Sunday, 17 February 2013


Today I saw a poster for The Yellow Dog Project Australia - very interesting and something I intend to look into,  but it brought to mind my own, sort of related, yellow dog tag /ribbon /bandana /bow story which actually started mid 2011.... scene fades to white....            

I was lying on my back with the physiotherapist's fingers digging into my neck, not an unpleasant experience, sort of like gentle traction, feeling relaxed and listening to her talk about her new kitten and a visit to their vet.  Then, remembering that I had a dog, she passed on another part of her conversation with the vet. 
Every year he visits Primary Schools in the area, talking to Year 1 or Year 2 students about pet care and safety around animals, often taking his own dog as an assistant. It has been very successful for years and the schools encourage it. However, this year he found that the children were uncomfortable with the dog in the room, in fact they moved away from his dog and some children appeared upset. The dog is black and some children can be frightened by the dark colour, so as it's often best to ask children if they are uncomfortable, he did.  It turned out that a few days before this class had a visit from a representative of the local council dog pound, talking about dog registration.  I'm not sure why they did this and have not heard of it before. But, that person told the children to beware of dogs with yellow registration tags as it is a sign of a dangerous dog. The vet's dog had a yellow tag ... because for years and years the local council dog registration tags were all YELLOW.

2011 Rufous with the yellow tag
I was amazed at what I was hearing.  My dog had a yellow tag too. Originally it was a metal disk that got bent and scratched and eventually fell off and was replaced, twice I think.  Then one year, about five years before, the council produced very hard wearing plastic yellow tags and mailed them to all registered dogs.  

As soon as I got home I phoned the vet in question, spoke to his wife, the practice manager, and she confirmed the story. That particular school visit have been the year before.  I asked if they had contacted council to confirm it and she said, no.  Our vet was next and I asked if she was aware of the yellow tag marking a dangerous dog. She had not heard anything about it.

I do confront issues, in that I will go to the origin and ask questions and do what I can to get to the truth - and I find it really difficult to understand why other people don't do that too. 

My next phone call was to the dog pound, except that (just like the cemetery as I discovered some time later on a totally unrelated issue) you cannot talk to them. So, I had a conversation with the council receptionist in which I asked questions and she related my question, or comment, to someone else, somewhere else, and came back to me with the answer.  Long story short, it was all correct. 

Yes, the council had issued yellow plastic dog registration tags for at least 5 years. 
Yes, their representative did visit schools at times,
No, they were not sure why that council rep would have given the information about dangerous dogs. 
Was it true that dangerous dogs had yellow tags?
Well, yes.  Dangerous breeds and other dogs deemed dangerous were to wear special yellow tags, but those tags were not issued by the council, owners had to source their own!  I was dumbfounded. 
So, dangerous dogs were to wear yellow tags and all other dogs registered in the last five years or had replacement tags in the last five years also wore yellow registration tags! 
Because the yellow stands out.
So if a dog was to be registered tomorrow, would it be issued with a yellow tag? 
Why not? 
Because the new registration tags are blue.
My next two questions were not answered. 
Why they had not notified the owners of dogs with yellow tags that the tag colour had been changed?
Are you aware that vets in the area did not know about yellow tags for dangerous dogs? 
Then I asked if she could tell me which dogs were deemed dangerous.
No, they could not share that information. 
So, what if I was unhappy with my dog wearing a yellow tag, could I get a blue one? 
She wasn't sure about this. It would probably cost too much to replace all the tags - they were made of special plastic .... they would just replace tags that had been lost or damaged. 
So, if my dog lost his yellow tag the council would replace it with a blue tag?
Yes, that's right. 
Oh dear, my dog has just lost his tag.  Can I apply for a replacement please? 
Yes, what's your address?      

2012 Rufous with his blue tag
A few days later we received a new blue registration tag in the mail. This was February 2012.  It's not as pretty as the yellow tag and now many people ask me why he has a BLUE TAG !

I thought of calling the council back six months later to see if anyone else had a problem, but I didn't.  It was all just too sad.  I didn't hear anything more about yellow tags or dangerous dogs etc.  We don't get out much and don't mix with dog people so I assumed I was just out of the loop.   I toyed with the idea of writing it all  for the newspaper or even phoning a reporter to see if it was newsworthy, but honestly, the whole yellow tag thing was so discouraging that I gave up.

Until today when I saw this poster on facebook and I googled it.  Firstly I only found websites from the UK or Sweden about issues with the military who want the yellow ribbon as their thing for soldiers, not for dogs, but finally found a facebook page and then a very new Australian website. 

It's not the same idea as our council deal, of course. The yellow dog project is to assist the owners of dogs that have some special need or reason to be left alone. The dog could be recovering from injury or under special training, it could be old and cranky, sick, adjusting to a new home, overly friendly and enthusiastic (like my Staffie), antisocial or have some other reason for just needing a quiet walk, unmolested by other dogs or dog owners.  Yay!               

I take my dog for a walk up to the road. Even though he has acres and acres for running and chasing, he likes to sniff for messages left by other dogs, and leave his own on every blade of grass - it's his little treat for collecting the mail with one of us, and he is on the lead for that walk.  

Unfortunately we are often accosted by neighbour's dogs, allowed to run free around the area, and I am suddenly inside a situation that could be unfriendly.  Or, I might see another person with their dog on a lead and they assume that we have dogs in common and the dogs will automatically be good mates.  Well, not with my dog they won't.  He will run circles around them until he froths at the mouth, he'll cover them with saliva and flip them over on their back, mouthing and making throat noises and dribbling all over them until he is on the verge of collapse from exhaustion. Any people in the way will be scratched, jumped on, wrapped in the lead and slobbered over.  He sees this as a normal friendly approach and we do what we can to control that it does not happen.

One day a new neighbour turned up at our house with her dog, no lead, just her very large, completely male, dog trotting behind her.  While I wish I had a dog who would walk like that instead of like a runaway train, I had to protect her, and her dog, as well as myself and my dog from what would have happened if my 21 kgs of Staffie dynamite had broken through the quickly shut door and barrelled across the yard at what looked like 40kgs of lab/mastiff. I shouted at her to take her dog home.  Not a good way to befriend neighbours. Also, being an organic farm we like to keep visits from other animals to a minimum - tell that to the random cows and horses that show up in the paddock by the dam, or the dozen or so wallabies coming out of the bush in search of water.

We've worked out routines for people who come to our house, even family members. Sometimes Rufous is put out of sight and sometimes he's bribed with dog biscuits by visitors who have been warned to wear jeans and never look him in the eye.  It's impossible to pat Rufous because he is too busy trying to jump to shoulder height, raking legs with his claws on the way up and down while sucking arms up to the elbow. If there is a next time my vote will be for a female Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the hope that she will be more sensible.

So, now I am aware that by having something yellow, a bow or ribbon or bandana, on the dog or on the lead where it can be clearly seen from a distance, I am announcing that my dog needs space for a good reason, so please keep away.  The trouble is, how many other people know this,  (I wonder where that old yellow tag got to?) and can other dogs read tee shirts or tell ribbon colours?

1 comment:

Thank you for your interest in my blog.