Earlier this week, I spent nearly an hour helping my neighbor look for his runaway dog. He was stressed, desperate to finder her (a JRT named Jessie) before he had to leave for a business trip and I felt compelled to join the search. If Lana ran off, I think even the moral support of a ‘search party’ larger than myself would do wonders.
He took to the roads in his car and I combed the forest-y area around our town homes on foot. I carried a jar of dog treats that I shook every once in a while, assuming she would be more likely to come for food than to greet a girl she only met once. But honestly, I didn’t know. I didn’t know if she liked to chase animals and would go deeper into the trees. I didn’t know if she liked kids and would crawl under the fence to go to the school right next to our neighborhood. I didn’t even know if she was smart enough to stay off the road.
Eventually, our search lead us outside of the neighborhood. It was at that point in time I realized the gravity of the situation. I found myself peering into the distance, looking for a body in the road. My eyes kept darting to the sky to look for vultures. I began to panic. I didn’t have my phone on me, and I had reached a large intersection, with no guess which direction to head.
I jogged back home, deciding the best decision was to call animal control – what I probably should have done first thing. I’m happy to report that as I was jogging home I ran into my neighbor, and he had found little Jessie when he headed the opposite direction on the main road.
Jessie was lucky she was found quickly. But pets get loose often, and aren’t always found. Sometimes it takes hours, days, months. Sometimes they are never found. Animals are unpredictable and don’t always make the best decisions, so it is best to prevent your dog from running away. That being said, I believe it is incredibly important to know what to do if your pet does manage to get loose.
-Most dogs should be on leash or in a fenced in area. You know your dog and I don’t, but everyone thinks bad things won’t happen to them. And bad things definitely do happen. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.
-Dogs and cats should always wear collars with updated tags.
-Collars can slip off! It is best to also have your pet microchipped. Again, make sure your information is up to date.
-Make sure your dog is fixed. Unneutered males are extremely likely to run off if they smell a female in heat. Males are said to be able to detect females in heat up to three miles away! It is not uncommon for unaltered males to climb fences, break through screens, etc. to appease their mating instinct, no matter how well behaved they normally are.
-Be extra careful taking your dog outside around New Years and the Fourth of July. Another common reason dogs run away is fear, and many dogs fear the loud noises caused by fireworks. In fact, the fifth of July is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, and January first is the second busiest. Any guesses why?
-Keep an eye on your fence, if you have one. The day we adopted Desi, she crawled under our fence and ran down the street. There had been a space between the bottom of the fence and the ground, and it took her almost no time to dig and run for it. Some dogs are known to dig, so fences may need to have concrete poured underneath to keep digging dogs in. (Seriously, we had a Lab once who needed this level of security.)
-There is a smartphone app called Tagg Pet Tracker. It is a GPS tracker that looks like a collar. The app is free. The tracker itself, however, is not free. There is also a monthly subscription fee. It’s up to you to decide if the cost is worth it.
If your dog (or cat) goes missing:
-Obviously, look for your pet yourself near your house. Anyone willing to help should be utilized. The sooner you find your pet, the better you’ll feel and the less chance they have of getting hurt or ‘adopted’ by a well-meaning stranger.
-Always make sure there is a fairly recent picture of your dog. Even better if you have a picture of you and your dog, in case you need to prove your dog does actually belong to you.
-Immediately contact animal control, your local shelters, and local veterinarians. Describe your dog and leave them your contact information.
-Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Share your dog’s picture and last known location on your Facebook and any local animal group pages. You could also try Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You never know when luck could be on your side. Also, see if you can use a source like a newspaper (or news website) to get the word out.
-There is a lost pet website called FidoFinder.com (for dogs) and one called TabbyTracker.com (for cats) where you can register lost pets.
-Let your neighbors know your pet is missing. You could hang posters with your pet’s picture and your contact information for any nearby neighbors who might not know you or recognize your pet. I would also hang posters in the windows of pet supply stores/pet service businesses if they allow it. If someone picked up your pet and wanted to buy supplies to care for it (hopefully until they turned it in), they could notice your poster.
-Sometimes search and rescue dogs are trained to search for other animals. I have heard of their handlers assisting in lost pet searches for a small donation.
If you see your dog and he doesn’t want to come to you, try running away from him. If he’s refusing to come because he’s teasing you, he may think you want to play tag and chase you. This especially works well with puppies. Otherwise, bring a nice, edible bribe while looking for your lost dog, or even a toy he or she loves!
Hopefully you never lose your pet, but if you do, I wish you the best of luck finding them.
Keep your friends close, and your dog closer!