what's new
what's new

The Dog Who Never Returned


go to menu bar for site sections

I've got a neighbor who often lets his dog or cat be "free" to roam. He's been warned about the risks in our rural area, and in the past he's had several dogs go missing, one cat found dead, one dog found dead. But his current dogs are still sometimes roaming without human supervision. One is a large Lab type, yearling male, not neutered; and the other is a very cute very small puppy-ish female (no spay scar).

In urban areas, the biggest risks are being impounded by Animal Services or being hit by a car.

In rural areas, those same risks apply plus many more. The dog may be injured by another dog or a wild animal. The dog may starve or may eat something toxic. The dog may be killed by a human, either defending their own dog or their livestock or purely from malice..

The risks are highest for unneutered male dogs, because they will roam the furthest. I call this "Romeo roaming", and it often turns out tragically for the dog. A roaming unspayed female may sooner or later become impregnated, possibly by a much larger dog, and may possibly die trying to whelp over-sized puppies or large-headed ones.

Thus most "free" roaming dogs will meet disaster. Some may do so very soon and others much later.

It's only the lucky dogs who get adopted, either by someone who finds them or adopted out of the Animal Shelter. My song will include some possible good luck for Rover.

(Those of you familiar with the songs "Charlie on the M T A", "Super Skier", and my own "Super Decoy" will recognize that some of the lines in this song are inspired by lines in those songs.)

roaming dog on long lonesome road
"look up and down that long lonesome road"
roaming dog on a farm road, looking a bit lost


The Dog Who Never Returned

by Pam Green , © 2020

to tune of "Charlie on the M T A" (the man who never returned)


Well let me tell you the story of a dog named Rover
Whose owner left him free to roam.
He'd be gone for hours but came home before curfew,
Until the day he never came home.

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'till the Bridge he crosses.
He's the dog who never returned.

the free life seems wonderful

The free life was inviting, the scents so exciting,
The rural life was full of joyful thrills.
He was feeling mighty fine until he met a porcupine
Who shot poor Rover mighty full of quills.

Rover chased the farm trucks, so perhaps he caught one,
Or the truck caught him instead.
Rover ran fast but that truck ran faster.
Will his is owner ever learn that he is dead ?

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'till the Bridge he crosses.
He's the dog who never returned.

Rover starts to feel thirsty

Freedom's not as good as you might think, with no water bowl to drink
Rover's need for water quickly grew profound
He was drinking at the lake, his ferocious thirst to slake,
When a raccoon held him under till he drowned.

Several times a week he went cruising at the creek
Where skunks and raccoons abound.
The local pack of coyotes didn't need to count their vote-es
They elected him the winner to be main course at their dinner
A nutritious dish of Freshly Killed Hound

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'till the Bridge he crosses.
He's the dog who never returned.

Rover gets hungry

Without dog food in a bowl, to nourish body and soul,
and to satisfy his hunger's need.
He chased rabbits with great zeal, in hopes to catch a meal,
But those rabbits had more stamina and speed.
Rover was fast but the rabbits were faster,
Is that the last of Rover's story we shall read ?

His list of failures grew longer, his hunger grew stronger,
He prayed for prey that couldn't flee.
Till at last he found and ate some rodents killed by bait
and he bled to death internally

He'd creep up to a house, more silent than a mouse,
Hoping food in the trash cans he could scavenge
But the canines resident discerned his intent
And their savage challenge made him flee and cringe..

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'till the Bridge he crosses.
He's the dog who never returned.

livestock might be easier to catch

He was hungry as the dickens when he found some backyard chickens
He caught one and began to feast
till the farmer's shotgun shell sounded Rover's passing knell
And his hungering forever ceased.

Every state law gives permission to fire ammunition
at any dog who "bothers" cattle or sheep
So the farmer aimed his gun at a dog who couldn't run
because that dog was fast asleep.

chorus :

well can he ever return, no he'll never return
and his fate remains unlearned
he may sleep forever in some farmer's pasture
he's the dog who never returned

Rover seeks romance

Well Rover wasn't neutered (his owner should be "tutored" !)
So the scent he most sought was estrus bitch.
When her owner saw them "tied" he committed canis-cide
with his pocket knife he cut poor Rover's "hitch"

chorus :

Will he ever return, he can never return,
Though his fate will not be learned.
His ending was bitter, but perhaps he left a litter
He's the dog who never returned.

Rover is caught by Animal Services

He landed in the Pound where no microchip was found.
His owner never came for him.
He wasn't small and cute, just a big black shaggy brute,
So his chances of adoption were grim.

When a dozen weeks had passed he was scheduled to be gassed,
His adoption chances marked as "fail".
But Mutt Rescue liked his face, though he might be hard to place,
They took pity and they paid his bail

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'or he might get lucky.
He's the dog who never returned.

Rover meets some hikers.

After wandering this hound by some hikers he was found
It surely was his lucky day
He slunk after them for hours, undeterred by sleet and showers,
Praying "please, do not chase me away !"

This hearty hiking bunch sat down to lunch
around about quarter to two.
And from an open knapsack Rover stole him a sandwich
Which the hikers almost certainly knew.

They saw Rover's paws were sore, he could hardly walk no more,
And these kind hearts couldn't leave him here to die
By turns they carried him home, from where he'll never more roam
Now named "Sequoia", he's their hiking-buddy guy.

chorus :

Did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may roam forever 'or he might get lucky.
He's the dog who never returned.

His fate remains unknown

Sometimes people might hear him howling grief at night,
Crying "What will become of me ?
How can I survive without human protection ?
I need someone to watch over me."

On a dark and stormy night, with no moon or stars in sight
A dark canid shape was seen amid the fog.
and the dwellers in the dell gave out a frightened yell
"It's a wolf, it's a coyote, no it's just a stray dog".

When I walk my dogs around, Rover's nowhere to be found,
My dogs say there's no vestige of his pee.
Whether dead or found a home or gone somewhere else to roam.
That's the last of roving Rover we shall see.

the moral of my story

Now the moral of this story, which so seldom ends in glory,
Is a lesson everyone must learn :
Never let your canine roam, keep him safely at home,
Or one day he will never return.

                 and let's get Charlie off the MTA !


footnotes about roaming dogs:

The photo is that neighbor dog, a yellow Lab (or mostly), taken about a half mile from his home. So far he has not failed to return home.

The drowned by a raccoon verse is fact-based. The victim was a Bouvier. Owner lived near a lake, his property unfenced, and he saw no reason not to let the dog run free at night. (My informant is a dog-rescue buddy, also a respected trainer.)

Raccons and skunks are risks for Rabies. Skunks can carry it asymptomatically for quite a long while. Any skunk seen in broad daylight should be avoided as being almost certainly in late stage Rabies. Raccoons are subject to epidemics of Rabies. Both species are largely nocturnal. Both are quite plentiful in my area. Raccoons also thrive in the city, easily raiding people's garbage cans.

Small dogs (and cats) in rural areas are vulnerable to being taken by birds of prey, ie hawks, eagles, owls, or possibly by a fox. Also vulnerable to attack by other larger dogs.

Dogs of any size are vulnerable to coyotes (which are everywhere), as well as to cougar and bear (in areas where they are resident). Coyotes do attack dogs and can severely injure or kill them. In some areas where coyotes are numerous, dog guardians carry a pistol or shotgun when walking dogs in evening, night, or early morning.

I have not seen any porcupines in my area, but they are not common in farm land, preferring forest areas. A dog with a face full of quills, without treatment, has poor prospects for survival.

Everywhere dogs are vulnerable to being hit by a car, often with severe injuries or death as consequence. If found injured but alive and taken to a vet, the dog might get treated (if someone is willing to pay or if the vet is especially compassionate) or might be euthanized, possibly after some days of effort to try to find the owner.

Rodent bait is usually an anti-coagulent. If the dog get to a vet soon enough , a big shot of Vitamin K is an effective treatment. Without treatment, a dog or other animal or bird who eats the bait-killed rodent can bleed to death internally. Other baits contain zinc, and there is no antidote.

Laws throughout the USA in every state do give a livestock owner the right to shoot and kill any "trespassing dog" who is chasing or "worrying" their livestock. That does include chickens. Since there is almost never any witness other than the farmer, some farmers will kill any strange dog who comes onto their land, even if the dog is asleep. Those same livestock laws often award the stock owner triple damages for any livestock injured or killed. And if even one member of the flock or herd is an expensive registered purebred, guess which animal the owner will claim was the one killed.

A male dog who is not neutered is likely to travel many miles if the wind brings him the scent of a bitch in heat. The bitch's owner is likely to react quite harshly. The phrase "his owner should be "tutored" is a double entendre : the owner should be taught the benefits of neutering, but also he should be "tutored" as in a classic Gary Larsen cartoon ("tutored" means neutred)..

All Animal Shelters are supposed to scan each intake for a microchip. This can be done without the risk of touching the dog's body, as the scanning wand only needs to pass over the body. Of course a collar with a tag giving the dog's peoples' phone number would also get them notified, unless the dog's behavior makes the shelter staff afraid to reach for his neck.

Dogs who are small and cute and friendly, who are not noticably ill or injured, are the ones who get adopted quickly. Big dogs are at a disadvantage, black dogs are at a diasadvantage, and shaggy dogs who have not been cleaned up and/or whose eyes are hidden by hair are at a disadvantage. Big, black, and shaggy describes most Bouviers. (a minority are big , blond, and shaggy).

Up to date shelters use lethal injection rather than asphysiating gas. Injection is far less terrifying for the dog. But dead is dead is forever.

(added later). Still one more hazard, one not mentioned in my song, is the risk of getting caught in a trap. On a recent walk in the neighboring orchard, I notices about a dozen squirrel traps (all anchored and flagged) of a variety that could catch and severely injure a dog's foot or inquisitive nose. A dog so caught would suffer great pain, and if not found and released would die of thirst. If found and simply released, the lamed dog would be quite handicapped for survival. (note : if you find a dog or a wild thing caught in a trap, the safest bet is to call in Animal Services, because those officers know how to handle this safely and they have had their pre-exposure Rabies vaccination.)

Hikers or other roaming people may find a lost dog and try to help the dog. That might mean taking the dog to the Pound, or taking the dog home and putting up "Found Dog" posters, or it might mean being pursuaded by the dog to adopt him. Likewise, a dog who strays into someone's yard and home might become "the dog who came to dinner", charming the way into an adoption. These are lucky dogs ! (I've personally rescued a few roamers and gotten them back to owners or into a Rescue that found an adopter. )

When a dog leaves his owner's home and wanders away there is usually no way to know what happened to that dog. Maybe a lucky fate or maybe a tragic one. He's "the dog who never returned"

footnotes about the song's derivation :

"Super Decoy" is based on "Super Skier" by the Chad Mitchell Trio, which in turn is based on "M.T.A" ("let me tell you the story of a man named Charlie"), which in turn dates back to a song "The Wreck of Old 97" (about a famous and disasterous train wreck) ,. which takes its tune from "The Ship That Never Returned" (written in 1865 by Henry Clay Work)

to play The Wreck of Old 97 :

to hear Super Skier performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio, click on Super Skier to download into a new window. This file is about 2.2 MB, so this would be slow on a dial-up connection. Notice the last line of the performance is "and let's get Charlie off the M.T.A.!", thus showing the song's ancestry.

and if you wanted to hear M.T.A. performed by the Kingston Trio, click MTA to download this 3 MB file, a long wait on a dial-up connection. This song was written as part of a political campaign for Walter A. O'Brien, a Progressive Party candidate for mayor of Boston, announcing a commitment to repeal the 5 cent fare increase. For a history of this song. O'Brien had a song for each of his 10 platform points ; he lost the election anyway. for further information see http://www.mit.edu/~jdreed/t/charlie.html which includes links to MP3 files for Ship That Never Returned and for Wreck of Old 97 .

There are some serious logical flaws in the song M.T.A. (it was written as a political campaign song, so logic may not have been a high priority).

I find it hard to imagine anyone setting out from home with only one dime in their pocket or purse. Wouldn't you want extra change for the vending machine at work ? A few dollars in case you want to go out for lunch or contribute to an office pool ? But even if Charlie set out with only ten cents , there are still serious logical problems.




return to top of page



Related topics :


site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 7/17/2020 revised 9/03/2020
return to top of page return to Site Index