Help! I Lost My Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
It’s a beautiful afternoon, so you and your beloved dog are hanging out in your fenced-in back yard. You’re pulling weeds in the flower bed, and Rover is sniffing around the yard, looking for something to get into. After a while, by the heat of the midday sun, you’re reminded that you and Rover should both probably have some water, so you turn towards the house, calling your dog. But he doesn’t come. You call again, and there’s no dog in sight. Then you scream, your voice cracking, “Rover! Rover come!!!” But still there’s nothing. It seems as if Rover has disappeared into thin air, and panic begins to set in. What do you do?
Take a deep breath; try to calm yourself so you can be as efficient and methodical as possible. Head out into the neighborhood. Does your dog have a pooch friend at a neighbor’s house, or a nearby park where he likes to run around? Check those places first. Take a bag or pocket full of your dog’s favorite treats and a picture of your dog. If he has a favorite toy, especially one that makes noise, bring that too. Also, bring a flash light, even if it is broad daylight, for checking dark nooks and crannies around the neighborhood. If your dog has a pooch sibling, leash your other dog and bring him or her along; this might help coax your dog out. If you get together with friends to let all your dogs play, have them bring their dogs out too; your dog won’t want to miss out on a chance to play with his friends.
Don’t waste any time, and try to cover as much ground as you can in as short an amount of time as possible. Call your local friends, neighbors and family to help you search, and try to be as organized as possible. Fan out, but do so in groups of at least two so everyone is safe. In the first two hours after your dog has disappeared, try to cover a two mile radius around where your dog was last seen. Be as noisy as possible, but don’t call your dog with your stern voice. Use your happy, fun-time voice as if everything is ok and you’re just trying to get your dog to come out and play. From time to time, as you call for your dog, stop and listen carefully. If your dog is stuck or hurt somewhere, he might respond to your calls with a bark, howl, or whimper.
While you’re searching, have a friend posted at your house in case he comes home; make sure someone searches your property carefully. Your dog could have shimmied his way into a storm drain, crawl space, or other tight, dark spot and gotten stuck. Have another friend call the local shelters, rescues, vets, animal control and police to let them know that your dog is lost. Have them offer a detailed description of your dog, including breed, age, sex, unique markings, health conditions, and anything else that makes your dog special. If you live near a county line, call the respective organizations in your neighboring county. Chances are, this early in the game, your dog probably hasn’t ended up at a shelter yet. However, letting local humane societies and rescue organizations know who you are and what your dog looks like before he shows up is important. If he does end up at a shelter, they’ll know he is a wanted, cared-for family pet and will keep him safe until they can reach you.
Show everyone you come across the picture of your dog and ask them if they’ll help you look. Kids are great for this kind of search, but try to talk to large groups or kids with their parents. Children are raised to be weary of the “help me look for my lost puppy” ploy. Put them at ease by asking them if they would mind getting their parents to help look too, or if they could just continue playing where they are and keep their eyes open for Rover.
As it gets too dark to further pursue your search, head home. Put your dog’s bed, some favorite toys and a few articles of clothing you have recently worn outside. Your dog might be drawn-in by the familiarity and comfort. If your neighborhood has a crime watch, call and describe your dog. Ask who’s on duty for the night and if they would mind keeping an eye out for Rover. Then, make a lost dog flyer. Include a color picture of your dog with a written description. Include where and when your dog was lost, his breed, sex, age, weight, color, some specific markings, and your phone number. Do not include a complete description of your dog’s unique markings. You will need to make sure that people who call and say they have your dog are telling the truth; so if your dog has all white feet with one black spot, leave that out for later identification.
If your dog is female, be sure to mention that she is spayed, even if she isn’t. This will dissuade dog thieves from being tempted to use her for breeding. Also mention that your dog is a “family pet.” First of all, this garners sympathy, and implies that your dog is healthy and well cared-for. Furthermore, mention of the fact that your dog is a show dog or something else that sounds fancy might encourage uncaring opportunists to either keep your dog or try to blackmail you for a huge reward. Do state that a reward will be provided for the safe return of your dog, but do not specify an amount. Include your phone number, but leave out your name and address for your own safety.
Make at least 200 copies of these flyers and place them at gas stations, on bulletin boards, at grocery stores, on poles by stop lights (where people will have time to read them) and anywhere there’s heavy foot traffic.
Place an ad in the newspaper as well.
As Time Goes By
Over the next couple of days, get your friends to help you rotate through all the local rescues, shelters, and humane societies. Take some flyers and ask if they will hang them up. Visit shelters further away than you might assume your dog has traveled. If someone picked your dog up, they may have driven him to the closest shelter of which they are aware, which could be further than you think. You or one of your friends should visit every local shelter every day. Do not rely on shelters to identify your dog, especially if he doesn’t have any remarkable markings. Also, if your dog is a specific breed, inquire with area rescues for that breed. Don’t forget to call local vets and emergency vets to see if anyone’s brought your dog there.
Read the dog found ads in the paper every day, and follow every lead that could possibly be your dog. It is better to build false hopes than to miss the chance to reclaim your dog out of fear of doing so. You can also register your dog with an online organization like Fido Finder, Pets911, or another dog lost and found website. For a fee, some sites will even call around to help you look for your dog.
It is a sad prospect, but you should also call the local Department of Transportation and Animal Control and ask if any dogs fitting your dog’s description have been killed on the roads since your dog went missing. This is a difficult phone call to make, and you might be told something you don’t want to hear, but at least you’ll know. If your dog has passed away, in the long run, it is better to know the truth so you can move on than it is to forever wonder if Rover might come back.
When you receive calls from people saying they found your dog, be weary. There are many bad people out there looking to take advantage of the vulnerable. Ask them questions they couldn’t possibly answer unless they’re looking right at your dog, and make sure they can’t be answered by looking at the picture on your flyer. If the story rings true, arrange to meet this person in a public place and bring a friend. Just because this stranger has your dog doesn’t mean they are safe to meet privately.
Bear in mind that a common scam consists of someone calling from another state saying they found your dog, then asking for money to pay to send him home. A few carefully chosen questions about your dog should flush out these scammers.
Once you find your dog, don’t forget to take the flyers down.