As I read about one more lost Sheltie last night, I could not help but be sad.
One more dog was running scared in a neighborhood she did not know.
One more owner was suffering the anguishing fears that every lost dog owner feels when their dog goes missing.
Fortunately, she was caught in one of our traps overnight, but it is not always this easy to catch a lost dog, especially a shy one.
When a dog is lost an owner must do everything they can to bring their dog back:
- Pass out flyers far and wide so that every person in that area can keep an eye out for her and call you when he/she get a sighting.
- Post signs on every possible high-traffic street area so people can be alerted to a lost dog while driving around the area.
- Post on Craigslist so anyone who should;d happen to find your dog can reunite you both as quickly as possible.
- Call all vet clinics, shelters and animal-related businesses to give them a heads up that there is a lost dog in the area.
- Rally the troops – family, friends, rescue groups – and spread the word.
- Set out clothing and familiar bedding that contains smells the dog is familiar with. Many dogs will return and lie down on them because it comforts them to have something that smells so familiar to them that nearby.
The last item is an important one because it has been successful in bringing back many a lost dog. I still remember the evening I received an urgent phone call from a friend who runs a rescue out east. She asked me if I would be willing to speak to one of her adopters, whose dog had gone missing in a heavily wooded area near her house. I said I would.
The owner told me that she suspected her dog was in the area, and may have even been watching her and her family from the woods, but she thought she might have been too scared to come out. I suggested several things to her (same as those listed above), but it was the dog bed she left outside on the front step that led to her safe return. The morning after she put her dog’s bed out on the front step, she found her lost dog sleeping on it. It was a happy reunion.
More recently, in September of thus year, a friend I had met on Instagram reported that her dog had gotten lost when she let her off leash for just a few minutes. She searched everywhere with no luck. She was quite worried and upset. I could totally relate. I left her a message telling her to take an article of clothing or a blanket or her dog’s bed out to the park and to leave it there and check it in the morning. Even though she thought it was a crazy idea and thought it would never work, she took her blanket out there anyways. She left it near she had last seen him. A couple of hours later, she went back out to the park, back to where she had left the blanket, and guess who was there? Her sweet, and very scared, lost dog. Boy was he happy to see his mom!
A familiar scent can be such a powerful piece in your search for your lost dog. Even in the middle of winter a scent article can be used to draw a lost dog home or into a trap.
A few years ago, we had a lost Sheltie who had been missing for several cold winter days. She was found after her owners left a scent article in the area she had last been sighted. It was a jacket her dad wore. The next morning, she was found, sleeping on the jacket.
Just leaving a scent article is a good idea when you’ve lost a dog, but I’ve learned a few things about how to handle scent articles during a couple of nose work classes Daisy, Jasper and I took this summer. Keeping the scent article free of other smells when you need to transport it to another location is important. When we went to class, we were asked to bring all our scent articles (socks, shirt, etc.) in a sealed plastic baggie so as to avoid contamination by other smells.
It turns out that this is not all that new in the search and rescue world. They try to keep scent articles free of other people’s scents too. This prevents the dog from being confused by other smells of other individuals, including those scents of dog handler herself!
You can read more about scent articles and the importance of not contaminating them here, but the most important piece I hope you take from this is this …
If you lose your dog or cat, don’t forget to place their bedding, your bedding, your pajamas, the dog’s blanket, or your blanket, outside. It could be the thing that brings them home.
When I first considered offering to foster for Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, I wrote a blog post about it. In the post, I included a picture of one of their available dogs cuddled up and sleeping with a stuffed toy.
The dog in the picture was Lady, now known as Cupcake. My Cupcake.
I couldn’t possibly have known then that the dog I would end up fostering would be the very same one in the picture. Nor could I have known that the dog I ended up fostering would get lost, then found, and then adopted – by me. I also couldn’t have known that meeting Cupcake would lead me to become an advocate for lost dogs or for Shelties in need or that so many other people would become advocates for other lost dogs because of her.
We often hear people talk about those special people in our lives who make a difference in how we see ourselves or who cause us to change directions in our life. But, how often do we think about the dog that has changed our lives in ways we never expected?
I can think of many examples of people in my life whose life was changed after meeting their dogs – like my friend Edie, who adopted her first dog, Frankie, and ended up writing a book and starting a blog to write about her experiences with him. Or the the lost dog I read about recently who had been adopted so he could be a companion to a woman with cancer and ended up being a comfort and lifeline for the husband when she died. Or my friend Debbie, who adopted a fearful dog named Sunny and ended up writing a book and a blog to help other owners of fearful dogs.
Dogs enter our lives in mysterious ways and sometimes they impact it in ways we never expect. Cupcake certainly did that for me. Has a dog changed your life in some way? If so, how?
October 15th is Blog the Change for Animals Day. It’s a day when bloggers unite to bring attention back to an animal cause they care deeply about. It’s also a day in which you, our friends and readers, can also do something small to make the difference in the life of an animal.
Today I am continuing the theme from the last Blog the Change, by asking for your help to spread the word about:
1. A little lost Sheltie in Minnesota, and
2. Another missing dog from your own area.
Two years ago next month, I lost my own Sheltie, Cupcake, when she slipped her collar after being frightened. For 11 days I lived in fear that she might be hit by a car, harmed by coyotes, or simply disappear forever, never to be found again. Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who cared enough to share Cupcake’s story and made sure that word got out about her. People I didn’t even know spread the word and because of them (because of many of you), Cupcake was brought home safely. It was a miracle I will never forget. It’s a miracle I wish for every owner of a lost dog.
Now there is another lost Sheltie that needs our help. His name is Tucker and he has been missing since August 23 of this year. He went missing while away from home and in the care of someone else.
He is very much missed by his family, who has done everything to find him, including handing out flyers, making signs, spreading the word online, traveling to the town he went missing in every weekend, and speaking with animal communicators to try to find him. What makes finding Tucker so much more important is that he also serves as a support dog and friend for the young man in his home. He misses him deeply.
We know Tucker is out there. We just need to find him.
Tucker has been sighted most recently sighted in Jordan, MN on October 10th.
How can you help?
- Go to the Lost Shelties MN page and share Tucker’s picture and information on Facebook. Ask your friends to spread the word.
- Share this post or Tucker’s flyer (above) on Twitter or tweet “Lost
#Sheltie in #Jordan #Minnesota. Support Dog. Brown and white. Do NOT chase. Contact https://www.facebook.com/LostSheltiesMN if seen.”
- Keep him in your thoughts and prayers and send him mental messages asking him to seek help from a person. Ask him to let himself be sighted so we can help find him.
Help another dog in need closer to home
So many dogs and cats go missing each year. Many in your own state or in ones near you. Below I have posted several of the well-known Facebook groups responsible for reuniting lost dogs with their owners. Help make a difference for someone else in need:
- Take a moment to click on any one of the lost dog links below and share another lost dog on Facebook and Twitter.
- “Like” the page and help spread the word on other lost dogs in your own area.
- Offer an encouraging word to someone who’s dog is lost. You’d be surprised at how much it can help buoy their spirits. I know first hand how much these kind words helped me to not give up hope.
It might seem like a small thing to ask, but every share you do of a lost dog actually does make a difference:
- Because someone shared Cupcake’s story, I met people who helped me bring her home.
- Because I snapped a photo of a lost dog and shared it online, another lost foster dog made it back home. (I still have their thank you note to remind me why I want to continue to help others.)
- Because someone shared, a lost dog someone found was reunited with his owner this past week.
Sharing makes a difference.
Please Be The Change that makes a difference today.
Click on any one of the links below and share a lost dog picture or story on Facebook or Twitter.
Today, July 15th, is Blog the Change day. This is the day when pet bloggers write about an issue important to them and help to promote change.
I am extremely passionate about educating people on how to find their lost dog. In the past, I have written about what to do when your dog goes missing, what to do if you have a lost dog and they are too afraid to come to you and how to help someone who has lost their dog. Today, I would like to write about the ways you can prevent your dog from getting lost in the first place.
When Cupcake went missing in late 2011, I was haunted by all the things I did wrong that led to her becoming lost – I didn’t have her collar properly fitted, I took her into a new store she had never been in before, and instead of remaining calm, I panicked when Daisy became entangled with the store’s outdoor sign, which caused all the dogs to panic and run.
There is so much more I know now than I did back then. I hope by sharing these tips you don’t ever have to face losing a dog. Please share with your family and friends. One less lost dog is worth preventing.
Ways you can keep your dog safe and prevent them from being lost:
- Buy your dog a martingale collar and make sure it is fitted properly. These type of collars are especially great for sight hounds (because their necks are often bigger than their heads), but they can be used on any dog.
- If you have a particularly shy or nervous dog, double-leash them so you have a fail-safe if one of them fails. (Double-leashing usually means you have one leash attached to the dog’s collar and one to their harness.)
- Walk your dog using a well-fitted harness, and when you do walk them, make sure to loop the leash over your wrist so as to prevent the dog from bolting and pulling the leash out of your hands.
- Make sure your dog is secure before opening the door to your house to let someone inside. This can be anything from putting them on a leash before opening the door to putting them behind a baby gate or in another room. A sit-stay is always good, but it is not foolproof.
- Place locks on the gates to your yard. This may seem like a silly thing to do, but there are several reasons to do so. I have seen many a dog lost because a storm blew open someone’s gate, a child running in or out of the gate forgot to latch it or a contractor was working on the home and left the gate open. Placing a lock on the gate ensures no one gets in or out without you knowing about it.
- Several times throughout the year, check your fence line to make sure there are no gaps or holes that you may have missed. Block all holes and gaps to prevent your dog from escaping the yard. Also, make sure that there are no chairs or tables near your fence so your dog cannot use it as a perch from which to jump it.
- Don’t take your dog to the local 4th of July fireworks display. Keep them at home where you know they are safe. (In Minnesota, we had nearly 100 dogs go missing because they were frightened by fireworks.)
- If someone is caring for your dog, make sure they know how to enter and leave your home without letting the dog out or consider blocking off the doorway so your dog cannot escape unexpectedly.
- Don’t take a newly adopted dog to a new location like a dog park or pet store. Many newly adopted dogs get lost within the first few days of being adopted because they are scared and unsure of where they are. Wait two weeks and allow the dog to get used to you, your family and your routine before taking them anywhere with you.
- When traveling by car, make sure your dog is contained in a kennel or is secured with a seat belt. Many dogs go missing after a car accident or when someone opens the door to the car to get out.
- If you bring your dog to a groomer on a regular basis, have a conversation with him/her about how they will keep your pet safe so they don’t escape. Ask that your dog be contained until it is time for her to be groomed and after she is done. Also make sure that your dog is wearing a martingale collar when you drop them off and pick them up.
Prevention is key, but if your dog does get lost, here are some tips on how to find him/her again:
Lost Dog Tips
When Cupcake (known as Lady back then) went missing in late 2011, I was lucky. No. Not lucky because she disappeared. Lucky because I had a an experienced rescue behind me, supporting me, all along the way.
Minnesota Sheltie Rescue knew just what to do to help bring Cupcake back. They knew that flyers were the most successful way to get the word out. They knew that signs and using a call service like Find Toto were also successful in getting more eyes looking for her. They knew how to mobilize a whole group of people to help spread the word. And, they made to tell me to get some rest so I would be there when Cupcake needed me most. To say they are an awesome rescue would be an understatement.
I wish every rescue offered their new adopters and foster parents the kind of support Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR) offered to Cupcake and I. Unfortunately, I think MNSR is the exception and not the norm.
I get it. Rescues are busy. They’re saving lives. They are short-staffed and often run on a shoestring budget. They don’t have the time or the money or the staff to plan for the eventual loss of a dog within their care. But, they should.
If I had my wish, I would ensure that every rescue had a clear plan for:
How a dog or cat will be transported to its new home or foster home (grabbing them off the back of a transport truck is not a plan).
Lost Dogs of MN has a great list of tips on how to avoid losing a dog during transport. Every rescue should consider implementing them immediately. They should also consider making it the standard policy for how dogs are transported to and from their foster and adoptive homes.
What a potential adopter or foster parent needs to know to keep their new pet safe in the first few days after they bring them home.
- New adopters and foster parents should avoid taking their new dog anywhere besides their home. They should be told to avoid the overwhelming desire to stop off at the pet store for supplies or a dog park, where they are likely to get into trouble or get lost.
- They should let the dog get used to its new environment and hold off on taking walks through the neighborhood that first week.
- Entrances and exits should be protected to ensure a dog cannot bolt out the door unexpectedly.
- Double-leashing a dog or buying a harness for their new dog should be recommended so if the dog becomes frightened unexpectedly, they are not able to run away.
- Encourage new owners and fosters to take lots of pictures of their new dog (or cat). They should have a frontal view and one with them standing.
What to do when a dog goes missing.
- Flyers, flyers, flyers. Do I need to say it again? Flyers. Rescues need to have a template ready and waiting to go so when a dog does go missing they are not scrambling to put one together or leaving it up to the adopter or foster to do it. The number one thing that should be on that flyer is a place to put the dog’s picture and contact information, followed by the words “Do Not Chase.”
- Contact all the veterinarians and shelters within the immediate area. Let them know about the missing dog, provide them with a description and contact information. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
- Create a calling tree within the rescue. Identify where all of your volunteers are located and let them know they may be alerted if a dog in their area goes missing. Make sure they know what to do next. (Did I mention flyers?)
- Post the missing dog on their Facebook page using the lost dog flyer. Ask people to help. Ask them to print out copies and pass them out in the area the dog was lost. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
- Post the missing dog on Craigslist. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
- Make sure all your volunteers, and anyone helping to find the dog, knows what to do when they see the dog. Not sure what to do? I shared a great video two weeks ago week (The best advice for capturing a lost dog) that I think every rescue should watch.
- Document each sighting on a Google Map. Learn how to use one. They can be your best opportunity to tracking the dog and understanding its pattern of movement. Lost dogs often retrace their route, so understanding a dog’s movements is key.
- Set up feeding stations to keep the dog in that area. This will make it much easier to capture the dog if or when you decide to place a trap.
- Have a live trap in your custody and ready to go. Don’t have one? Find out who rents them out. Sometimes police departments or rental companies will have one you can borrow or rent. Other rescues are a great resource as well.
- When a dog is trapped. Avoid the temptation to let them out and leash them while you are at the location. Carry the trap to a safe and enclosed area before letting the dog out. Trust me. You don’t want to lose the dog before you can get them to a safe place.
I know having a plan is not an easy thing for rescues to do, but what benefit is there in saving a dog from death row if they get lost after being rescued? Please. Keep them safe. And, when the inevitable happens and a dog is lost, have a plan for how you will find them again.
Cupcake and I thank you.
I don’t know if you do the same thing, but when I see a news story on television I often try to imagine what I would do if I were in a similar situation. Would I rush onto thin ice to save a stranger’s dog? Would I intervene in a situation where someone or a group of people was abusing an animal? Would I really break into someone’s hot car to save a pet in need?
I would certainly hope I would help any human or animal in need, but I still wonder what I would do if I were REALLY in that situation.
On Sunday night, I read this story about a deaf woman whose dog (Bear) went missing and ended up at a shelter. When he wasn’t claimed in the allotted eight-day holding period, he was adopted out to another family.
When the woman finally found out that Bear had been adopted out, she contacted the shelter and asked them to contact the family and ask if she could have her dog back. The shelter said they did and the family said no. Just no. She couldn’t have her lost dog back.
I immediately wondered what I would have done if I were in the family’s circumstance. Would I return a dog to the woman who owned him first? How long would it have to be before I would say no? (In this case, Bear has been with his new family at least a month, probably more.) Would there be a circumstance or situation in which I would not give the dog back? I can definitively answer that one. I would never return a dog to an abusive home or to a situation where he would likely suffer neglect. But, that doesn’t sound like the case here. So, would I return Bear to his owner?
I would like to think so. To me it seems the right thing to do. But, I am sure many would say no. There are certainly reasons why many people may not have chosen to return Bear to his owner:
- She just assumed Bear had run off with another dog and would be back.
- He had no tags on him.
- He wasn’t microchipped.
- She waited a week to report him missing.
- She didn’t call local shelters.
- She didn’t have him in a fenced yard or tethered so he couldn’t run away.
But I wonder… Are any of these reasons enough not to return her dog back to her?
I couldn’t help but think about the story I read last week about the homeless man whose pitbull had been stolen from him while he slept. The media fanfare that surrounded his story eventually led to the return of his dog. Yes, he is homeless. He will not be able to provide his dog food, shelter or medical care, but still I cheered when i heard they had been reunited.
Would I have felt like cheering if I had adopted his dog and then was asked to give him back? Would I have so willingly returned his dog to him? To be honest, I doubt it. Isn’t that sad? I feel bad even writing it. The truth is I don’t know if I could have given the dog back. I know it would not have been an easy decision.
Every day we are faced with decisions like these, decisions about who is worthy and not worthy of a pet. It always seems so easy looking from the outside in, but the more and more I ask myself what I would do the more and more I wonder if what I think I would do is what I would really do.
What would you do? Would you give Bear back? Would you have given the homeless man his dog back?
Here is a link to a list of ways you can help Oklahoma residents.
Lost animals: If you find displaced animals, you can take them to the Animal Resource Center at 7949 S. I-35 Service Rd. (405) 604-2892. They are also offering displaced people shelter for the night as well.
Animal aid: The Pet Food Pantry of OKC is offering dog food, cat food, leashes, collars, food bowls, etc to those in need. (405) 664-2858 www.petfoodpantryokc.org