Grief. Fear. Guilt. If you are experiencing the dog guardian’s worst nightmare, you must not panic: there are many steps you can take to locate him, and a calm and thorough approach will become a critical asset. Swift action, coupled with aggressive neighborhood networking, will increase the odds of having your companion return home safely.
The key is to get the information out to as many people and posted in as many places as you can, and to enlist the aid of family and friends in a coordinated
Continued (PAGE 2): YOUR DOG IS ALREADY LOST—now, for a calm and reasoned action plan. Hide and Seek. If you’ve searched your home carefully—under beds, in closets, dark places, small places, behind bulky furniture (shaking a food dish, treat jar or favorite toy will sometimes lure pets out of a hiding place)—and have determined that your dog is not hiding or sleeping somewhere, time is of the essence. Small dogs notoriously squeeze themselves into some surprisingly odd places, so search your property thoroughly. Take a slow ride or walk around the neighborhood, gradually widening your circle, asking neighbors if they’ve noticed him (bringing along your photo to show them).Check under porches and shrubs, and ask neighbors to check in sheds and garages just in case your dog was accidentally locked in. Have a friend or family member wait outside your home in case your dog returns to your doorstep or complex. Resisting panic is critical: stress will decrease your chances of acting rationally and even of spotting your dog if he is close by.
Pebbles: recalling a friendship...
First... Ask what kind of dog is missing?
According to experts, lost dogs typically fall into three categories (regarding how they relate to strangers): • 1) HIGHLY EXTROVERTED
“WIGGLE BOTTOMS” who cheerfully go to the first person they see; • 2) ALOOF DOGS who have never been comfortable with strangers and would avoid them (until starving or weather stressed); and, • 3) SITUATIONALLY INSECURE DOGS (such as an adopted/rescued dog, that may have endured an abusive, injurious or under-socialized puppyhood): those who are afraid of new things. This third group, are dogs who may be outgoing when they are comfortable (in familiar surroundings or with people they know), but freeze and panic in new situations: once fearful, they won’t come voluntarily to anyone (perhaps even dogs they know).
It is important to realize that even dogs who are well-socialized generally
become disoriented and stressed when lost... and may not respond as you would expect.A normally friendly dog, under stress, may retreat from anyone who in fact may be attempting to help him (even familiar dogs). Understanding and integrating this concept into your action plan may help you plan your search activities
on a more intuitive level.
Mack: putting on miles... never pounds
SEARCHING FOR THE LOST DOG.If local Animal Control is still open, telephone them immediately—perhaps even before you go out to search for yourself.Inquire about their policy for identifying lost dogs (some require that you personally visit the shelter to search), and ask if they will take a description of your dog. Specify that you will guarantee to pay necessary veterinary expenses if your dog is found injured (because some agencies have a policy of euthanizing seriously injured animals).Ensure police have your phone number: they won't LOOK for your dog, they'll only pick him up if they see him.
If you have changed contact information, or have switched cell phone providers (with a new phone number): immediately contact the vendor for your dog’s microchip to update.
Mobilize your family and friends. Have someone searching the immediate neighborhood on foot; others to search the roads or streets in a car. Bring your second dog or borrow a neighbor's that your dog knows…that dog can be a “second pair of eyes” and may notice yours or bring him out of hiding.Use his favorite squeak toy. Consider “howling” like a dog, instead of simply calling: never be embarrassed for the means you choose to get his attention.
A high-pitched dog whistle can carry as far as a mile, and get his attention: wait... be quiet... and listen for your dog to “reply.”Do not shout and scream as your dog may think you are angry: instead call his name as if you are calling him for a meal or a game. Stop frequently to ask people if they have seen (your dog) and offer a single key detail(such as his fluorescent yellow collar). If the search is still fruitless by dusk, go home and prepare for the next step in the search. Before you retire, put some food & water outside your house and even your dog's bed or
some of your clothing with familiar smells.
Franken: a courser's gaze...
You should call every shelter and animal control facility within a 50 mile radius and report your loss immediately. If there are no shelters close to your home, contact the police. Not only can a scared or confused dog travel great distances in a short time, he may unwittingly “hitch a ride” through a variety of means, particularly in urban/sub-urban areas.
Be aware that some shelters hold onto a pet for a period of time and then transfer them to another shelter; or, the person who found your dog may wait several days before turning him into a shelter; or, your dog may have been found but turned into a shelter other than the one that services the area where he was initially lost. You need to consider all possibilities, plan carefully, and follow up accordingly.
Kita: uncontainable cheer...
Go in Person, and Manage Your Expectations.
Call distant shelters periodically, but check local facilities at least every other day—in person—and ask to walk through the kennels. You should ask to see the dogs in the infirmary as well as in the general runs since your dog might have been injured or ill, and under treatment.
Realize that merely calling a shelter and expecting highly-pressured staff who are invariably overwhelmed caring for a constantly changing roster of animals to recognize your own... is simply not realistic. Shifts change, new arrivals may be kept in a “holding kennel,” and not every worker may be aware of recent additions. Beset with daily challenges, staff may mistakenly identify less common breeds. Conversely, you may have been told that your dog is a mix of some kind, but it doesn’t look like that mix and a shelter worker may designate him as something else. He may not now fit the description you give, especially if he is dirty, stressed, or injured. Follow up: never depend on a shelter to call you.
Then... Dig Deeper. Broaden your search beyond shelters, however. Do a web search for rescue groups in your area by entering: “lost dog in (your town & state).” The person who found your dog may have feared that he would be euthanized if turned into a shelter, and took him to a rescue group instead.
Leave a trail for your dog to follow. Put out live traps with food and unlaundered clothing that smells like you, then check them regularly; refresh them with “dirty” clothes when necessary.This is especially useful in rural areas and for dogs who become shy once they are lost (see above).
Goyo: the Greek watchman...
Be flexible in your prediction of how your dog will behave once he is lost (whether he is on a personal "adventure" or unintentionally separated) since he may undero a dramatic "about face"… and do not expect your dog to bark when you are nearby.Consider the context under which your dog barks: perhaps he barks at strangers, when cars drive up or when other dogs bark... (an “ALERT!” bark), but not for attention, for food, or when playing.He may not vocalize when you walk past searching even though he hears you; also remember that some dogs if injured or frightened will “go to ground” and remain silent.If searching at night, a strong flashlight will be your ally, since it naturally forces you to “focus,” helps you notice movement, and may reflect your dogs eyes if he does not bark back to you. He may be “pinned” by a tangled leash and closer than you realize, so pause often and listen carefully since he may not be able to come to you.
Dogs generally “know” their own family's car distinct from all others: if possible, leave a vehicle open at the exact spot where the dog disappeared. Put some food and water on the floor inside the car, leaving clothing with your scent on it.Have people stay away from it except for quick checks to see if the dog is curled up sleeping in the back....
Sunny: waiting for "Mom"
Make a Reward Poster.A photo should fill at least a third of the sheet, with large letters: "REWARD!" An offer of a reward attracts more attention (particularly of children) than a simple notice of another lost dog; the reward itself doesn't have to be large to be effective.Below that, print a simple description of the dog itself: describe your dog as “very large,” “long-haired,” “curley” or “white” (etc.) and add descriptions of color only if they are visible from a distance.
These simple terms are better since few people know how to estimate weight, and fewer yet, how to measure height.Note his sex and age.Helpful to get attention: asking to “check your backyards,” mentioning if he has a medical condition which necessitates treatment, as well as a note that “he is cold and hungry”.Mention the neighborhood or district he is missing from—but not your address—which tends to limit the mental conception people form about where to look.Add your home phone number, a number of a friend who is home during the day, and that of your local rescue representative if they will agree.Change the message on your answering machine to assure callers that this is the number to call if they found your dog, and repeat the offer of a reward: check it several times a day for replies. If your plan allows, have your home phone call-forwarded to your cell phone.
Take your poster, and the dog's photo, and head for your nearest copy center, where the equipment will be more advanced.Paper slightly heavier than standard "20 lb copy bond" will be worth the extra money.Start with at least 500 copies: you will need them—but better to ask for a quantity discount, and don’t be surprised
if you end up using 2000 copies.
If you are scheduled to work the next day, plan to call in sick.Ensure that the number you have captioned has a functioning answering machine and that it is monitored all day.Respond immediately to any phone calls regarding sightings: some people may call and say they saw your dog “2 hours ago”: though he may have moved on, check that area anyway, as an indication to where he might now be.
Coco: impromptu launching pad...
Make a Mailing List. Use the “Yellow Pages” to identify and send a copy of your poster to every veterinarian, animal feed and pet supply store, boarding kennel, dog groomer, and to every animal-control and law enforcement agency in your county. If you live in a small county (that may not have animal control facilities)—or conversely, near the border of another county or a freeway—plan on increasing your search to include nearby counties: (go to the reference section of your library for those county directories, or use a web-based search engine). Use hand-written Post-Its to add: “Thank you for posting this notice” with your signature. Fold the poster in thirds, staple or tape the bottom, then stamp and address the outside. Once you have mailed a copy to everyone on your list, it's time to “paper the neighborhood.”
Stuff the mailboxes within at least a 12 block radius. Check the white pages (or municipal websites) for the locations of schools, parks and playgrounds within five to ten miles: children are sensitive to the plight of a lost animal and also often the first to notice a new or stray dog in their neighborhood; they will be attracted by the word “REWARD.” Staple your notices to bulletin boards, on fences or on utility poles where children are likely to notice (be aware if the prohibition against posting on utility poles is enforced in your area, or not). Consider teenagers as key allies and approach them where they are: they will often sympathize (many may be active animal welfare adovcates already), or have the extra incentive from the prospect of a reward; most importantly, they are always outside, where your dog is. Use the public-notice boards in most large supermarkets and shopping centers, and consider flyer-ing cars in the lot
if it is legal in your area.
Atticus: targeting a low-flying gull
Call the neighborhood school and ask if you can tack a poster to the bulletin board (at kids eye level): sharp eyed youngsters are observant and likely to know if you dog is around or if someone local has found him and doesn't know his owner is searching. Paper dog runs and parks, pet supply stores and pet grooming shops, veterinary offices, commercial establishments such as grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats, bars, cafés and restaurants. Cover extra heavily the areas where you think your pet was lost, as well as busy commercial and pedestrian sections of your town. Go back a week later with a new flyer (with a phone number to call)… lots of people may throw the first one away, and a new version is likely to get a second look. Give flyers to postal workers in the area, remembering that your town is divided into different sections, each with a postal worker. Try to reach all of them as they are working and ask them to help: they will have a good chance of spotting lost pets since they are always out driving the areas. Approach delivery persons, contractors, and town-employed laborers or groundskeeping staff (who may note your dog in a park)—offer a copy of your poster.
Newspapers, local radio & television. Local breed-enthusiast or rescue groups.Many local cable and radio stations produce weekend pet-themed programs as a common-sense business decision: they are inexpensive to produce and often very popular. A “lost pet” segment may be part of the mix: telephone your local station, most will list your dog free.Place a “LOST DOG” ad in both your local and nearby metropolitan newspapers and run it for at least a week and a weekend.Remember to check the “found” section of the classifieds (keeping in mind that your dog may be described differently/inaccurately).
Search for local dog enthusiast groups (try your local library for information about regional community groups, explore local "pet themed" free newspapers distributed at pet food stores or veterinary offices for leads, or dial “411”), and call your breed Rescue Representative: they typically build memberships and walking/social clubs of dedicated breed enthusiasts (who often hear of “found” dogs or try to find homes for shelter animals), keeping a list of “lost” ones which they discuss through dedicated E-mail contact lists.
Hannah: begirding a (play) adversary
Hit the ‘Net.The Internet offers an ideal means to quickly and efficiently broaden your search.Send descriptive emails about your dog to your social networking friends, colleagues and family members: ask them to pass on the info to anyone they can, since your dog may end up a considerable distance away.Post messages to dog groups, animal interest forums and message boards run by groups based in your area: many parks and dog runs have evolved and active online communities.Posting to a lost dog database costs nothing; there are also fee services that will call all your neighbors with a description of your dog.Local missing pet networks that can be an ideal resource, since animal welfare advocates join them routinely, receiving Email "911" notifications about lost pets; in a web search engine, type in “lost pet (your town/city)”
Many local cable and radio stations produce weekend pet-themed programs as a common-sense business decision: they are inexpensive to produce and often very popular. One may feature a “lost pet” segment: telephone your local station, most will list your dog free.Place a “LOST DOG” ad in both your local and nearby metropolitan newspapers and run it for at least a week and a weekend.Remember to check the “found” section of the classifieds.
that would immediately identify your dog to strangers—
so should strangers be able to identify the the most prominent characteristic of your search process:
The more people who know who your dog is and what he
looks like, the more chances you will have
of someone spotting him.You will be amazed at how much support you will get from the community:
people will help look for your dog on their own,
whether you are aware of it or not. There will be times when you feel like you are getting somewhere... and times when you'll feel like you are looking for a needle in a haystack: anything you do
is a step in the right direction.
Never give up hope.Lost dogs have been known to return home after months, after traveling thousands of miles, and found in shelters or by rescue organizations many states away.
N.B.: This essay is written for informational purposes. We draw your attention to issues and consumer products that are important to the subject at hand, but do not consider that our interpretation is necessarily complete. We would welcome your comments. We do not specifically endorse any of the products or services discussed here, but interpret that they may be of interest, and have provided links to stimulate creative thinking so that you may conduct your own research (links are in blue & will illuminate when you pass your mouse over them: click to be directed to a site).
Holly: courtly and gracious...
“I imagine I’d like to live outside of time. It seems that is how dogs live. Complete. Egoless.
The moment and the inifinite, undifferentiated.” —Thomas Grimes, The Leash
You can brighten the long, lonely day of a needy dog:consider volunteering at a shelter. Your used but servicable linens, towels, bathmats, or cushions can provide comfort while he waits. Need help affording veterinary care? click HERE • Find low-cost spay neuter services: click HERE
Food & Safety Recalls/FDA Advisories for Dog Foods: click HERE
To think about: American taxpayers spend more than $1 billion annually to fund municipal animal shelters.
In those facilities, 14,000 animals are killed each day, often brutally: even in archaic gas chambers...
many within merely hours of their arrival: why are they called shelters?