By Shannon Hunt
It’s one of the worst feelings imaginable: the panic that sets in when you realize your dog is missing. It happens to someone every two seconds, often when the dog is in someone else’s care, or in an unfamiliar area.
Most pets are back with their family in the first few hours, but the odds of a reunion drop dramatically after that first day. You may not want to even think about it, but the good news is that there are quick, easy, and very effective things you can do right now — when your pet is safe and right next to you — to make sure you’ll always find your way back to each other.
Alert your social networks
Let your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know what’s happening, especially the ones who live in your town and can help in the search. But even those who don’t live nearby can still help by sharing or re-tweeting to get the word out; one worried owner found his dog on Facebook after his post was shared by more than 20,000 people in a single day.
Besides your own friends list, you can post a notice on one of Facebook’s many lost-and-found pet pages (just type in “lost dog” and your city) and on local community pages, or start your own page dedicated to bringing your pet back, with photos and real-time information and sightings. Twitter also provides a lost-and-found service; just use the hashtag #lostdog and your local area.
Make those posters count
Sure, putting up “lost dog” fliers is pretty much a no-brainer, but the more eye-catching, the better. Keep it very simple, with more white space on the page than words. The three most vital things are the words “Lost Dog,” a photo or description, and your contact info.
There are templates on the Web that can give you a professional-looking flier for free, just by entering your dog’s info and uploading a photo (Lostmydoggie.com will even fax it to nearby vets and shelters at no cost).
Print out a minimum of two hundred fliers, and put them everywhere. Hit all the public bulletin boards, ask local merchants to display them, knock on doors, and don’t forget postal carriers and delivery drivers. Offer a reward, but don’t list an exact amount in order to avoid scammers.
Seek out dog people
Local pet rescues are usually happy to help out, from notifying their volunteers to be on the lookout to placing a “Lost Dog” alert on their own websites or Petfinder pages.
Alert all veterinarians within a thirty mile radius, increasing that by ten miles every few days she’s not back. A Good Samaritan will often bring a lost dog to a vet instead of to a shelter, injured or not; the vet can also watch for any new patients that fit your dog’s age and description, in case whoever finds her decides to keep her.
Call animal control, your local police department, and highway patrol, which would know of reports of a dog on the loose. Check all the shelters in your area in person rather than relying on the phone; the person who answers may not have updated information.
Try a virtual ad
Sites like pets911.com, fidofinder.com, lostadog.com and petfinder.com allow you to place a free lost dog notice online, as well as check a database of found pets in your area. And while Craigslist’s “lost and found” section covers all missing items, including wallets and phones, research shows it’s the most successful way to reunite with your pet online. Even if you don’t find your pet there, it’s routinely checked by local pet rescuers, and they will often volunteer to help with your search. Go to your local “community” section to post a “lost” ad and search the “found” ads each day. Make sure to check all your surrounding cities as well.
Enlist some hired help
Though you’d like to be able to notify every business and talk to every neighbor for miles around, it’s not possible for just one person. That’s why a number of companies offer to do it, alerting every single person within a specified radius — up to 100 miles — of where your pet was last seen.
Starting at around $50, sites like PetAmberAlert.com, GetMyDog.com, LostMyDoggie.com and FindToto.com will make automated phone calls to all homes in the targeted area. They can even make professional fliers that they fax or email to local businesses.
Another option is hiring a pet finder service, which uses CSI-like techniques, tracking equipment, and specially trained search dogs. Fees vary widely, but you can get a phone consultation with a pet detective for around $40 that will help narrow your search based on your local area and your pet’s last sighting. You can find one in your area by going to Missingpetpartnership.org’s National Pet Detective Directory.
How to make sure your pet never goes missing in the first place!
Enforce the rules. Your family may know to always close the door or back gate behind them, but anyone else who visits — a contractor, babysitter or even a pet sitter — may not pay attention until it’s too late. Make sure visitors know to always keep the gates tightly closed (something that folks without pets don’t routinely worry about). If you’re not there when the landscaper or contractor arrives, leave a note on the gate so they can’t miss it.
At Cesar’s Way, we strive to be a single pack, and packs have rules, boundaries, and limitations. Here are ours for the comments:
Also, please note that because of volume, we are unable to respond to individual comments, although we do watch them in order to learn what issues and questions are most common so that we can produce content that fulfills your needs. You are welcome to share your own dog tips and behavior solutions among yourselves, however. Thank you for reading our articles and sharing your thoughts with the pack!