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The Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 11 comments

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It’s become an annual tradition for me to end the year by sharing those blog posts I thought were most touching, interesting, or emotionally powerful throughout the past year. This year I have decided not to limit my selection to just blog posts. Among those included in my list are articles, Craigslist postings and other pieces.

The hardest part was whittling down my list. You may not have the same ones on your list, but I hope you will find them worth reading and sharing.

Do you have one that you want to share? Feel free to share!

  1. Heartfelt Open Letter To Dog Owner On Craigslist Moved Me To Tears – This powerful post is actually a posting on Craigslist. It is an adopted dog owner’s letter to the original owner of a stray dog, named Laurel, who showed up outside an animal shelter one day.

  2. Tails: Let’s focus on getting them back home, not adopted. – This piece is a particularly important one to me. Too many lost dogs are ending up in our shelters as strays. We need to do a better job trying to reunite them with their owners.

  3. Rescue Decisions: The Dog, or the Community? – Sara Reusche is an amazing dog trainer and a great writer. Her blogs posts are relevant, thought-provoking and well written. This one is no different. Borderline dogs are something we should all be talking about.

  4. 10 Things To Do If Your Adult Dog Bites – This post was written by my friend, Nancy Freedman-Smith, who is a dog trainer and a wonderful writer. This time of year is particularly hard for dog trainers because it is when people start calling them asking for help after their dog bit a child or adult or another dog over the holidays. This piece may help them as the grapple with what most likely was a preventable situation.

  5. 4 Things Dog Trainers DON’T Do – This is a great piece by Laurie Luck. I first shared this on my Facebook page back in June of this year, but it is worth sharing again. I can vouch for the 4 things on her list.

  6. I Rejected The Perfect Pet Adoption Family For The Wrong Reasons – This post was penned by Julie LeRoy in place of Cuda the Pit Bull, who passed away earlier this year. I thought it had a powerful message for those of us in animal rescue. it certainly gave me food for thought.

  7. You Can Survive Burnout: How To Regroup When Your Year Really Sucked – This post came in under the wire (it was just written this week), but it was so impactful that it made me want to share it far and wide.  The author is Dr. Jessica Vogelsang DVM. who is a veterinarian I really respect, not only for her brevity and wisdom, but also for her honesty and reflection. She always leaves me thinking.

  8. The Biggest Mistake Pet Owners Make at the End – This is another post penned by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang DVM. I shared this on my Facebook page earlier this year and was disappointed to see that many people had not only NOT read it, but left comments that clearly showed they hadn’t read it. We need to stop telling people that our pets will tell us when it is time, because more often than not, they won’t. Please read and share. Another great post is by Jessica Dolce, How to Talk to Your Gynecologist About Euthanasia. Definitely worth the read.

  9. What’s Important to You? – I don’t know about you, but it seems like the pet owner world has become more and more like the mommy wars over the years. What I mean is that just like the competitive mommy world where judgement about how you raise your children is at an all time high, the same is seems to be the case in the dog world. Trainer and writer, Sara Reusche, shares her perspective. I like it.

  10. Training “Calm?” – I love this piece of Denise Fenzi. Training “calm” is not something that is often discussed amongst dog owners, but maybe it should. It could go a long way towards helping the dog/human bond.

  11. Pet Safety: How Safe Are Pet Products? – Blogger Mary Haight’s, piece on pet safety was an eye-opener for me. If you think your pet is safe in a crate, in a car seat or with the toys that you buy, you may want to thin again. Very little safety testing is done on those items that you think will keep your pet safe. If you really want to learn more about the dangers that lie in the pet product industry, listen to her podcast interview with Linsey Wolko, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Center For Pet Safety.

  12. Comforting an Old Dog – A powerful piece by Shirley Zindler highlights the important role Animal Control Officers have with the animals they capture. Sometimes just being there is the most important part.

  13. Screw Finding Your Passion –  This second to last one has nothing to do with dogs, but has a powerful message nonetheless. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

  14. That thing others are shaming you for? Do it anyway. – Crystal Paine’s post on being your authentic self is one worth reading. If you have ever felt like hiding your true self or worried about criticisms by others about how you look or how you speak or write, then this piece is worth reading.

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Lost dogs – Good photos are key

November 29, 2015 4 comments

Cupcake's Lost Dog Flyer #2Last week, I saw an image pop up on my Facebook page that sent me back four years. It was the image of a Lost Sheltie flyer, Cupcake’s Lost Sheltie flyer to be precise. It was from when she was missing in November 2011.

Cupcake was lost and found after 12 long days, and it was only because of many, many wonderful volunteers and a handy little thing called a flyer, that I got her back.

Cupcake’s lost dog flyer was placed everywhere – on grocery store walls and convenience store windows, in newspaper boxes and inside neighbor’s screen doors, on cars in a church and shopping store parking lots. Her image was seen by hundreds of people all over Eagan.

Foster Maggie

Taking a side view picture of your pet can give someone a better sense of her size, length and coloring.

I remember thinking how lucky I was to have taken so many photos of her. She may not have been my dog at the time (she was my foster dog), but I loved taking pictures of her, and that turned out to be a fortunate thing, because I was able to use so many of those pictures to make sure people knew it was her when they spotted her.

Seeing the flyer again made me realize that perhaps in all the educating being done on micro-chipping your pet, handing out flyers and getting the word out, we may have forgotten to mention that having a few good, current photos are essential too.

Too often, I see photos on the Lost Dogs Facebook pages that are too dark, out of focus, or don’t give viewers a full and complete image of their dog. These are the photos someone will use to (hopefully) identify their dog. A bad photo can make the difference between a dog that gets seen, and reported, and one that does not.

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A close up view of your pet’s face helps finders make a match based on facial features and coloring.

This is not to say that someone is a bad owner if they do not have a good photo of their dog (we all have bad photos of our pets), but it is a call for dog owners to start taking better photos of their pets “in case” they ever need to use it in a lost dog search.

I recognize that most people never expect their dog to go missing, but being prepared for the “what if” situation is easier than saying “if only I had…” So here are some tips on how to capture some great photos of your dog that you can use in a lost dog flyer, if you should ever need it:

  1. Take pictures of your dog in natural light or in a well-lit area. It not only gives people a better idea of what your dog looks like, but it can also show off any unusual features they may have, such as unusual colorations in their coat or face.
  2. Shoot pictures of your dog from all different angles – you want to get photos that show their front, back and sides, it gives people a better sense of their size, coloring, and length.
  3. Get a close up of your dog’s face – A close up shows searchers and shelters more of their facial features and makes it easier for them to make a positive identification.
  4. Take a selfie with your pet – Almost everyone has a cell phone on them these days. Why not take advantage of a moment when you are out with your dog to take a selfie? It will help people make a connection with you and your dog and it almost guarantees that you will have a more current photo with you, if you should ever need it in an emergency.
  5. Take an action shot of your pet – It will give a potential finder a better sense of how your dog stands or moves. This is especially helpful in the case of a sighting of your missing dog.

 

I hope you will never need to use one of these photos in a lost dog flyer, but if you ever do you will be much better prepared to provide one that will help searchers make a positive identification.

Note: If you find a lost dog, please do your best to take a really good photo that is in a well-lit area. It will help the owner find their dog so much more quickly.

Jasper prancing with his stick. #dogpark

An action shot of your dog can give searchers a sense of how your dog moves, making them easier to recognize while running.

 

5 things NOT to do when you first adopt your dog

June 1, 2015 39 comments

Low Section View of a Man with His BulldogI often try to remember back to when I adopted my first shelter dog. I was so uninformed and inexperienced back then. I had never adopted a dog before. I had absolutely no idea what to expect with an adult dog, especially not one who had a whole history behind her that I didn’t even know about. I probably made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions in those early days (I am sure of it).

What I didn’t know then, but know now is that for a rescue or shelter dog, the first few days and weeks in their new home are risky ones. They are at the mercy of their new human to make the right decisions for them. One mistake, and the dog could end up back at the shelter, or worse, euthanized for a serious mistake that could have been prevented if the human had made a different choice.

That last part is what I was thinking today when I read a story on my local station’s website – “Brainerd Woman Suffers ‘Serious’ Injuries from Dog Bite”. If what the dog owner said was true, and he actually did just adopt the dog who bit the woman in the story, then he just put his new dog’s life in danger. Most likely, when he and his dog are found, his dog will be quarantined, and then euthanized. One mistake. One life.

I don’t want make pet adoption seem so serious and dire, but it kind of is. We can make a lot of survivable mistakes with our newly adopted pets, but there are a few that could place their lives, and others, in danger. Knowing what not to do can be the difference between life and death.

Here are a few things NOT to do when you adopt a rescue or shelter dog.

  1. Take him to a pet store – A dog in a shelter environment is already stressed out. Taking him from one stressful place to another stressful place, with a complete stranger (yes, that would be you), is a recipe for disaster. A stressed dog may do things they might not do in a another time and place. I remember one dog that was adopted from our shelter and taken immediately to a pet store to purchase some things for him. He ended up biting a child and as a result, lost his life. I know another dog who was adopted right off the rescue transport and taken to a pet store. He escaped the car and was missing for several days. When he was found he was almost 20 miles away from where he was lost. It almost cost him his life. Luckily, a stranger came upon his dehydrated body and saved him.
  2. Take her to the dog park – Not only has your new dog not had a chance to bond with you, but even more importantly, she doesn’t even know you yet. I still remember a couple who brought their new dog straight from the animal shelter to the dog park and ended up spending a couple of hours trying to catch her. She might have been having a ball, but they were not. Luckily, their dog was not aggressive, but many people have brought an adopted dog to the dog park who was. To assume a dog you just adopted is not dog aggressive or will not harm another dog is not only naive, but dangerous. Get to know your dog before introducing her to other dogs and people. You may also want to work on training her to come when called before letting her off-leash in a dog park.
  3. Invite friends and family over to meet her right away – People often want to show off their new dog right after they adopt them, but this can be a huge mistake. Strangely enough, dogs are very much like us humans in that they need time to get settled into a new place. Imagine how overwhelmed you would feel if your new neighbors came over and started making themselves at home while you are still unpacking from the move. Pretty uncomfortable, right? So imagine being a dog and having complete strangers invade your space and touch you and get in your face when you haven’t even had a chance to get settled into your new home. Not fun. It’s also a recipe for disaster. One mistake, one dog bite later, and you may have a dead newly adopted dog.
  4. Let him off-leash in a public place – See #2 above. No, seriously, why would you let a dog you don’t know off-leash in an unconfined area? You don’t even know if he likes squirrels or people or other dogs. If you have a dog like Jasper (my Sheltie), then you might find out that he likes to herd runners and bikers and skateboarders and…. yeah, you get my point. Once you let a new dog off-leash, you have no control. Not only do you risk him getting lost, but you also risk being liable to the danger he might do to another person or dog (see the news story I mentioned above).
  5. Leave him out in your yard unattended – This one might sound silly, but I really cannot emphasize it enough – Do Not Leave Your New Dog Unattended In Your Backyard. The riskiest time for a new dog to become lost is in those first few days and weeks in a new home. Your new dog is probably stressed and scared and disoriented. One strange noise or sudden movement or scary incident and he can be gone in a flash, right over the fence. Being in the yard with him tells him he is not alone. It also ensure that he won’t have a chance to dig under a fence or look for an escape route, and if he does, you have an opportunity to redirect him before he makes it out.

Most rescue and shelter dogs are not there because they were bad dogs or had behavioral issues. Most are there because someone had to move or was going through a life change that required them to give up their pet. They need time to adjust to all the changes.

Puppy Wearing BowAnd while these dogs are awesome pets and companions, they also have the potential to bite if backed into a corner or placed in a stressful situation (every dog has the potential to bite when placed in a stressful position with no way out). It is up to us, as their new owners, to protect them. It is up to us to do right by them. Spend time getting to know your new dog, and let him get to know you too. Before introducing him to all the new wonderful things in your world, take the time to bond. You have time. You have the rest of your lives to do all those cool things you want to do together. Why rush it?

The shame of Chicago – Are they killing lost pets before they can be found?

March 9, 2015 30 comments

Having a pet become lost can be so devastating. Whether it be a cat or a dog or a bird, the loss is still the same. The fear and the pain one feels is overpowering. Sometimes it can be difficult to act because we are so immobilized with fear.

There are so many things that can stand in the way of being reunited with a pet, but among them are:

  • Not having your pet microchipped.
  • Waiting to spread the word. Hoping that he/she will come back in an hour or two.
  • Driving around the neighborhood instead of handing out flyers and getting the word out.
  • Not calling the police, shelters and vet clinics in the area to alert them that your dog is missing.

If you live in St Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and you do not do any of the above, you STILL might be lucky enough to be reunited with your pet. Why?  Because Minnesota has a five-day stray hold that requires pets be held at the animal shelter for at least five days to allow an owner to claim them.

And even if you don’t get them after the five-day hold, your pet may still survive because a rescue was able to take him in or the shelter was able to put him up for adoption.

But if you live in Chicago and your pet goes missing, you better hope and pray you have a lot of luck on your side. Why? Because Mayor Rahm Emanual, and the City Council did something pretty low down and dirty. They introduced, and passed, an ordinance to reduce the stray hold in Chicago from five days to three for dogs and zero days for cats.

YES, I said ZERO DAYS for CATS. 

IMG_8244Not only did they reduce the stray hold time for dogs and cats, but they also reneged on their promise to do an information campaign to inform Chicagoans about the change. Thus, most Chicago pet owners have no idea that their lost pets could be killed before they even have a chance to find them.

And, if you have a cat? Good luck. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) will most likely have killed it by the time you start looking. Remember, cats have ZERO days to be saved.

So unless your pet is microchipped and you spread the word immediately that he or she is lost, you may never see your lost pet again. Ever.

Feeling a little pissed off? Good. Because I need you to let the mayor and his friends on the council know how you feel about them choosing to reduce the chances of an owner and their pet being reunited.

There is a petition posted on Change.Org demanding that the Mayor, the City Council and CACC revisit this resolution and reconsider the reduction in stray hold (Thank you Lost Dogs Illinois for the heads up!). They also demand the Mayor and City Council inform the citizens of Chicago about the change.

Let’s tell Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council what we think about them killing lost pets.

And one more thing, get you pet microchipped. NOW.

Don’t wait for CACC to tell you it’s too late and they already killed him.

Justice for Draco – The fight begins

January 7, 2015 15 comments

10917130_1514307598832911_7542187844083024648_nIn October of last year, a very ugly man did a very ugly thing. He killed the dog belonging to his girlfriend. But it was what he did before killing him that is so very ugly. He tortured and beat him. Three different times. And, he videotaped it. You can read the gory details in the story that first appeared in his Minnesota home town (Sheriff: Baldwin man tortured, killed family dog), but I will warn you that I could not read the full story myself. It’s bad. Really bad.

The sad thing is that Draco was originally listed as a lost dog. His owner did not know what had happened to him when she posted that he was missing. She was hoping that he would come home safely. Her boyfriend knew what he had done, but he played along. If not for him videotaping his acts, he might never have been caught. I am so glad he was because I suspect this is not the first time he has engaged in cruelty or abuse.

I have no words for what this man did. I cannot even imagine someone so evil living on this planet. But what I do know is that the group that fought for Justice 4 Millie, will be doing the same for Draco. He did not deserve this. Neither did the young woman who loved and cared for him.

If you would like to join us in this fight for justice, you can follow the progress of the court case on the Facebook page Justice for Draco. We will need your support and voice when the time comes for Anthony Sather to face judge and jury and account for his behavior. PLEASE ALSO SIGN THE PETITION (this will be given to the prosecutor on the case).

If you want to know a little more about Draco and how much he was loved you can watch the video his owner put together of him.

Godspeed Draco. May the pain you suffered now be forgotten. We will not forget. We will seek justice for you.

Animals do have a voice.

If you ignore their suffering, I will remind you of it.

If you don’t understand them, I will translate.

If you don’t hear them, I will be their voice.

You may silence them, but you can not silence me as long as I live. :

-Anita Mahdessian

Lost Dogs – Is your dog at risk?

January 4, 2015 22 comments

IMG_6838I’m often brought to tears by stories of lost dogs that have been found.

Just this past weekend, a ten-year-old dog was found after being lost and out on her own for several days in frigid temps. As I read her owner’s teary and thankful response to all those who helped her get her dog back, I wept.

I remember the powerful waves of emotion that swept over me when I finally had Cupcake back in my arms again – relief, gratitude, and extreme happiness. Even though it has been three years since Cupcake went missing, I have never forgotten those twelve days she was gone. I have only to read another lost dog story or see another missing dog posting, to feel all the fear, worry and sadness all over again.

Losing a dog (no matter how long) changes you. It makes you more cautious, and more attentive. It also makes you less likely to take risks with their safety.

IMG_6569I used to be so ignorant about all the risks I took with my dogs. Jasper was allowed off-leash all of the time. Both Daisy and Jasper were allowed to hop up into the car (and out) while out in the driveway. Neither were leashed in those moments. My first Sheltie went with me to watch the our local fireworks at the park near our house (my mother tells me now that Alicia was very nervous and scared of the sounds back then). My last dog, Aspen, was a runner, but I often forgot to keep her away from the front door when people came for a visit. I can’t count how many times I chased her down the street with a bag of pepperoni in my hands.

My guess is that every dog owner engages in some type of risky behavior where their pets are concerned. We are all one mistake away from losing our best friends.

So how much risk do you take with your dog? Do you engage in risky behavior in regards to your pets’ safety?

Here are some frequent ways in which owners have lost their pets. Check all that apply.

If you selected 10 or more, you have a extremely high risk for losing your dog. Take action to minimize your risks as soon as possible (today would not be soon enough). Also, study up on the Lost Dog Action Plan from Lost Dogs-MN so you know what to do when your dog does go missing, because chances are high that they will. (In addition, if you selected “I let my dog outside to go to the bathroom without making sure he/she is on a tether or in a fenced yard.” , count yourself in the “extremely high risk” category  no matter how many others you selected. This is the number one explanation given when a pet goes missing. The common response is “they have always come back before”.)

If you selected 5 or more, you are at a higher risk for losing your dog. Try to find ways you can reduce the number of items on the list as soon as you possibly can. Ensuring you have a high recall with your dog is highly recommended. I would also recommend you read the the Lost Dog Action Plan from Lost Dogs-MN so you know what to do if your dog does go missing.

If you selected 2 or more, you are at a medium risk level for losing your dog. Consider what items on the list you can change and take action now to minimize the risk.

If you selected 1 or did not select any of the items on the list, consider yourself a dog owner who knows how to keep their dog safe. Your dogs are in the lowest risk group for being lost. This does not mean he/she will not get lost through some weird set of circumstances, but you have done all you can to reduce the chances of it happening. Congratulations!

Lost Dogs and the Importance of Using Scent Articles

September 14, 2014 13 comments

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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.

It appears that someone is sleeping in Daisy's bed.

A dog’s bedding (and crate) have familiar scents that may draw a lost dog back home.

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. 

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