As pet owners we try to take every precaution to keep our beloved animals happy, healthy, and safe, so when something happens it’s hard not to feel like we have let them down. I am currently in that position with the youngest of my three dogs, a seventeen month old yellow lab that we adopted seven months ago, Gunner. Two weeks ago Gunner and our six year old black lab, Bree, were out playing in the water at our lake house. It took only a second but before anyone knew it, Gunner had surrendered his game of tug with Bree and took off to the other side of the house after a cat. As my husband rounded the side of the house, he came across the situation that every pet owner fears…Gunner had been hit by a car. Fortunately for everyone involved, the speed limit is only 30 mph and the kids had seen the cat and slammed on their brakes, but in the process they did hit Gunner. He was immediately taken to our vet in town, who treated him for shock and was able to send him home after 36 hours with only a limp.
Many are chasing something – a ball, a child, a squirrel or, like Gunner, a cat. Despite the staggering number I still have so many questions. How could we let this happen? Are we irresponsible owners? Did we not care enough? These are the questions that I have asked myself, but then I remember that there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for my dogs, and their lake time is one of those things. We live in Chicago and they are never off leash; even at the lake when it is not “play time”, they are either on leash or within the safe confines of the fence. Lake time for two labs is like Disney World for a seven year old, life doesn’t get any better! They wait all day just for that couple of hours to be off leash and splashing in the water after their favorite toys. We thought that we took every precaution to keep them safe – we never leave them alone, we keep treats nearby, and, until we felt Gunner was ready, he dragged a leash around so we could quickly grab him if necessary. This incident has made me realize that we cannot predict or control a dog’s behavior 100% of the time; instinct can overpower even the love of a Jolly Ball! Every pet owner rolls the dice when their dog is off leash in an non-secure area, and only that person can make the decision if they are willing to take the chance.
We found out that Gunner has a fracture in his shoulder blade, which will take 6 – 8 weeks of very limited mobility (in his crate) to heal. Even though it will be a rough road, I will take those 6 – 8 weeks over the alternative. We know we are very lucky and the outcome could have been much worse. I can’t say that next summer Gunner will not be given the opportunity to play in the water with Bree, but I do know that we will be much more cautious, and training will be a top priority once he is recovered. A lab playing in a lake is the perfect example of pure happiness and I can’t take that away from Gunner.
How do you feel about dogs being off leash?