped… and my tips on getting a lost dog to safety.
Helping a lost dog to safety
I recently wrote a post on whether or not it’s our duty to get involved in situations that warrant a closer look (like on the TV show What Would You Do?). In France, the situation that I come across the most often that begs for my help is a loose dog without an owner in sight. Sometimes the dog darts off before I can get a closer look and sometimes the dog comes right up to us wagging his tail.
Dagny and I normally go out late morning for our walk and did so Monday after the rain had stopped. On our route behind some neighboring apartment buildings, we came across a wet Bernese Mountain Dog who was lying down. If you’re not familiar with the breed, they’re gorgeous dogs with an adult male weighing in at 80-90 pounds or more. I figured his owner was just around the bend so didn’t think anything of it, but the dog approached us wagging his tail and I could see in his eyes he wasn’t a threat, although at first I was a little apprehensive due to his size. He sniffed Dagny and was very fixated on getting to know her so he followed us as we walked along.
I asked a woman who lived in the building if she knew the dog but she did not and couldn’t have been bothered. That was the sentiment I got from everyone I asked.
Damn. If we were going to help him, Dagny and I were going to have to do it alone. So we did.
I didn’t have a second leash on me, and knew that if I ran home to get one, he could wander along further and get hit by a car. So knowing time was of the essence, I thought on my feet and figured I’d use Dagny to lure him along (since he was very interested in her) for the five to ten minute walk it would take to get to the vet in the neighborhood where they could scan him for a chip. Because I knew it would be a risk due to all the cars , I decided to get in the road to stop traffic after seeing our gentle giant frantically dart across traffic once after hearing a car beep. Yes, I got in the road and stopped cars while getting our friend to follow Dagny so we could safely walk to the vet. But as we got there, he heard a noise and refused to enter the vet clinic and ran back toward the road.
Long story short, a man walking by helped the vet tech and me corner the dog and we gently got him to run back inside the vet clinic and away from the road. Once inside, we were able to get a leash around his neck and scan him for a chip which we didn’t find.
I gave my info to the vet and asked her to call with any news. All of this took about an hour.
If I had ignored this sweet dog (similar to the one pictured above), I’m sure he would have gotten hit by a car. There are several busy roads near where I found him and it was a miracle that he made it that far unscathed. People just don’t place a high enough value on pets and I’m not sure this is a cultural thing.
Plenty of Americans would ignore a wandering dog in the street too but I’d like to think that we care enough as a society to help those that cannot help themselves.
One day the shoe will be on the other foot and your dog will be missing. Wouldn’t you want someone to care enough and take the time out of their day to help?
While many don’t view humans and dogs on the same level, let me ask you this. If you were driving or walking along and a toddler ran across the road with no guardian in sight, you’d stop to help, right? Suddenly you want to get involved, magically found the time and it becomes your place to help. For me, a loose dog is exactly the same. I stop and help. Every time. Both dogs and kids are living beings that need our help before the situation gets dire.
I feel very strongly about animals — maybe because Dagny is pretty much my everything here — and I don’t understand people who just don’t want to get involved and walk on past a perfectly friendly animal that is clearly lost and NEEDS HELP. To be clear, I’m not advocating putting yourself in danger. If the dog appears aggressive, call for help. But don’t just stand there and do nothing.
Here are some tips if you come across a loose dog and need to get it to safety:
1. Don’t put yourself in danger. Wanting to help isn’t worth getting hurt yourself. If the dog seems aggressive or mean, it’s best to not approach him directly. Call your town’s animal control or vet to get assistance.
2. Go with your intuition. If a dog appears friendly and your gut says to stop and see if you can help, don’t think about it further — just stop! By the time you go back and forth with yourself on whether you should stop, the dog might get hit by a car or run off. Go with your gut. The same goes with a dog that doesn’t appear friendly. If your intuition is sending up red flags, don’t approach!
3. Don’t make any quick movements. Even a nice dog can spook or become aggressive if he feels threatened or cornered. Stay calm and patient to keep everyone safe as you gently put a leash on him and/or guide him to safety.
4. Carry an extra leash. You never know when you’ll need it. Maybe yours will break or you’ll encounter a loose dog. Better safe than sorry.
5. Carry emergency numbers with you such as animal control and the local vet. Again, you never know when you’ll need to make a call.
Luckily this story ends well.
Shortly after we returned home, my phone rang. It was the vet telling me that she scanned the dog again and was able to find a microchip with the owner’s information. She called him and apparently the dog was a bit more excitable than normal due to a neighbor’s dog being in heat, so he destroyed the fence and had escaped that morning. The vet asked me if she could give my information to the owner since that’s normal protocol, so he could properly thank me. I said of course. But it’s now several days later and I haven’t heard a peep from the dog’s owner. But that’s not what’s important. Dagny and I made a difference in that dog’s life whether he knows it or not, and for that, we can’t help but be proud.
Bernese Mountain Dog photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA
All’s well that ends wells! Thanks for taking care of this lost doggy. The vet was also very kind to keep him in her clinic and make another attempt to find his chip. I hope the owner calls you to thank you because he should be thankful you went out of your way to help his pet!
I think people who don’t care about animals probably don’t have experience with pets and don’t have the empathy for them. Unfortunately most people don’t see humans and dogs on the same level as you say — or any other animal for that matter.
Yes, the vet was great. We made a good team trying to get the dog inside and then calmed down enough to get a leash on him. You’re exactly right about people not having empathy for pets if they haven’t had much experience with them. But at the same time, even those who have 0 experience with kids would stop their car if a young kid ran across the street alone. For me it’s instinctual — kid or dog — someone (or something) that needs help means HELP IT. Not that kids and dogs are the same at all, but their need for help in some circumstances is universal. And guess what…. no call from the owner. Oh well
I have rescued a German shorthaired pointer, a miniature pinscher, a mutt and a Siberian husky. All of these dogs were just wandering about the neighborhood. The silly thing is I brought all these dogs into my house while I called animal control. Now I am wiser and will not do this as the Siberian husky growled at me. So no more lost dogs in the house. It’s the garage or the yard to act as a holding area. My dog loved them all but I did get nervous with the rescued husky. Animal control returned all the dogs to their owners too. I would want someone to take good care of my dog if it ever got loose.
Yay, loved reading your comment, Jackie. So happy all your stories had happy endings as well. And totally agree that the yard or garage is the safest holding area if you can manage that. Not worth having your house wrecked.
Christine Snyder says
That was a wonderful thing that you and Dagny did, Diane! The vet clinic was great to take the dog in too. Many would not. I’ve been fortunate in that I’m often attached to a local Humane Society wherever I’ve lived, and have had their help in holding a pet and finding a lost owner or a new home.
Thanks, glad you’re on the same page as me!
I think that the people who don’t take the time to help a pet in need don’t own one themselves, and see pets like a nuisance. The kind of people who have neighbors with noisy dogs, who do nothing about it and who let them roam freely and defecate on others people’s lawn rather than take them out for a walk on a leash.
I know people who’d love to see a law pass that would allow them to shoot on sight any wandering animal on their property. I know people who put metal jaws traps around their hedges. And that’s still pretty soft. Putting highly corrosive substances like pure, straight out of the factory, undiluted industrial bleach in lawn sprinklers ? Why the hell not ? Cats, dogs, anything goes, they all burn the same. Kind of sad actually…Can’t really blame the less extreme BB-gun shooting or stick waving ones, though. When your garden with semi-expensive seeds and flowers has been destroyed for the fourth time of the month by dogs from the other side of the village, you’re bound to not look kindly on pets afterward.
(Sadly enough ?) I’m the kind of people who’d just shrug and carry on if I saw a stray dog. Of course, if a dog was standing in the middle of the road, I wouldn’t step on the gas to score a roadkill, but heh…I got better things to do.
Anyway, yay for pets I guess, but be a responsible owner, dagnabbit.
Hello! I totally understand your point about the need for more responsible pet owners. A dog that nuisance barks or who is allowed to roam around is just poor practice and the blame falls on the owner. The dog shouldn’t be punished for that. BUT many times dogs escape by accident — broken fence, kid left the door open, etc. as was the case w/the dog I found. Regardless of whose fault it is, if a dog needs help, I feel we should help it. Just because someone doesn’t have a pet doesn’t mean they can turn a blind eye. I don’t have kids, find them to be a nuisance, but I know if I saw a 2-year-old crossing the street alone that I’d stop and help the kid. I don’t need to have a kid to do the right thing.
Lins @Boo & Maddie says
What a story and I’m so glad it had a happy ending. I would not hesitate in helping any animal in need (of course, considering personal safety) because for me they are to be cherished. I do appreciate however that I have probably a rather extreme love for all things non-human (my husband calls me Dr Doolittle)
Agreed, I mean if a dog needs help, I’ll help it. If helping puts either me or my dog in danger, I have to think with my head and not my heart but in most cases, lending a hand (er paw!) takes minimal effort and can make all the difference. Thanks for checking out the post!
Kriss MacDonald says
An animal need should always be helped if possible. I’m not sure how someone could just walk away. Lovely to hear that the dog made it back home after your help!
So many people just don’t care. They’re either not animal people or it’s not THEIR animal so they keep on going about their day. Not their problem sort of attitude. And I think that piss poor attitude extends to other areas of life too. It might be a cultural thing here as well but I know many people in the USA too who wouldn’t take time out of their day to help an animal. Oh well, I do the best I can and know that dog appreciated my help even if his owner didn’t. Thanks for stopping by!
that’s great there was a happy ending
Yes, it could have had a very bad ending considering all the cars whizzing by. Or if he didn’t have a chip. Glad luck was on our side that day!
Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault says
It is so annoying to see so many loose dogs around in France and we have helped get several reunited with their owners – would that everyone followed our lead. So glad this had a happy ending but sad the owners did not thank you.
Merci for adding this useful post to #AnimalTales
Yeah all the loose dogs are ridiculous. We have these marginaux types around here who think it’s manly and very alpha to walk their young German Shepherd mixes without a leash except the dogs are poorly trained and sometimes aggressive. They often run in the street or run at me barking. I’ve had several instances where I thought I’d be attacked. Luckily I have not but it floors me to see people who don’t use leashes with dogs that definitely need to be restrained. Ugh
I’m catching up on back-logged “Oui In France” newsletters, and I loved this story. I, too, Live in the Loire Valley and in my 6+ years in France, have found, and have been told by the French, that come holiday time, many French just toss the pets out and abandon them. I always believed the hype that the French adore their pets, but the opposite is true! My little Yorkshire, Lulu (from SPA 41, thrown out of a window of family home during a domestic dispute and rescued by a neighbour) and I rescued a Yorkshire/Fox Terrier mix on Monday evening at 11:30PM, out in the middle of the Route National near our home. Lulu was the enticement for him to come to us. He was filthy, scratching incessantly, smelled horrible, bad teeth, and “Ahem,” “intact.” Off to the vet in the morning, scanned, and a number appeared. He belonged to an elderly woman in our village. Could not walk well, no car. Very fragile. I proposed to her that we could him an excellent quality of life. She agreed, and signed the papers to transfer his chip to our name. He was groomed the same day, had a vet visit, blood test, rabies shot, flea and tic treatment, and a worm pill, “just in case.” His name was “Diego.” As he is 8 years old, we decided to keep his name as it is. He is well-behaved in the house, but knows no commands, such as “sit,” or “wait.” And he is sometimes great, sometimes awful with our cat. We’ve contacted the “educator du chien” who has worked with Lulu and will be seeing him soon! I have to say that in every case where I’ve saved a dog from the street, I’ve later regretted returning them to their owners, as generally there is a reason why the dog is in the street….neglect. Although with the dog you saved, not neglect. Perhaps the family uses him for breeding. If not, hopefully they will have him neutered! I love it that you have a heart for animals.
Hi Anna! You’re a good person. On behalf of the animals you’ve helped, thank you! I get so upset (like literally nauseous for days at a time) when I see a dog and am unable to help it because he got away, or it was too dangerous to stop the car, etc. Everyone else just keeps on driving…
I think there are good and bad people everywhere so I won’t say that the French don’t care about their animals. I’ve met too many kind people here to believe that. That said, I do believe some people view animals as disposable or as accessories (in the US too) and although it’s changing, that “drop ’em off at the rest stop when we got on vacation” thing was kind of part of French culture. It’s sick. It’s wrong. And people who do that should rot in hell. Maybe it seems harsh, but it reveals a lot about one’s character when people can’t even treat their animals well.
The worst are les marginaux I see at the park, drinking their beers at 10am, acting a little rough with their large dogs off-leash. I’ve yelled at them before because I felt bad for the dog. Never ends!
What brought you to France 6 years ago?