Tinkerbell: A Cautionary Dog's Tale

In the midst of a busy political season and with a Presidential Election looming, it was a bit odd to find a story about a lost dog topping the news. But that’s just what happened in August of 2004. The missing dog was a Chihuahua named Tinkerbell and her owner was Paris Hilton. Even stranger, the dog has become as famous as her owner. Tinkerbell captured the imagination of many who watched Paris and her friend, Nicole Ritchie, try to live THE SIMPLE LIFE on the Fox TV Network. Tinkerbell was featured in a number of episodes.

In an effort to retain a degree of privacy, while still trying to get the word out about her missing pet, Paris released as little information as possible. In fact, she originally tried to retrieve Tinkerbell via posters placed throughout the Hollywood Hills. Listing the owner of the lost dog as Wendy, she offered a modest $1000 reward and didn‘t list the dog‘s name on the poster. When that didn’t work, the story was leaked to the media. At that point the real identity of the dog and her owner became known and the story appeared throughout the world! Those who could still find them, collected the missing pup posters from around Hollywood and sold them on Ebay for thousands of dollars.

Although details are still sketchy and some say Tinkerbell was never lost at all, the dog was reunited with her owner less then a week later. Whether Tinkerbell was lost or merely left with a relative and forgotten as some have reported, the incident brought to light the need for pet owners to act responsibly when it comes to their pet’s safety and security. Like Paris, many just assume that their dogs are safe in the hands of electronic security systems and amateur pet sitters. In reality, anyone can find themselves suddenly faced with the tragedy of a missing or stolen pet. The best way to help prevent such a disaster is to act as responsibly toward a pet as you would toward a child.

Responsible parents teach young children not to bolt out of doors and set boundaries for them using security systems, gates, fences and locks until they learn where they can and cannot go. The same should be true of pets. While security systems, gates, fences and locks are helpful, they are poor substitutes for training a dog not to bolt. Your pet should be taught what territorial limitations are best for its safety. A variety of training methods and tools are available to accomplish this. Visit http://advice.azpuppies.com for free training tips.

Not all dogs respond well to territorial training and they may need to be restricted to one area while their owners are out. The old school thought of letting a dog roam the property outside a house to protect it and avoid a mess inside the home is not practical today. Not only does this place the animal at risk of being stolen, but it also places a pet owner at risk to litigation if the dog escapes and harms someone, attacks another pet or does some sort of property damage.

If you want or need a guard dog, then you should purchase one just for that purpose and pay for professional training. Leaving the family pet as a guard dog to watch over things while you’re out is like having a young child home alone to take care of the house and guard against robbers. Even worse, many people ask their friends, relatives and neighbors to take on the responsibility of watching their pets. People just assume that a dog will respond to others the way they do to them, but the opposite is usually true.

I recall getting an email from a person who had what she considered to be an obedient dog. The animal was about two years old and showed no tendency towards bolting or running away. Given that, this person offered to pay her next door neighbor’s teen daughter to feed and care for her dog twice a day during a planned two week vacation. The dog was a valuable breed and the owner was hesitant to board the beloved pet at a kennel. She was afraid the animal would be harmed, contract an illness or be mistreated.

Just two days into the vacation, the owner received a call. The next door neighbor told her that the dog had ran out the door while her daughter was entering the house to feed, water and walk the animal. Needless to say, the owner was beside herself and became convinced that the neighbor had been careless and allowed the dog to run away. Then she imagined that the neighbor might have stolen the animal and sold it. The end of this story is an all too common one. A beloved pet is gone and friends become enemies over poor choices on both their parts regarding animal care. The better choice for this pet owner would have been to use a professional pet sitter or licensed kennel with a good reputation and excellent references.

Every dog owner can take some simple steps to protect their pet:

PHOTO IDENTIFICATION: Regularly take photos of your animal from all sides for the purpose of identification.

DNA: Have a DNA sample taken in case a pet is found and a dispute occurs over ownership.

LICENSE YOUR PET: Be sure you have adhered to any local laws regarding dog licenses. This can also help identify your pet and get it home quicker it the unthinkable happens.

DOCUMENT YOUR PURCHASE OR ADOPTION: Keep any and all papers related to the purchase or adoption of your pet.

WORK WITH YOUR VET: Be sure your Vet keeps clear and complete records of any vaccinations, treatments and examinations involving your dog. These could be useful if an identity dispute develops or in case your dog is involved in an altercation of some sort.

USE LOCKS: Lock up yard gates and other access points to any outside or indoor areas your pet is kept in. Most dog thieves look for animals that are the most valuable and easiest to abduct. An unlocked gate or dog allowed to wander unescorted in a front yard or on a porch are a Welcome sign to criminals.

HIRE PROFESSIONALS: Use insured kennels or pet sitters with impeccable references when you need someone to watch your pet.

LEAVE QUIETLY: Do not upset your dog by picking up, acting out, hugging or holding them when you go out. Just go! They will quickly learn that coming and going is a normal part of your day and will not get upset when you leave.

ASK YOUR VET ABOUT MICROCHIPS AND TATOOS: They are not for all dogs, but can be helpful in identifying a lost or stolen pet.

RESTRICT THEIR TERRITORY WHEN YOU’RE NOT HOME: Select a safe area to keep your pet in when you go out. This area should be inside your home. It can be a baby’s playpen for tiny dogs or a room for larger ones. Place food, water, their favorite toys and a comfortable doggie bed or blanket to sleep on with in them. Use newspapers, wee wee pads or a litter box for potty needs. Make sure this area is always available to them (even when you’re at home) so they do not feel that being placed there is punishment. If this area is a lockable room, lock it! Anyone who might burglarize your home is unlikely to go through the trouble of breaking into a room with a dog of unknown temperament in it. This will not save your belongings, but it might save a beloved pet from being stolen or lost during a burglary.

Remember, no one will ever care as much about your pet as you will. It’s up to you to take the steps necessary to protect your dog and act responsibly when it comes to their safety and well-being.

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