Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Readers think Rochester dog shouldn’t be returned to its previous owners in Caro; slamming family for its care of the dog

Family photo

When I came into work yesterday, I had a message from a nice and very concerned sounding woman. In short, she told me she believed her dog had been wrongfully adopted out by the animal shelter in Tuscola County.
I wasn’t sure if it was story material, so I brought it up during our morning news meeting and asked for the opinions of my coworkers and editors. Immediately, debate on the matter sparked.
“Based on the conversation here at this table, it’s definitely a story. Go ahead,” my editor told me.
I began making calls and talked with the owner. You can read the full story, Family believes missing dog to be living in Rochester, which published today.

The basic facts of the story are this:
Family photo
Family with sweet young kids living on 27 acres in Caro adopts dog. Dog is initially allowed to roam free, then begins “snacking” on the neighbor’s chickens. Dog is chained during the day, put in the garage at night. Dog walks freely with owners down driveway to drop kids off to bus stop. One day, dog trots off and doesn’t return to the house before owners must leave for work. Owners leave anyhow. Dog never returns.
Owners look for dog; don’t find it. Someone suggests they call animal shelter; they do, but several days after the fact. Shelter tells owner: “Yes, we have a dog matching the description; we found it 14 miles away from your home.” Owner goes to shelter to get dog, physically sees dog, is sure it is his dog.
But by then, a person from Rochester has arrived to adopt the dog. That person takes the dog home while owner watches. Owner then fights to get dog back. Prosecutor’s office has several veterinarian opinions determining, based on the photos shown here, that the dogs are not one and the same. Owners don’t believe it. Owners veterinarian says it probably is the same dog.

And that’s the story.

Family photo
Readers today have really been slamming this family. Before I post their comments here, I do have some clarifications to make:
  1. The owner told me he didn’t know to call the shelter because he thought the shelter was closed. The animal shelter had been closed due to funding issues several years ago. It has been open for a few years through a partnership with Sanilac County.
  2. The owner told me he thought dog licenses are sent in the mail with your tax bill and that he wasn’t aware he needed to get a new license. Also said the dog came with a license from its previous owner; the tag fell off and the guy decided to bring it inside for safe keeping.
  3. The owner, on several occasions, said he’d learned a lot from the experience — that if he could do it all over again, he’d have the dog microchipped, using an invisible fence and wearing dog tags.
Shelter photo

Shelter photo
He did not, however, say the dog — if he got it back — would become an indoor dog. And that seems to be one of the biggest criticisms readers have.

Without further ado, here’s what folks are saying about this story:
dipchitblonde wrote, “the dog deserves to stay with the NEW mystery family. 1, you let your newly adopted dog run loose and you lost it. 2, you were standing right there at the facility and let a strange man drive away with your dog. if you were so concerned about the well being of the dog you would have practiced better control of the whole situation in the first place. put up a REAL fence instead of zapping a poor animal in the neck. (if the dog wants to get away, its going to break through that invisible fence anyway) prepare yourself BEFORE you get a dog. this was a valuable lesson at the expense of a lost, wandering and probably frightened dog and of your children.”
arizona wrote, “Must be nice to have enough money to spend on lawyers fees over something like this. Move on, get a new dog and learn from your misstakes!”
freedomlover wrote, “You're going to ‘sue’? Who? And for what? Get another dog, dude. And don't leave him outside in the freezing cold all night alone. And don't electrocute him, either. On second thought, don't get another dog. Just move on.”
mhelm1 wrote, “I'm sorry but these people shouldn't own a dog. An animal is part of the family, would you go to work after your little one wandered off? would you wait a week before calling the authorities? nuf said.”
On Facebook, Crystal Richards commented: “I don't think the point should be whether they are even the same dog, it should be what is best for the dog. If the previous owners let the dog roam free, without tags or anything to identify it, kept it chained up outside or in the garage... the rest of the time, and took so long to check and see if a shelter had the dog, past the point that it could have been put down or adopted out, maybe the dog is better off with a new family. If you want to keep your dog so badly, maybe you should take better care of it in the first place. None of this would have happened, had the dog been wearing tags, not allowed to roam free and had they checked sooner to see if the dog had been picked up.”

What do you think? Should the new owners return the dog?
Does the fact that this was an outside dog, and would be again if returned, impact your view?
Based on the photos, do you even think it’s the same dog?


  1. We are deeply saddened by the cynical comments being made here today. It's unsettling how some people can make such quick judgments about others' circumstances without even truly knowing the people involved. Almost every person we have told our story to has shown nothing but compassion for our family. Just tonight, we received a letter from someone we didn't even know urging us to contact them to help out in the effort to get our dog back. Our family has many good things to offer our dog. We are a loving family, we come from a rural area and have 27 acres for our dog, we are financially stable and are able to provide appropriate vet care and food. We have every right to have an animal as part of our family.

    The Smith Family

  2. It's a bummer when you allow your dog to run around beyond your idyllic 27 acres and meander to find him after he goes missing. And then shockingly, dog lover judgemental strangers notice what you've done.

    Yeah. You have every right to have an animal as part of your family. Clearly, we don't all define "family" the same way.

  3. Lynn — I think you hit the nail on the head. It is about how we define family and how our pets fit into that definition.

    In terms of dogs, I was reading (OK — rereading, for like the 30th time) Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson the other day and she touched on this very topic, talking about how a dog's need for social companionship is greater than a human's and how dogs literally need help (i.e., training) to learn how tolerate periods of being alone. I believe she wrote something along the lines of "We used to think dogs were space-intensive. Now we know better — dogs are time intensive, not space intensive."

    For those who haven't read Culture Clash, I highly recommend it. In fact, I gave it as a Christmas present to two couples this year — marking the fourth and fifth times I've given this book as a present. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Your dog would thank you for reading it if he could talk :-)

  4. I am late to the discussion, but I hope "The Smith Family" reads this.

    I, too, live in the country. Acres are fenced so the dogs can't get out. We have dog doors - the dogs live inside with us, BY THEIR CHOICE. They don't spend their time wandering the acres - THEY SPEND IT INSIDE WITH US.

    Doesn't matter how much space you have for that dog. He wants to be part of a pack - a family - and you banished him from it by forcing him to live outdoors. Then you didn't keep him safe from modern hazards by not even having a frickin' fence. Nobody's perfect, but you people are fools.

    How would you have explained it to the kids if they saw their beloved dog smashed flat in the road by a truck because of your negligence?

    Or shot by the neighbors after he killed their chickens or chased their cows? And by the way, responsible people in the country confine their dogs.