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Head Count
One of the challenges of a multi-pet household
My relatively small pack back in 2002. Desoto and Shelby are on either side of me; puppy Darby on her chair.

A few days ago, a friend encouraged her six dogs to go outside after dinner then let them back in. She and her husband returned to watching TV in the living room. Fifteen minutes later, they heard a high-pitched bark that seemed to be coming from outside! Sure enough, one of their dogs had not followed the rest of the pack. After some more backyard fun, he had patiently waited at the back door before giving an alert bark.

 
Despite the cold and snow, he was fine, but his owners were upset with themselves for not having noticed his absence. After sharing the story, my friend said, "I forgot to do my head count!"
 
I knew exactly what she meant; we do a head count now, too. A couple summers ago, when we had five dogs and two cats, our Pit Bull mix, Shelby, enjoyed a backyard sleepover because we didn't do a head count. I remember opening the back door in the morning to find her sitting on the back stoop, watching for squirrels. It was a sickening feeling; even though we have a fenced, half-acre property, I imagined many terrible things that could’ve happened while we slept.
 
If you have multiple dogs, do you always do a head count? What else can you do to keep track of a large pack?

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Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

SpotOnK9Sports.com
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Submitted by Frances | February 10 2011 |

I don't exactly have a pack, but with two small dogs and two cats I have occasionally mistaken a cat for a dog as tails vanish through the door. Neither of the dogs has ever been mislaid for long, though - they start the "come and find me" barks after a few minutes, and even I can tell the difference between those and their "intruder alert" bark!

Submitted by Heather Roy | February 10 2011 |

When we had three dogs, I didn't do a head count, but did use my two beagles to track each other if one wandered off following their nose. It didn't happen often, but I had to be watchful.

Submitted by Ann | February 10 2011 |

I have a large pack too (6+) and I am obsessed with knowing where everyone is at all times. I am like a helicopter mom and I am most happy when everyone is sleeping around my desk nose to tail, nose to tail...... while I am working on the computer. My husband thinks I am nuts and can't believe there is very little floor space left in my office that is not carpeted with dog but, I love it. We live on three fenced acres but I am still a worry wart and keep a watchful eye on everyone. When somebody is gone too long outside for a potty break I begin whistling at the door and if a dog doesn't come bounding up the porch steps in a timely manner I set out with a search and rescue team. Somehow I think the dogs that are already in the house know exactly where the slowpoke is and probably wonder what all the commotion is about.

Submitted by Debra Ludwig | February 13 2011 |

I ALWAYS do a head count...sometimes two! I have this horrible fear of leaving one of my 7 dogs out overnight! Sometimes I even get back out of bed to count again because I can't remember seeing a particular dog!

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