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My Summer Book Pick – A Stolen Dog (A True Story)

June 17, 2013 9 comments

51NtI68FMELShortly after Cupcake returned home from her 12 day hiatus a friend suggested that maybe I should write a book about our experience. I took it as a very kind suggestion, but shrugged it off. I didn’t think I could ever encompass our experience in mere words. To some degree, I still don’t. It truly was one of the most emotionally charged, inspiring, scary, disturbing and frustrating experience of my life. You just can’t know what a dog owner goes through when they lose their dog unless you have been through it yourself.

That’s why I was surprised when Tricia O’Malley contacted me to offer me the chance to read and review her book The Stolen Dog. Why? Because it was a true story. HER true story about how her Boston Terrier, Briggs, was stolen and how she got him back.

How was she able to write about something that must have been so difficult to go through?

I sat down to read it on Sunday afternoon and didn’t put it down until I was finished. It reads like a suspense novel. When Briggs first goes missing, Tricia and her husband are at a loss of what to do. They run through the streets calling Brigg’s name – thinking maybe he just got out of their yard somehow. But when a neighbor informs them that a man took their dog right off their deck, they are forced to face the new reality – their dog was stolen and he could be anywhere AND he could be in serious danger.

Tricia and her husband comb their city, Milwaukee, looking for Briggs. At every turn in their story, you wonder if the next person is the dognapper or if they will be harmed as they navigate through some of the darkest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Milwaukee. It’s intense and scary. It also captures every emotion, every experience, every frustration and every bit of hope I felt when Cupcake was missing.

I laughed. I cried. I expressed outrage on her behalf. But mostly, I nodded my head as she shared stories about all of the kind people who entered her life to help her find Briggs. Complete strangers. People just motivated to help because they too, loved dogs. Sometimes from the most unexpected corners too.

I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out if Briggs was found. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it was well worth waiting for.

If you are looking for a good summer read while on the beach this summer, I highly recommend Tricia’s book. Trust me. You won’t be able to put it down either. Plus, she shares a lot of great info along the way on how they got Briggs back. There’s also a little surprise that happens along the way. Let’s just say that if he had a long tail he would be wagging it wildly. ūüôā

I’m going to be reading it again. Slowly. It is worthy of a second go-around.

I’ll leave you with Tricia’s own words from the last page of her book…

“What I do know is that from now on, I’ll pay more attention to people who ask for help. Why? Because I know what it’s like to feel helpless. Because ultimately, that is what saved Briggs, a community of people who decided to care about a small dog, stolen from a porch, on a sunny day in May.”

I can completely relate.

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Rescues – Do you have a plan for finding your lost dogs?

June 3, 2013 12 comments

Lost not stray v2When 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.

Lost Dogs-MN has some really great tips for finding lost dogs and an action plan for finding a lost dog. I encourage rescues to take a look and consider making them a part of their plan.

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.

Sunny – A dog lost for 96 days in a Minnesota winter and now home

March 31, 2013 16 comments

IMG_0197For those of you who follow me on my Facebook page or follow the Lost Shelties MN page, you already know the good news. Sunny, the Sheltie lost in Maple Grove, Minnesota, is now safely home in Ohio. After 96 days and 23 miles, he was reunited with his dad on Friday evening. It was a very special moment and one I am sure Sunny’s dad and family won’t forget.

For those of you who don’t know the story, I think you will find this worth reading. It is a good example of how important it is to get the word out… AND just how to do it.

Before I share Sunny’s story from beginning to end (My thanks to Cindy from Lost Shelties MN and Mary McTie for letting me share this!), I would like to thank all of the people who helped in his successful return. I would love to name each and every one of you here, but there were so many of you that I am afraid I would forget someone!

Instead, let me just share some of the things you did to bring Sunny home:

  • Offered support to Sunny’s family and coordinated the handing out of flyers (including updating the flyer map on numerous occasions so we knew where to go next).
  • Updated the missing dog flyers so the latest information could be handed out in neighborhoods and posted in store windows.
  • Placed, checked and moved traps in the frigid cold and deep snow – more times than we even know. (Trust me when I say this is hard work.)
  • Managed the incoming calls with sightings of Sunny and handled inquiries from the general public (both on Facebook and over the phone).
  • Made calls to local shelters, police departments and city managers in cities where Sunny was sighted.
  • Monitored all the places that help lost dogs – AHS website, Lost Dogs – MN, Craigslist, in case Sunny was brought in as a stray.
  • Called radio stations to ask them to ask the public to keep an eye out for Sunny.
  • Handed out flyers over and over and over again – and then did it once again (many times in frigid cold).
  • Contacted local newspapers and online news media outlets to alert them to Sunny’s story and the search for him.
  • Placed ads in newspapers and posted info on Craigslist.
  • Made signs to be placed in areas he was sighted.
  • Kept all of the volunteers motivated week after week after week (you know who you are!).
  • Shared Sunny’s picture and story on Facebook and asked friends to share.
  • Prayed, sent good thoughts and hoped that Sunny would be reunited with his family.
  • Called and reported each and every sighting, no matter when that sighting occurred.

A very special thanks to Patti and her husband for reporting that one final set of sightings that brought Sunny home and to Cindy from Lost Shelties MN who handled so much more than we know with absolute grace and charm.

So, without further ado, here is Sunny’s story as it was shared on the Lost Shelties MN Facebook page in Sunday. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Hi Everyone…This is long…I apologize…but it’s been a long journey for Sunny, his family and the rest of us. This is a story worth telling. Thank you all for EVERYTHING you have done to help this precious boy. A lot of hard work by all…but so very rewarding. Grab some coffee and enjoy. And please share this also, as I’m sure through the 96 days that Sunny was gone, there were a lot of people who have seen your likes & shares. Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.

(First, how Sunny was finally caught.) On March 20th, Sunny’s owner called to tell us he got a call from a lady who had seen Sunny. Her name is Patti and she lives in Vadnais Heights. Patti feeds stray cats and she and her husband have a live feed video camera near the bowls. They started to see a Sheltie come around about 11pm, he had been eating at the bowls at least eight times in the last week and a half. Patti checked Craigslist and was sure that dog was Sunny. We were cautiously optimistic. Almost 23 miles (via Interstate 694) from where Sunny went missing on Christmas Eve. If this was Sunny…he was heading for Ohio!

Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR) volunteers brought a live trap over that night. Patti had a huge bowl of cut up hot dogs, another big bowl of chicken, along with cat kibble and a heated bowl for milk. We set up the trap with the chicken and hot dogs inside. We left the kibble and milk outside – usually we don’t want to leave food outside the trap but a big tomcat was watching the whole time and we figured we would probably catch him multiple times if we didn’t leave something out for him.

The first night, Patti’s husband stayed up til 2 a.m. watching the video…no dog! We set up a motion-activated camera. We thought if we at least saw him come around again, then we would put the word out for flyers in the area. But the dog stopped coming by (or at least he did not appear on the love camera or when anyone was watching the live feed). More days passed and no dog. We started thinking it must have been a neighbor dog, who was sometimes let out to stroll late at night. It started to seem like nothing was going to happen here.

March 28th – Patti called to say they caught a raccoon in the trap! Not good, but there’s always the thought that you have to catch something else before you catch the dog.

6:30 a.m. on March 29th – Patti calls to say they have the dog in the trap! What dog…must be a neighbor dog…some other dog that needs our help? Could it possibly be Sunny? Patti and her husband knew not to open the trap but they offered to bring it inside their garage until our volunteer Pat (another MNSR volunteer) could get there.

Pat and her granddaughter arrived, along with Sunny’s owners’ in-laws. The markings looked right, the size looked right, but there was that tiny bit of doubt that it was another Sheltie that looked a lot like Sunny. The dog sort of wagged his tail at the father-in-law. He was matted and full of burrs, but otherwise didn’t look too bad. They sent pictures to Sunny’s owner in Ohio, and he was on the road by mid-morning.

Sunny went to Karen’s for the day. Pat’s granddaughter spent some time picking burrs out of his coat and he was amazingly relaxed. He got a good nap for the rest of the morning.

At noon on Friday, March 29th, Sunny went to MNSR’s vet, he was checked out and overall opinion was that he is in pretty good shape (blood work results will take a day or two), not thin but obviously he was tired.

Sunny had to meet some more MNSR volunteers later in the afternoon, and he was quite calm for that too. He didn’t approach us, but he didn’t hide or cower. Maybe still somewhat in shock and maybe relief that he didn’t have to run anymore.

Friday evening about 7:00 p.m., Sunny’s owner, Dick, arrives at Karen’s. Sunny looked at him, walked over and sniffed him, and then his tail started to wag a little. He never left Dick after that. Dick sat on the step and talked and Sunny looked at him and listened. Dick would say familiar words and his ears would perk up. He relaxed and laid down at his feet for a while.¬† We could tell that all was well in Sunny’s world again.

Sunny left Karen’s equipped with a Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR collar), a harness and was double leashed! After all that, Dick carried him out to the car anyway. Sunny and Dick are driving back to Ohio Saturday morning and should be back home by evening. (Update: Sunny is now home and his overall blood work was good.)

Thank you to everyone who helped in this 96 day search to get Sunny back home. The flyers, the Craigslist ads, the Maple Grove Patch and the City of Brooklyn Park, the sharing on Facebook, twitter and other social media. Thank you to Patti and her husband for feeding such good food to stray cats and a lost Sheltie from Ohio.

Sunny – you captured our hearts. Safe travels home, Sunny and Dick!

*    *    *    *    *    *

Chronology of the search for Sunny

December 24 – Sunny, a Sheltie visiting with his family from Ohio, goes missing.

December 26th – Volunteers hit the streets of Maple Grove flyering the neighborhoods.

January 5th – Sunny sighting south of 85th, by Fleet Farm. Other Sunny sightings. (Major snowstorm January 4th.)

January 13th – Sunny sighting on the west side of the Coon Rapids Dam. Volunteers look on both sides of the dam, the area is heavily flyered.

January 15th – Three Rivers Park (Coon Rapids) police report seeing Sunny near West River Road and chase him into the park. MNSR live traps are set, something is eating the food out of the traps, but nothing is ever caught.

Mid- January – We get a couple reports of a Sheltie near highway 610 and also in Coon Rapids. (Temps the week of January 21st ranged from -30 to -20 degrees with -30 to -40 degree windchill.)

January 26th – A Sheltie is reported in Ham Lake near Constance and Urbank. Volunteers place signs in the area. The traps at the dam are still being checked.

Early February – We start to get multiple sightings in Blaine. Volunteers flyer the Blaine neighborhoods. People see us posting signs and tell us they got the flyer and are watching.

February 13th – Sighting back in Brooklyn Park at 104th and Douglas Drive. Volunteers are back distributing flyers in that neighborhood.

February 14th – 16th – Multiple reports of a Sheltie near Bunker Hills Golf Course. Volunteers flyer a large area in Blaine and Coon Rapids.

February 18th – A woman in Blaine catches the Sheltie in a garage. He is extremely underweight, tired and scared. He’s not Sunny, but he definitely needed us.

February 24th – A man calls to say he saw a flyer but that he saw the dog laying on the side of northbound highway 169. It was at least 2 weeks after he had the sighting. Karen from MNSR drives and walks the area, looking for the dog. Mary goes out March 2 to take one more look before the next big snowstorm. No sign of a dog.

March 11 – Another report of a sighting at 93rd and Noble in Brooklyn Park. Volunteers flyer the area.

March 19th – A sighting in Andover. A live trap is set in the backyard. (Major snowstorm March 18th.)

March 20th – A sighting in Vadnais Heights. A live trap is set next to the house.

March 27th – A report about a dead animal in Blaine. Started thinking the Vadnais Heights dog wasn’t Sunny.

March 28th – A racoon is caught in the Vadnais Heights trap.

March 29th – A dog is in the Vadnais Heights trap. A happy ending to a 96 day search for a lost Sheltie from Ohio.

Two more updates: Rumor has it that Sunny’s story may be featured on the John Williams radio show on WCCO on Monday between 3-6 p.m. and he is once again featured on the Maple Grove Patch (the first time was when he was still missing).

Sunny’s Path:

Cindy from Lost Shelties MN says hello to Sunny

Cindy from Lost Shelties MN says hello to Sunny

Sunny smiles at dad. He is clearly very happy to see him.

Sunny smiles at dad. He is clearly very happy to see him.

Sunny and Dad before the head home.

Sunny and Dad before the head home.

Do you know what to do if your pet goes missing?

January 21, 2013 24 comments

IMG_6554Having a lost dog can be a scary thing for any pet owner. Knowing what to do as soon as they go missing is so very important. It can make all the difference in getting your dog back safely to you.

However, it’s not just the dog owner who needs to know what to do when a dog goes missing. Those who want to help in the search need to know what to do as well. Often the most well-meaning dog searcher can hinder a search by what they do and say. Some have even caused a dog to go missing longer because they were trying to “help” and inadvertently ended up hurting the search.

I thought I would put together a list DO’s and DON’Ts for both owners and those who want to help them. Please feel free to share.

Owner of a Lost Dog

DO

  • Tell everyone you know that your dog is missing. Call all local shelters, animal control facilities, vet clinics and local police to let them know.
  • Make a flyer with the most pertinent information – dog’s picture, coloring and weight, where lost, contact information (i.e., phone number). If you have a shy dog, make sure you also add DO NOT CHASE to the flyer.
  • Place flyers at all local vet clinics, animal shelters, stores and local businesses. Also, start canvasing the area your dog was lost and handing the flyers out to people walking their dogs.
  • Leave a flyer in each residence’s newspaper box (It is illegal to place in mailboxes.) or inside their screen door.
  • Place an ad on Craigslist.
  • Ask for help from friends and family. Ask them to help spread the word or pass out flyers.
  • Share information on Facebook and Twitter – If you have a Lost Dogs Facebook group for your state, share there. There are quite a few that have been created, including ones in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois.
  • Create signs that you can place in strategic locations so drivers can see them as they drive past. Keep the sign simple (e.g., Lost Sheltie and a phone number) so people can read it quickly.
  • Pay attention to where your dog is sighted. Generally, a dog will establish a pattern of places they visit or hang out. Once you have a pattern, set up feeding stations so he/she stays in the area. When you are certain that they have gotten used to feeding at these stations, set up a trap or traps at those locations and move the food inside the trap.
  • Consider utilizing one of the many services out there to help spread the word – like¬†FindToto.com, etc.
  • Send positive thoughts to your dog. Tell them to go into the trap or to seek out a person for help. It may seem silly, but it does work.
  • Place an article of your clothing or your dog’s bedding in a crate or trap near the location they were lost so they are drawn in by the scent. If your dog went missing from your home, place it in your backyard or in an area they could enter it.
  • Carry smelly treats with you that you can toss to your dog if sighted. Make sure you sit down facing away from your dog or sideways to them and sit quietly with your head down. Don’t speak right away. Just toss the treats towards your dog. (Cupcake was lost for 12 days and by the time I found her she was in survival mode. She didn’t recognize me by sight or sound. It was only when I sat down and allowed her to safely approach me that she was able to smell me. That is when she recognized me.)

DON’T

  • Give up hope. Dogs and cats are much more resilient than we think. They can and do find food and shelter. Princessa’s Story is good example of how dogs can survive the cold of winter.
  • Share trap locations with more than a couple of people you trust. The more people who know about the trap locations, the more the risk you will have too many people monitoring the traps and this could scare your dog away. Make a plan for who will know the trap locations and who will check them and when.
  • Drive around assuming you will see your lost dog somewhere. Utilize flyers and get more eyes looking for your dog immediately.

Lost Dog Searchers

DO

  • Offer to hand out flyers and spread the word. (It was a stranger who offered to hand out flyers that led to me getting Cupcake back. Flyers really do work.)
  • Offer encouragement and hope to the owner of the lost pet. One of the reasons a lost pet is not found is because the owner gives up hope. Help to keep that hope going.
  • Share the lost dog’s story and information on Facebook and Twitter. Most people don’t share because they assume that people don’t live in the area and don’t care, but this is not the case. (When my Cupcake was missing people shared across the globe. One of the people to see her story lived in New York. His parents just happened to live a few blocks from me. They became instrumental in my search for Cupcake and her eventual capture.¬† People know people who live near where the dog was lost. Never assume they don’t. It can make all the difference.)
  • Call in sightings to the owner ASAP.
  • If you see the lost dog, sit down facing away from them or sideways to them and bow your head and toss tasty treats their way. Don’t talk to them, but do call the owner immediately. The objective is to keep them there until the owner can come to get them.
  • Send positive thoughts to the missing dog and encourage them to enter the trap or seek help from a human. Negative thoughts do not help the dog or owner.

DON’T

  • Add to a lost pet owner’s fears by talking about the chance their dog could be killed by coyotes or cars or cold weather. They already know this and your sharing this information is not helpful.
  • Try to catch the lost dog yourself. Most dogs go into survival mode and will run away from all people, including their owner, because they are afraid. I wrote about this a couple of months ago. Please read it – Why your lost dog may not run back to you.
  • Chase the lost dog. You only risk scaring them further away from the location. We want them to STAY in the area.
  • Ask the owner to call you when the dog is found. (I had many a well-meaning person contact me to find out if Cupcake had been found. When informed she had not, most of them asked that I call them back after she was found. I am sorry, but the last thing on a lost pet owner’s mind is keeping you informed on the status of the missing dog. They are too busy looking for their lost dog.)
  • Assume that the owner hasn’t tried everything to get their lost dog back or make derogatory remarks about how they lost their dog. Under the right circumstances, every single one of us could face this situation with our own dogs. To assume your dog could never get lost goes against all the statistics that say otherwise.
  • Assume that you will be the one to find the lost dog. Offer to help where you can, but¬† realize that what really finds lost dogs is not someone chasing the dog down. What works is getting flyers and signs out there so more eyes are watching for the dog and an call the owner as soon as there is a sighting.
  • Go looking for the traps after they have been placed. The owner’s scent should be the one that is near the trap not yours. You could inadvertently scare a dog away from the trap by hanging out near it or traipsing around in the area surrounding it and end up leaving your scent behind instead of the owner’s.

Losing a dog is such a heartbreaking and terrifying experience, but knowing what to do can make all the difference. Those who help them need to know what to do too. I hope this helps.

Lost Dogs trap locations

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