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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

Little Lady Lost: An Update

January 2, 2012 42 comments

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over a month since Lady came back home.

On Sunday, I was driving through Eagan and passed many of the locations I had spent so many hours searching for Lady. It brought back a lot of memories for me. I am so glad I no longer have to worry about her being out there with the coyotes or dealing with the cold weather or getting hit by a car. Except for a bad haircut, you’d never guess that she had been missing for 12 whole days before she was found. I have many people ask how she is doing, so I thought I would give everyone an update.

As I mentioned in my post “Little Lady Lost and How She Made It Home Again“, Lady came home a little dehydrated and completely encased in burrs. What I didn’t tell you was that she was so encased in burrs and feces that they couldn’t even take her temperature at the emergency vet clinic.

Other than making sure she was fine physically, we (me, Estelle and Karen) were most concerned in making sure Lady was comfortable. I couldn’t bear the thought of her having to deal with all those burrs in her coat and poking into her body for one minute longer, so when the veterinarian asked if we wanted to cut them to cut the burrs out, we said “Yes.” As a result, Lady ended up with a less than glamorous look.

Lady before she went missing

Lady after the burrs were cut out of her coat

Lady in her winter sweater to cover the bald spots and keep her warm

Honestly though, I could care less how Lady looks. At the time, I was more concerned with her physical and mental health. Did she eat something that could hurt her or make her sick? Would she be terrified and skittish after being out on her own for so long? She had been off her meds, specifically clomipramine, for nearly two weeks. (I was told that the last time she had been off them she had been an absolute mess, so I really worried about her mental state after this whole ordeal.)

We treated her health issues with fluids (for dehydration), antibiotics and de-wormer (in case she had eaten something that had given her worms), but her mental health seemed completely fine. She didn’t show any of the anxiety or nervousness I expected, but rather acted as she did before she went missing.

Lady chewing on her Angry Bird toy

I had fully expected that she would be jumpy or timid or suffering from anxiety after her ordeal, especially since she had been off her meds for so long, but in fact, from the moment Lady has come home, she has acted as if she was never gone. She has played with her favorite toys, stolen the cat’s food, and even tried to engage Jasper in play, giving him playbows galore.

Disemboweling my new toy from my foster mom, Dawn.

In some ways, she seems even more normal than she did before she went missing. I know that probably sounds strange, but what I mean is that she is even more affectionate, more animated and playful, and somewhat calmer, than she was before she left. Maybe knowing that she is home is all that she needed to feel more comfortable in her skin or maybe the calm, predictable life at home is the exact opposite of what she experienced in those 12 days and she just feels more able to relax now that she is safe. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see her so happy. As a result, I have chosen not to start her on clomipramine again, unless or until she shows signs that she needs it.

Since Lady has come home we have taken many excursions to the dog park. The first few times I kept her in her harness and a leash so I could be sure that she wouldn’t run if startled. Although, a little more skittish at first, she has done quite well ever since and loves to go for walks. In fact, she just recently (this past week) started taking treats from our friend Jill, a friend from the dog park. This is a huge step for her since she has always backed up when offered a treat before. She is also starting to check out some of our other dog park friends more closely, like Kellie and Kym.

While she does stop to sniff quite often, like she did before, she rarely lets me get too far before hurrying to catch up. She doesn’t like to be too far from me these days and that’s more than fine with me.

Lady back at the dog park again. Fur is starting to grow back too!

Lady also had her first bath since returning. She didn’t really like the experience all that much, but she handled it with class. She didn’t even get all goofy like Jasper did after his bath. Apparently, ladies just don’t act that way. 🙂

Lady after her bath

Lady chewing on her new bone

She still loves playing with toys and spends a lot of time chewing on the bone that Aunt Cindy got for her. She has also learned a few new commands since returning home: “down”, “watch me” and “stretch” (extend front legs and go into a bow) – and she has gotten even better at “sit”. She also loves taking long naps in her favorite spot near the toy basket and has claimed the new dog bed as her own. Jasper doesn’t seem to mind.

Lady sleeping in her favorite spot

All in all, I have to say that Lady has done quite well after her little adventure. The only lasting remnant as far as I can tell is a recognition of the sounds coyotes make. I ran across a video of some coyotes yipping while searching for funny videos on YouTube. When I played it, Lady immediately stood up and looked around, trying to find the source of the sounds. She looked quite unsettled and nervous. Jasper, on the other hand, had no reaction at all.

Estelle, from Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, suggested it might be PTSD and I am inclined to agree. As silly as it sounds, it never occurred to me that she might recognize the sounds until I saw her reaction. It makes me sad to think of her sitting out in the dark woods somewhere and hearing those eerie sounds and being so very afraid. Needless to say, I will not be playing that video again. If you want to hear what they sound like, click on the video below. It gave me the heebie jeebies.

Lady and I want thank everyone who helped bring her home. I think she knows she is one lucky girl. She had so many people who helped her, whether they prayed, spread the word, set up traps, alerted the media, handed out fliers or called to report a sighting. In many ways, I consider what happened to be a miracle. I’m thinking we can all use a miracle now and then, can’t we?

As a last note, I mailed the adoption papers for Lady today. I had planned to submit them at Christmas time, but the holidays kind of took over. So now, Lady will not only be the first adoption of 2012, but she will also have an adoption anniversary that falls on the first new day of each year.

Lady

The search for Lady, my foster dog. How you can help.

November 20, 2011 95 comments

Lady has been found. After missing for 12 days, a kind stranger called and with his help and many others we were able to bring her home. You can read how that happened here.

I don’t know when I will be able to write another normal blog post again, but I felt that this one I had to write tonight.

On Friday night, my foster dog, Lady, got loose from her collar and disappeared. She is still missing. And, my heart is breaking.

Friday was like any normal day except that I went to work earlier than normal so I could get home early and take the dogs to the dog park (if only I had followed through on that plan). By the time we got near our favorite dog park, the clouds had moved in and made it darker much earlier than usual. I made the decision to skip the dog park and instead head to CHuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet so I could pick up some dog food for the dogs.

Feeling guilty that the dogs hadn’t been able to go to the dog park, I decided to take them all inside to enjoy some of the smells and get more exposure to a new environment (Daisy and Jasper had been there before, but Lady had not). It was as we were leaving that everything went wrong.

Chuck and Don’s in Eagan has a weighted sign outside that lets visitors know that parking in certain spots is only allowed for 10 minutes. As we left, Daisy walked behind me (as she always does), but this time she went one way around the sign and I went the other. As her leash pulled against the sign, it began to move forward, which caused Daisy to panic and run and become entangled in it. This caused the sign to fall over and drag behind her. It scared all three dogs and they started to pull away from me in fear. Before I knew it all three dogs had pulled themselves out of their collars, something they have not done before, and were running in all different directions. Jasper ran like the wind and crossed a busy street, narrowly being missed by a car. Daisy ran around the busy parking lot, running left, then right and then left again. Lady took off to the left, running past a Walgreens. The staff ran out to help, but not knowing that I had three fearful dogs with me, they began to give chase. This was the absolute worst thing to do and I had to yell at them them to please stop. I screamed out Lady, Jasper and Daisy’s names. Hoping ti stop their running before they were gone or got hit by a car (not exactly smart either), but they kept running.

I finally was able to get Daisy and Jasper to come back to me (after I removed the fallen sign and they were both nearly hit) and I quickly loaded them into the car. Immediately, I took off after Lady. A staff person came running back saying she had last seen her rounding the corner of Walgreens and running off behind the mini-mall. I hopped in the car and drove in that direction while calling Dawn (her former foster mom of 4+ years, and the one who rehabbed Lady after she was originally rescued). She said she was on her way. I think I called Meghan from Minnesota Sheltie Rescue next, but to be honest, it’s all a blur. I just know that I was in an absolute panic because Lady was running scared and she was in one of the busiest, high-traffic areas in town.

I searched everywhere I could behind Walgreens and Chuck and Don’s. There is a wooded area back there and a pond. I thought Lady might go there to hide. I walked all along the area calling her name. I went back and got Daisy and Jasper and walked them all along the area, hoping that if Lady saw them she would come out, but I had no luck. In all honesty, I have no way of knowing she was even in that area, but I was so sure it would be where she would go first. Then, I hit each one of the businesses along there, gave them my name and number and asked them to keep an eye out for her. By this time I was crying. My little girl was out there scared and there were cars everywhere. She could be anywhere.

Behind the scenes, the Minnesota Sheltie Rescue folks had already mobilized. Before I knew it, the first person had arrived and started looking in the same area I had been searching. Before I knew it, a whole team of amazing people had arrived with signs and flyers, ready to help. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. We all canvased the area. Some took flyers to businesses, others posted signs at strategic locations in the area, others papered cars in the Walmart parking lot, and several of us canvased the area and put flyers in newspaper slots while we searched for Lady. Calls started to come in. She was behind Precision Tune. She was behind Papa Murphy’s. She was seen running along Denmark Road. We raced back and forth to each location hoping we would see her. No luck. After several hours, we decided to try again in the morning, but several people kept looking in their cars. Driving aroud, hoping to catch sight of her, but she was nowhere to be found.

In the morning, I headed out early. Calls started to come in. She was in this neighborhood the that neighborhood, she was running along Wescott Road, she was on the corner of Pilot Knob Road (a very, very busy street) and Wescott. My friend Kellie called to say she and two other people had just stopped traffic so Lady could cross over Pilot Knob. I didn’t even know she was out looking (Thank you Kellie!) for her. They had tracked her running behind the houses on King’s Pond Road and I joined the chase. I ran out onto the road hoping to see her and I did. running up a side street with no outlet. I called her name and she stopped for a second, looked back at me, and then kept running. That’s when my heart really sank. Because Lady wasn’t just scared, she was freaked out beyond belief and not likely to stop running. By the time I got to where she had been, she was gone. And, I haven’t seen her since. Neither has anyone else.

So many people came out to help: Minnesota Sheltie Rescue volunteers, my friends Karen and Kellie and Kym, complete strangers. All of them working so hard in cold weather and sleet to pass out flyers, drive around searching, and just tell people to watch out for her. I don’t even know all of them by name, but I am truly grateful.

Earlier tonight, Karen and Carol came out with live traps to set out for Lady. They drove in absolutely horrible and dangerous weather, to drop them off and help set them up. My friend Kym, who had already driven around for hours searching for Lady, came to help us. How do you thank people who take time out of their busy lives to help look for a lost foster dog? How do you thank them for driving in awful weather just to help you find her? How do you thank all of the people who called and let us know where she was and where she was going?

I don’t know, but I do know more are coming tomorrow and for that I am beyond grateful. It has renewed my faith in people. I thank God for each and every one of them. I have cried so many, many tears already for my little girl (lost, cold and alone), but I have cried just as many out of sheer gratitude for the people who have come to help. Thank you.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading out to check the live traps early in the morning. Lady seems to be on the move at that time. I pray that Lady is in one of the traps, but if not I will keep looking. I will post updates when I can. Please pray that we find her safely. Please.

If you tweet, please retweet: Lost #Sheltie in #Eagan #Minnesota. Brown and white. Afraid of people. Tweet @melzpetpals if you see her.

If you are on Facebook, please ask your friends to share with their Minnesota friends a picture of Lady or refer them to her blog post from last weekend. I have pictures and video of Lady here.

12:52 PM CST, Sunday – No sightings of Lady since yesterday morning. Checked all the live traps today – nothing yet. Jasper, Daisy and I walked around several areas where she was last sighted and several volunteers, including Lady’s former foster mom Dawn, helped put fliers on cars in church parking lots and stores in the area. Came home to warm up a bit and then going to set another live trap and put fliers in mailboxes in my area as well. Thank you everyone for all your help! I so appreciate all that you have done to try and get the word out. I hope someone sees her soon.

Monday, 7:00 AM, November 21st – No sightings of Lady at all yesterday. Papered cars at a Catholic church for two masses and all throughout my neighborhood with a former client, Christine. Thank you Christine. I so appreciate your offer to help! Dawn, Lady’s other foster mom was out just as much as I was looking for Lady. She checked the live traps, drove and walked around looking for her, placed fliers on cars at another church and did everything she could to find her. Other wonderful volunteers posted signs, handed out fliers, made copies and did way more than I ever could have done. Meghan from MN Sheltie Rescue brought down the signs, another live trap and fliers. Thank you to all of you. I am eternally grateful.
Yesterday was the hardest day because I started to lose a little hope. I cried a lot. It’s a helpless feeling to know she is out there scared and alone and to know you can’t help her until she shows herself. As a friend said yesterday, “These poor little characters are so dependent on us – whether they know it or not. And, strangely, we’re terribly dependent on them, too.” So true. And that’s what weighs on my heart today. I pray today will be the day. Thank you to each and every person who has tweeted and shared on Facebook. The word is getting out and people are watching for her. I’m headed out now to check traps and look around some more. I will keep you posted.

You can read more about the search for Lady and how she was found in the posts listed below.

Post #1: The search for Lady, my foster dog. How you can help.

Post #2:Foster Dog Lady – Still Missing

Post #3: Little Lady Lost – The Latest

Post #4: Thanksgiving Gratitude Despite Little Lady Still Being Lost

Post #5: Little Lady Lost – Chasing the Wrong Things

Post #6: A Sunbeam of Hope? The Latest on Little Lady Lost

Post #7: Little Lady Lost – The Saturday Update

Post #8: Little Lady Lost – Latest Update & Do’s and Don’ts

Post #9: Little Lady Lost – A sense of peace

Post #10: Little Lady Lost – HOME AT LAST!

Post #11: Little Lady Lost and How She Made It Home Again

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