By Tara Lenehan, RedRover Education Coordinator

It all happened so fast. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was driving home on Highway I-5 with my dog. I had pulled over at a rest stop so we could stretch our legs before we continued with the remaining three hours of our journey. As we were merging back onto the freeway, I noticed a dog in the road, far from any human. I knew she belonged to someone, as I could see a pink harness draped around its back and shoulders.

I immediately pulled over to the shoulder, opened my door and gently called for the dog, hoping she would come towards me. The dog stopped, turned to look at me, and then bolted in the opposite direction from my vehicle – straight into the middle of the highway lane! I then heard a faint yelling from behind me. I turned to see a man running towards the dog yelling, “ZOEY! COME BACK!” I opened my car door and told him to get in so we could catch up with his dog.

Zoey was now in the middle of the freeway as cars zipped past her. Luckily, two good Samaritans saw what was happening and helped me slow down traffic to a stop. I pulled in front of Zoey, hoping that she would come to her owner, but instead, she turned the other way and ran into oncoming traffic, going the opposite direction of where we just came from. Because I couldn’t turn around, I pulled over to the shoulder again and watched Zoey’s owner jump out of my car and run after his dog. Many people had gotten out of their cars to try and catch her.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how Zoey’s story ended because she ran so far away that I lost sight of her.

During the remainder of my drive home, I began thinking about how important it is – particularly around high-travel periods like the holidays – for pet parents to practice safety and precaution. Many people travel with their pets over long distances, so it’s inevitable that families will be stopping in unfamiliar areas. What can we do to keep our pets safe while traveling?

Here are some key tips:

  1.       Always have a collar and an ID tag on your pet. The reason I knew Zoey belonged to someone was because of her bright pink harness, visible even from far away. When people notice a collar or a harness, they are more likely to stop and try to figure out who the dog belongs to, as opposed to seeing a dog without any identification. Additionally, microchipping your pet before traveling is always a good idea in case their collar gets loose.
  2.       Always have your pet secured. Safety harnesses, dog seat belts and travel crates all help your pet to stay put. Traffic accidents are a real concern during the holidays, so it’s best that our furry friends are secured. When stopping to get gas or stretch, make sure your pet’s leash is on before any doors are open. This article outlines some great products for keeping your pet safe in the car.
  3.       Keep a bag of treats on hand. In the unfortunate case your animal does escape your car, sometimes shaking a bag of high-value treats can coax them back to you. Treats are also nice to have to reward your pet during a long drive.
  4.       Have a picture of your pet with you. If your pet becomes lost, make sure you’re able to show others what your pet looks like. Most people have plenty of pictures of their animals on their phone, but it’s always a good idea to have an actual picture on hand in case your phone isn’t working or has a dead battery.
  5.       Keep your pets’ heads, arms and legs inside. Many people like to allow their dogs’ heads outside of the window – not only can they get hurt by flying debris, but they can also potentially escape through an open window.
  6.       Never leave your pet alone in a parked car. Extreme weather – hot and cold – is dangerous for any animal.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year when many people have the opportunity to spend time with their families. RedRover wishes everyone a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!