Last 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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!
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
When 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.
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.
I don’t know if you do the same thing, but when I see a news story on television I often try to imagine what I would do if I were in a similar situation. Would I rush onto thin ice to save a stranger’s dog? Would I intervene in a situation where someone or a group of people was abusing an animal? Would I really break into someone’s hot car to save a pet in need?
I would certainly hope I would help any human or animal in need, but I still wonder what I would do if I were REALLY in that situation.
On Sunday night, I read this story about a deaf woman whose dog (Bear) went missing and ended up at a shelter. When he wasn’t claimed in the allotted eight-day holding period, he was adopted out to another family.
When the woman finally found out that Bear had been adopted out, she contacted the shelter and asked them to contact the family and ask if she could have her dog back. The shelter said they did and the family said no. Just no. She couldn’t have her lost dog back.
I immediately wondered what I would have done if I were in the family’s circumstance. Would I return a dog to the woman who owned him first? How long would it have to be before I would say no? (In this case, Bear has been with his new family at least a month, probably more.) Would there be a circumstance or situation in which I would not give the dog back? I can definitively answer that one. I would never return a dog to an abusive home or to a situation where he would likely suffer neglect. But, that doesn’t sound like the case here. So, would I return Bear to his owner?
I would like to think so. To me it seems the right thing to do. But, I am sure many would say no. There are certainly reasons why many people may not have chosen to return Bear to his owner:
- She just assumed Bear had run off with another dog and would be back.
- He had no tags on him.
- He wasn’t microchipped.
- She waited a week to report him missing.
- She didn’t call local shelters.
- She didn’t have him in a fenced yard or tethered so he couldn’t run away.
But I wonder… Are any of these reasons enough not to return her dog back to her?
I couldn’t help but think about the story I read last week about the homeless man whose pitbull had been stolen from him while he slept. The media fanfare that surrounded his story eventually led to the return of his dog. Yes, he is homeless. He will not be able to provide his dog food, shelter or medical care, but still I cheered when i heard they had been reunited.
Would I have felt like cheering if I had adopted his dog and then was asked to give him back? Would I have so willingly returned his dog to him? To be honest, I doubt it. Isn’t that sad? I feel bad even writing it. The truth is I don’t know if I could have given the dog back. I know it would not have been an easy decision.
Every day we are faced with decisions like these, decisions about who is worthy and not worthy of a pet. It always seems so easy looking from the outside in, but the more and more I ask myself what I would do the more and more I wonder if what I think I would do is what I would really do.
What would you do? Would you give Bear back? Would you have given the homeless man his dog back?