There are times we have to be prepared to take action without delay. We never plan to have a crisis. We never plan to be separated unexpectedly from our family and pets.
Now, the unthinkable has happened – your dog is lost or stolen. You must take immediate action to hope to find your beloved companion. Pets, like children have a better chance to be found within the first few hours of becoming lost. Make it easier on yourself, have an action plan ready, and hope you never have to use it.
Now, before we go too much farther, let me suggest that before this tragedy occurs, you be sure you have identification information on your dog in the form of ID tags, and that you have a good picture of your dog in your home readily available to share with others. You may not feel you need tags on your dog, but statistics show that a dog with tags is more apt to be helped than one considered "just a stray". For some reason, people tend to think a dog with tags is a dog "lost".
Besides pet ID-tags, microchipping helps ensure that Dog (substitute Smokey, Lady, your dog’s name) makes it home to you. The only problem here, is that people can not see the microchip without a scanning device. They may not view the dog as owned without a collar and tags. Please consider doing both for your best friend.
Keep a contact list for emergencies by your phone, and perhaps on a card in your wallet. This needs to list important contacts and their phone numbers. Include your Veterinarian, the local animal shelter, breed rescue group, local law enforcement and/or animal control, and so forth.
What you do in the first few minutes after you discover that your dog has been stolen or is lost, may help you get your best friend back.
First, check the house, the yard, your garage, and any place that Dog may have gotten within the confines of the immediate area. This means looking in closets, under beds, behind the entertainment center if it does not fit snugly against the wall. Leave no area unexamined. Sometimes that "lost" baby is just sleeping really soundly in an unlikely place like under the bottom bookshelf in a very narrow space. Dog may have found a spot behind the floor-length curtains that offers a sense of privacy.
Grab your flashlight and take it with you while you search for Dog. Yes, even in the daylight. There probably will be places that are darker. Your flashlight will help you check them. Look in culverts, under porches, any place under which Dog might be able to wiggle or squeeze.
After you have determined that Dog truly is not on the premises, reach out to all of your immediate neighbors. Did they happen to see Dog? This is a time I highly recommend enlisting the help or your neighbors and their children if they are willing. Call or visit all the people in the area. Leave your name, number, and a picture of the dog. You might quickly add that picture of Dog on to a business card you print on the computer with your name, contact number (home and cell), and address. Hand the cards out to the neighbors as you go. Ask each for help.
For your safety, please do not go alone. Go by twos or more. Remember the grade school rule of buddies? This is a good idea here also. Help each other and ask if anyone saw anything different or unusual in the area. Dog may have followed someone out of the yard if the gate became unlatched. Who was there? Was a delivery made? Perhaps your gate was open just a few moments, and Dog took the opportunity to go on an exploration.
While you are out, carry a squeaky toy and Dog’s favorite treats. Call Dog. Stop and listen often to try to hear Dog. If Dog knows about dog whistles, use one. Use a flashlight to look in culverts, holes, under porches, and places that are not well lit. Keep your safety in mind also. You can not help Dog if something happens to you.
Remember that list of important contacts. Use it now. Call your veterinarian. Call the local animal shelter. If you have a pure-bred dog, call the breed rescue group in your area; if you adopted through a rescue group, be sure to alert them and solicit their help. Enlist the help of the local shelter staff to watch for Dog. Call the other area veterinarians, pet groomers, feed stores, your local radio station if they do public service type announcements of lost pets, and just about anyone else you think might be able to help.
Get up flyers as soon as possible. Post these in a 3-mile radius from where Dog was lost right away so that you are ahead of Dog and he/she may be spotted and saved for you. Be sure to include a description along with a good picture of Dog. Put on your phone number(s). Use neon poster board backing and water-proof ink or markers. Make lettering big enough to be read from a passing car. Put posters in sheet protectors so they last longer in wet weather; tape shut.
Often pet groomers, pet supply and feed stores are good sources of help. Post flyers with them. Let them know Dog is lost and ask them to help be on the alert.
Take flyers to the animal shelter, your animal control office, everyone that is involved with animals. This includes the 4-H dog leaders, shelters, area dog trainers. Again, anyone you can contact that might help is a good resource in your quest to get Dog back home again. You can put signs on your car and park so people see the signs with the information on Dog.
Keep in contact with your neighbors and those at shelters, your veterinarian, your groomer and so forth. Personally go to the local animal shelters or pounds and look for Dog. Sometimes people do not "see" what is before them and may miss that Dog just came in through the doors.
Do not give up. Go to the Internet for more help. Use your browser to search for "lost pet". Put out the information on Dog on the sites you find. Look through the found sections for information that might be about Dog. Keep your listings current. There is an "Amber Alert for Pets" that you may find with your browser. They will help you look for Dog. Use the "Find Toto" or "K9Alert". Get the information out there. Some sites will ask for a nominal registration fee. Some are free. Whatever you do, the more information you get out there to find Dog, the more likely you are to get Dog back.
Again, do not give up. Be proactive and keep in touch with those previously "touched".
When you find Dog, remember to thank everyone who helped you and remove all the flyers posted. Let your veterinarian, the shelter, the animal control staff and others know that Dog has been found. Again, thank them for helping.
This is a lot to digest, and it is only the tip of the information available on what you should do if your pet is lost or stolen. Use a little time to search the Internet before you need to know the information and procedures.
Now, take time to do some things that we hope you never need.
Take some current pictures of Dog for identification purposes. Get good, clear shots that will help others be able to identify Dog in a crisis. Most family snapshots do not make Dog stand out from all the other similar family pets. Show Dog’s special features and keep the background simple, so Dog is the full focus of the picture. Try taking a "head" shot and a "side" shot so that you have two good views of Dog and show any special markings.
Update the ID-tags on Dog’s collar. Be sure that current phone numbers are on the tags. If you travel, put where you are on a temporary tag so that Dog still has a chance to come back to you.
Talk to your veterinarian about microchip implants and tattoos. These are good ways to help Dog get back home after any misadventures.
Go hug Dog and have a safe, wonderful life together.
This article is copyrighted by Irene Cook who is a co-owner of this web site CollarCrazy.com. The author is a dedicated dog lover and active in greyhound rescue. She enjoys her canine companions and family, frequently mixing the two. You may meet Irene and the "Crew" at local Meet ‘N’ Greets, PetFests, Holiday Bazaars and so forth.