Michael Reeves left the house after patting both dogs and saying: “See you in a few hours” – by the time he returned, one of the family’s beloved pets was dead.
Ada had been suffocated by her collar while playing with her younger canine brother, Bruno.
Reeves said between Bruno pulling on the collar, and Ada pulling to get away from the playful manoeuvre, “it got tighter, and tighter, and tighter”.
With their Christchurch City Council tags attached to their collars, the dogs wore the collars full-time, but not any more, he said. Now, Reeves is warning others against wearing collars unless it’s to take their dog out on a lead.
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“You just have to have the right situation, and it becomes a noose.”
He had last seen his 13-month-old miniature schnauzer american poodle cross, Ada, and 6-month old miniature schnauzer, Bruno, at 1pm, when he had popped home from work.
“I gave them both a pat and a rub and said: See you in a few hours.”
When he returned home about 4pm, Ada was “absolutely rigid when I got to her” with Bruno right by her side, he said.
“He was just sitting there looking down at her on the floor, almost like: ‘Come on, wake up, let’s go’, but she wasn’t going to go anywhere,” Reeves said through tears.
Ada was “the most delightful dog”, he said, and had been a great addition to the family home but as she became vocal with no one around, Bruno was later brought into the fold as Ada’s companion.
“They were best mates.”
After the “tragic accident”, Reeves posted about the event on a Facebook dog group warning others of the risk. A couple of comments revealed others had experienced similar incidents, but people were there at the time to save their dogs from suffocation.
While many sent their condolences, a number of dog owners said they would change the type of collar they used or take them off completely around the house.
In a sad twist of fate, Reeves said one of Ada’s litter also died tragically before all the puppies left their mum, after ingesting the balls from a puppy pee mat and choking.
“At the time, I wondered if it was an omen.”
He said Bruno had taken the loss of his mate hard, looking “lost” and sniffing where Ada used to sleep.
“He spends all day looking for her.”
In time, the family would get another dog for Bruno, but neither dog would be wearing a collar, he said.
Nelson’s Richmond Town and Country Vet Todd Field said most dog owners left collars on during the day to ensure their council tags were visible if they escaped.
“Nearly all dog collars stay on 24/7.”
He said he had never heard of a dog suffocating during a “freak accident” like Reeves’ dog experienced.
“It’s a pretty rare thing,” Field said.
If dog owners were wanting to leave the council tags on their pets while avoiding a collar, he said a harness could be an alternative.
Meanwhile, Auckland Good Dog Training owner Amber Silich said she had known clients who had been through similar experiences to Reeves.
“It’s quite a common occurrence.”
She said in multi-dog homes, collars should not be worn at home to avoid suffocation through rough play, but a lone dog could wear a collar for identification if it got out.
The choice to go with or without a collar at home was a balancing act, she said.
“It’s something to weigh up.”