A lost dog. It is every owner’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, as an adult I have only had this happen once and got lucky. Ari slipped under my dad’s fence while I was out town and I discovered her missing when I went to pick up the pack. In sheer panic I searched the neighborhood on foot, asking person after person if they had seen her. Those that had told me it had been hours before. During my search I ran into a group of kids riding their bikes and asked if she had crossed their path. She hadn’t, but sure enough an hour or two later one of them called me while I was still out searching. She came back in a trailer built for a toddler towed behind one of the bikes. I swear that dog was beaming. Tongue hanging out, panting from her grand adventure, she had no idea she’d almost killed me.
I remember the panic, and the relief of having her in my arms again. This was at least 10 years ago, and unfortunately, even with our advanced technologies too many dogs never make it home. Two recent losses come to mind, a member of our training club, and a family member’s dog. One has been gone over a year and the other about a month. Neither may ever come home, despite their owners continued outreach on social media.
Which is why I think it’s important you do everything you can to make sure your dog is found before they are lost.
Today most dogs are chipped, and it’s easy to feel like that is a protection, a shield. If your dog gets out, they will get scanned and come home. The problem is not every dog makes it to a scanner. It’s uncommon, but chips can stop working. Or you moved and didn’t update your information.
Hands down, the most important thing you can do to protect your dog is old fashioned. Get them a proper fitting collar and tags.
Right or wrong tags send out a signal when a dog is wandering the streets. I am loved. I have somewhere I am supposed to be. Someone out there is looking for me. An untagged dog, even a pampered one, can look like it has been on the street for months once it becomes ragged and dirty. If someone manages to ‘rescue’ them they tell themselves that this nice, adorable, dog wasn’t cared for. It’s easy to give it a home if no one ‘wanted’ it.
A tag with your number on it also cuts out any middleman or delays. If it’s the weekend, no one has to wait for a vet or shelter to open to look for a chip. I’ve found many dogs lose over the years and that is by far my preferred way to get them home again. So check your tags, make sure they are up to date and haven’t faded. See they are secure and that their collar is in good repair and still fits. Ella, being the monster, has lost two sets somewhere in our back yard. I don’t know how she manages it. So I replace them, again.
If you do find a lost dog, do not keep it. Take it to your local shelter, have it scanned. If you worry about it being euthanized adopt it after the hold stay. Dogs taken to the shelter are more likely to get reunited with their owners and it most places it is illegal to keep them.
Practice dog safety, always have them on a leash in an unfenced or unsecure area. Even the most well trained dog can get spooked or chase after a cat or wildlife. Master come and stay in case they slip their leash. Walk your yard often and check for escape routes, especially if your dog has access to the outdoors when you are not at home.
If your dog gets lost remember that they can travel far and fast, even if they are never picked up in a car. Contact your shelter and those in the surrounding areas. Visit them in person if you can and leave a flier. Same with vet clinics. If someone chooses to keep your dog the likelihood of a vet scanning a new patient just because is slim to none - unless they have seen your flier. Go door to door in your neighborhood, particularly in those first 24-48 hours. Utilize social media, there are many facebook pages for lost pets.
Hopefully you never have to live this nightmare. If you do, I hope these tips help you come out of it successful and back with your pup.
Have a suggestion on keeping your pet safe? Or have a story of being reunited with your own dog? Give us a bark back in the comments below.
Lisa (and Luna)