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.
I 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!
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.
Jasper and Cupcake, my four-pawed trick-or-treaters, decided they wanted to have a little Halloween fun too. So while I was away, they went shopping and came home with some costumes of their own.
So many pets get lost on Halloween because they get frightened by the scary costumes and strangers at the door. With doors opening and closing to hand out treats, the chances that a dog will bolt out the door and get lost increase.
Jasper and Cupcake, along with their friends Enya, Maxwell and Riley, ask that you please keep your pets safe by following these simple rules from Lost Shelties MN:
PLEASE…Know where your best friend is before you open any doors. Use a baby gate to block their any access to the door that will be used to pass out candy or put them in their kennels away from all the commotion.
Put locks on your yard gates. The goblins don’t always go up and down the street. Place a lock on your gates to avoid anyone from leaving them open. Then when the porch light goes off and you’re putting things away, you let your best friend out you won’t have to worry was a gate opened.
If you have a lost dog, I like this tip from Lost Cats MN. Make up 1/2 sheet flyers, post cards or business cards for your Lost Cat and hand them out to all the Trick or Treaters that come by! Most Lost Cats do not wander very far and are usually found within a few blocks of home, so this is another good way to get the word out to your neighborhood again. Also, always keep a sign up in your yard so that anyone going by will see it and if they do notice your cat they will know that it is LOST and it’s not just out roaming around. (Insert “dog” for “cat”
Please…Please…Please – know where they are when the door is opening. So many Shelties bolt out an opening door. Don’t have the next one be yours. It really is preventable.
When you’re out with your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids & friends please think of all the missing Shelties and keep an eye out for them if you are in their areas. These beautiful Shelties are still missing from 2013. If you click on the link to missing Shelties it will show you the ones still missing from previous years also.
Other links to check out. Please look at all of them. Each containing some VERY good information.
Jasper and Cupcake wish you all a safe and happy Halloween!
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
Shortly 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. :)
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.