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Posts Tagged ‘lost cat’

Why your lost dog may not run back to you

November 18, 2012 224 comments

Cupcake’s first day home after being lost for 12 days

I was reminded once again this past weekend how much we dog owners don’t know about missing pets. That’s not a judgement in any way,  just an observation. So few of us really know or understand what happens to a pet when they become lost.

This past weekend someone asked me why any lost dog would not just go to their owner once they saw them. It’s a good question. I think most of us just assume that our own dogs would come running to us as soon as they saw us. After all, we’ve cared for them, fed them, cuddled with them and loved them. But, sadly that is not the case for every lost dog – even your lost dog.

I first read this story (Dog Lost for Four Months Recognizes Family by Whistle)  on Life With Dogs back in October. It’s a good example of how a lost dog can become confused and disoriented when they are lost for several days or months. Luna, the dog in the story, was missing for four months. When her family finally found her again, she didn’t recognize them, and even walked away from them when they arrived to be reunited with her. It took two days, six visits and a distinctive whistle by the owner, for her to realize it was them. What had been a puzzling circumstance finally resulted in a happy reunion for all.

She was “crying and yipping the whole way,” said Julia. Luna jumped into Bruno’s arms and began licking his face.

As many of us already know, not all dogs are created equal (if they were our lives would be pretty boring!). Some dogs are happy-go-lucky, love people and other dogs, while others are much more wary and unsure. Puppy mill dogs are especially wary of strangers. They’re also more skittish. They are less likely to stick around and see if the human approaching them is “their” human or someone intending to harm them. As a result, they are much harder to catch and usually have to be trapped.

But a dog does not have to be a puppy mill dog to react this way. Many lost dogs tend to go into “survival mode”. They are frightened, unsure, hungry, tired (exhausted) and on constant alert. In many cases, they are fending for their lives. The longer they live in this state the less likely they are to recognize their owner on sight – and in fact, they are less likely to stick around and wait to see if the person approaching them is their owner.

A year ago this week, my foster dog, Cupcake, was missing. As a lost dog and owner, Cupcake and I had a lot going against us finding one another again – she was a puppy mill dog, had only been with me a little over a month, and was frightened of strangers. She was dodging traffic, coyotes and people in the twelve days she was missing. Talk about being in survival mode – she was definitely in it.

When we finally were able to see each other again it was at a warehouse loading dock. Even as people blocked all her avenues of escape, she continued to run back and forth, trying to find a way out. I was standing right there and she didn’t even recognize me. I called her name and she kept running. I asked if she wanted to go home to see Daisy and Jasper (my other two dogs) and she stopped for a second, then kept running – she was in survival mode, searching for a way out.

It wasn’t until I sat down with my body turned sideways from her, with my head bowed down and avoided eye contact with her, that she came close enough to smell me. I still remember the moment she started to realize it was me. She lifted her nose to the air and sniffed me. Then she moved closer and sniffed again. When she finally got close enough to really sniff me, and to hear my voice, she sighed. It was at that very moment she realized it was me. She leaned into me. She finally knew she was safe.

11/30/2011 – The day Cupcake was found. That’s me in back carrying her.

All lost dogs act differently. As owners, we need to know that before our pet goes missing.

We need to know that chasing a lost dog is one of the worst things we can do. It only reaffirms to the dog that people should be avoided.

So what should you do when you encounter a lost dog or your own lost dog?

  • Sit down.
  • Turn your body so your back or side is to the dog.
  • Keep your eyes averted and bow your head so as to look non-threatening.
  • Toss tasty treats (hot dogs, chicken, smelly cheese, etc.) behind you or to the side of you.
  • Don’t talk.
  • Wait patiently for the dog to approach you. Don’t make any sudden movements, but continue to toss treats.
  • Don’t grab the dog when they get close, but wait patiently and build trust.
  • Speak softly, but if they back away, stop talking and just continue to toss treats until they trust you enough to come closer.

As a dog owner, it pays to know what to do if your dog becomes lost. Below are some sites with some great tips on what to do. I really encourage you to check them out.

Lost Dog Tips

Lost Dogs-MN – Tips and Ideas

How to find a lost Sheltie – Minnesota Sheltie Rescue

How to Find Your Lost Dog (PetFinder)

Lost Dog Quick Action Plan from Granite State Dog Recovery

Cupcake – Happy to be back home.

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An Insightful study into Lost Cats and Dogs

June 25, 2012 15 comments

Once you have lost a dog – for any length of time, you start to look at life with a whole new set of lenses.

  • You start to notice how many more lost dog signs there are in your community than you had ever notice before.
  • You start to pay more attention to those dogs you see wandering around unaccompanied by a human.
  • You become motivated to help others with lost pets – whether it be through support, encouragement or advice.

I have found myself doing all of these things and more since Lady was lost and found.

When someone posted this piece on Facebook recently,  What You Don’t Know About Lost Pets Can Hurt Them (by Kat Albrecht on the Maddie’s Fund website) I knew I wanted to read more. I couldn’t help but wonder if the study would mirror what I had already learned in the past seven months. It did. But it also contained some new information I had not known before.

I encourage you to read the whole study, there’s a lot of great information that can be gleaned from what Missing Pet Partnership has gathered here, but here are some of the more interesting bits of information covered in the report:

Lost Cats

Sick, Injured, and Panicked Cats Hide in Silence. They will not meow.

Displaced cats will behave differently when displaced. Their temperaments can determine how they will act.

One of the primary methods recommended to recover displaced cats is the use of digital wildlife cameras and baited humane traps.

Lost Dogs

Gregarious dogs are more likely to go to the first person who calls to them. They are also more likely to be “adopted” by their rescuer who fears the dog will be “put to sleep” if dropped off at a shelter.

Dogs that are wary of strangers are reluctant to approach them until they are able to overcome their fear enough to approach, usually when they become hungry. They are also more likely to be lost for weeks or months. People often assume they have been abused because they will “cower” in fear.

Skittish dogs are more inclined to travel farther and are at a higher risk of being hit by cars. They will also cower in fear making people think they may have been abused.

Pet Owners

Some pet owners develop “tunnel vision” and fail to find their pet because they focus on wrong theories. They assume their dog was “stolen and sold to research” when in fact their dog might have been rescued and put up for adoption through a local adoption event.

Cat caregivers are often discouraged by others who tell them “your cat was probably killed by a coyote,” when their cat may actually be hiding close by, like under a neighbor’s deck.

The study concludes with some great tips to rescuers and pet owners on how to go about finding a lost or missing pet. I have shared some of those in a previous post, but I encourage you to read some of the suggestions provided. Sometimes what works for one dog or cat doesn’t work for another. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better prepared you will be.

A few additional suggestions of my own?

  • Have a support network to help support you when you do lose a pet. Surrounding yourself with people who have experience in looking for lost dogs can make all the difference and help to keep you focused on continuing your search.
  • Share your pet’s picture, story and last known location on Facebook, Twitter and in email to friends and family. Ask them to share.
  • Call all the local shelters, rescue groups, animal control agencies and police stations so they can alert you if your pet is brought in.
  • If you find a lost pet, don’t assume they were abused or abandoned. They were most likely lost and every attempt should be made to find the owner. Stop thinking stray and start thinking “lost.”

Finally…

  • Don’t EVER tell the owner of a missing pet that their dog or cat was likely eaten by a coyote. It is probably the most disheartening and discouraging things someone can say to the owner of a missing pet (I should know, I heard it several times), and it may lead someone to give up their search just when their pet needs them most. Think it if you must, but just don’t say it.
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