}

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A trick for (living with) dogs

For quite a while now, there’s been a popular subject on the Internet called “lifehacks”. There are all sorts of memes, blog posts, articles, YouTube videos and probably more devoted to what are really nothing more than helpful hints. Some people loathe the term for the implication that it’s about “cheats”, but that’s not actually possible. Instead, it’s really just about finding shortcuts through daily life, better and more efficient ways doing things, and there are plenty of them. Like how to deal with dog registration tags.

New Zealand recently went through the annual dog registration process, and part of that involves putting a tag or strip on the dog’s colour, both as proof of registration, and to make it easier to locate the dog’s family if it gets lost. Since July 1, 2006, all dogs newly registered in New Zealand (except for working farm dogs) have had to be microchipped. Dog Control officers often have a microchip reader, but chips do fail, and ordinary people won’t have one. So, the tag is manual back-up (as well as a visual sign to others that the dog is registered).

Most (maybe all) local governments in New Zealand offer a choice between a plastic tag and a plastic strap. We’ve used both over the years, but I prefer the tag. One of the main reasons for that is that I can reuse it as part of a key chain. For example, I have an old one on my house keys—yellow so I’m more likely to see it if I drop the keys on the ground, especially if it’s in the grass. I also put them on spare keys that we might give to a guest. It’s at least theoretically possible that if I lost my keys they might be able to find me though the dog registration number on the tag—although, so far I’ve never lost my keys (still, I’m only 60½, so there’s still time…).

The problem with this is that the tag and its little metal ring arrive taped together onto the letter acknowledging the registration—but the rings and tags are separate from the each other. So, first the tag has to go onto the metal ring, and then that has to go onto the ring on the dog’s collar. Neither task is easy.

In the past, I always tried to open the rings using my fingernails, often breaking my nails. Then I found a lifehack that said to use an ordinary staple lifter to pinch open a ring like that. It worked—and my fingernails now remain intact. Even so, it’s not easy to open those little rings—it’s just that it’s definitely easier with the staple lifter.

One problem with the plastic tags is that they often have little nubs on them left from the manufacturing process. Because the tags are made from a hard plastic, those little numbs can be quite strong, and can easily scratch. I don’t want to be scratched when I’m giving my dog a scratch, so the first thing I do is cut off those nubs using an ordinary fingernail clipper (funny how often fingernails enter into this process…). After that, I swing out the little nail file to make sure the edge where the nub was is smooth.

Then I put the tag onto the little ring, which sometimes takes a little manoeuvring. When I put them onto the much bigger ring on the dog’s collar, I have to open the little ring the tag is on much wider—in fact, it’s more open than the staple lifter can manage. So, my solution is to insert the file from those fingernail clippers (again with the fingernails!) to keep the ring open to I can gradually slide the staple lifter along as I slide it over the ring on the dog’s collar. Eventually I get the little ring completely onto the dog’s collar.

I don’t always succeed in my first attempt: The ring the tags are on is quite small, which makes the whole process very fiddly. I once tried using a larger metal ring, one from a previous year’s tag, but it turned out it the hole on the new tag was too small (or the ring was too thick, depending on your perspective). Personally, I think that if the metal ring merely had a wider diameter it would be so much easier to work with.

Despite some quibbles with the size of the ring, this process nevertheless allows me to eventually succeed, while keeping my fingernails intact (again!). And it just goes to show that not every blog post has to be about a serious or important topic.

Though keeping nice fingernails obviously is.

The photo above is of this year’s tag before the lifehack was applied.

Footnote: I originally intended this post to be for last week, since I knew I’d be too busy with work to create new posts, but I ran out of time to finish it. I was trying to pre-plan posts, like Roger Green does so well, and I, um, I don’t (except for our trip to Australia in 2017, when I wrote and set-up several blog posts to publish automatically). Best laid plans, and all that. Still, if I’m now free to resume blogging, why not start with a lighter topic? So, that done, I now need to go trim my fingernails.

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