If your dog gets lost, do you know the steps to get your dog home again? Here are the crucial steps to go through in hopes of getting your dog home safely.
Knowing what to do if/when your dog gets out of the house and doesn't come back is important. No one wants their dog to get out of the yard, or out the front door but it can happen. Maybe, the dog was able to push the door open when he saw a squirrel run by. Perhaps, a child opened the door and the dog ran out. It can happen. It does happen and knowing what to do is crucial to be able to bring your dog back home.
When my elderly neighbor's dog named Chelsea got out the house in the middle of winter last year, I, too was unsure of the steps to take. As a dog owner/lover myself, I felt the need to do what I could to bring her little dog home. With below zero freezing temperatures, and snow on the way, our time was limited.
CALL ANIMAL CONTROL
After hearing the dog, had gotten out of the house and had not returned, I immediately placed a call to our local Animal Control to put the word out in hopes anyone happens to pick her up or gets a sighting of the dog. I also got a picture of the lost dog and posted it in the Animal Control Officer's Facebook group.
MISSING DOG FACEBOOK GROUPS
Next, I took the same picture of the missing dog and posted it within a local community lost dog group on Facebook. Not sure of your local missing dog groups Just search out your town's name and the words 'lost pet' to find local pet groups for assistance.
After I posted about my elderly neighbor's lost dog in one of these groups, something amazing happened. It was then being circulated all around our town and then some, via Facebook! First 9 shares, then an hour later 50 shares, 2 hours later it was shared more than a 100 times! People I didn't even know where sharing a picture of a dog they knew nothing about, except that she was lost.
CALL LOCAL NON-EMERGENCY POLICE
Yes! Next is to call your town's non-emergency phone number (not 9-1-1) to report the missing dog. I felt silly at first calling the police but I was advised by the police that many people call them to report seeing a stray or unknown dog running around.
Dogs can smell items a long ways off. If your dog gets lost, you want to remind them where home is. Put familiar scented items on your door step. Their bed, a familiar blanket, dirty clothes with your scent on them are all great choices! Leave the items by your front door until the dog is back home.
POST UP FLYERS
Another way to get the word out about the missing dog is to create flyers. The flyers should include a picture of the dog, her name, any specific markings, her temperament and your contact number. Don't forget your contact number! Print the lost dog flyers in black and white on neon colored paper.
Next, you will want to pick up clear plastic sleeves or gallon-size zip-loc bags for the flyers to slide into. These are great to help keep weather elements such as rain or snow from destroying the flyers. Hang the flyers on many telephone poles within your neighborhood. We used a staple gun as well as nails and a hammer. Use whichever works better for you.
After notifying the animal control officer, the non-emergency police, Facebook groups as well as posting up flyers, the hardest part begins.
It is very difficult to just sit there and wait. Letting your mind wander, thinking where could your dog be, praying they are safe.
While waiting, check where the groups you posted to on Facebook. When I was looking for my neighbor's dog, someone had posted they had seen the lost dog. That one little sighting kept us motivated and hopeful she would soon come home! If you don't get a sighting, just keep sharing to social media, updates and flyers. Don't give up!
MISSING DOGS MASSACHUSETTS
Another organization I found out about in our search for my neighbor's dog is Missing Dogs Massachusetts (MDM). They were instrumental in keeping us calm, helping us look for the dog, networking and setting up flyers. The people that work at MDM are all volunteers helping dog owners bring home their beloved lost family dog.
From their website, "Missing Dogs Massachusetts (MDM) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that works to reunite missing and found dogs with their families." But it's more than that...the woman who was assigned to us, was open, honest and supportive. She called myself, another neighbor who was also assisting and the elderly women whose dog was missing. She talked to us, gave us hope, ideas and led us through the process of finding Chelsea. Her and another volunteer have full-time jobs and when they're done with their jobs, they head out and help others. Their passion for finding missing pets is inspiring. Their work won't be overlooked and I'll be donating to them.
MDM is a non-profit that depend on the community for all that is needed to help these dogs. Donations help fund vital elements including printing costs, gas, equipment, educational materials, outreach, and technical support. Please consider donating.
What happened with our search for my neighbor's dog? On the 4th morning devastation was setting in. We wondered what would be next. How do we move on? Chelsea isn't even my dog, yet I was riding the rollercoaster of emotion as we struggled to find this dog. I put myself in her shoes and as a dog lover, I knew I had to keep doing what we were doing.
A friend and I had been out canvassing the neighborhood multiple times, walking up down railroad tracks near our home, snow piles, and our hilly streets posting up flyers, checking under bushes and parked trucks for the dog. We had mentioned the railroad track area to volunteers at MDM. That afternoon one of the MDM volunteers asked a neighbor near the railroad tracks if they could set up a camera to see if Chelsea was in that area. There were tiny footprints in the snow.
They didn't have any luck on the camera however, the volunteers wanted to check out the railroad track area we had told them about. Less than an hour later, I received the best news ever. They found the dog in a ravine near the railroad tracks! Unharmed and just patiently waiting for someone to come save her. Kind of like 'it's about time you found me!"
The volunteers from MDM somehow spotted her from a long ways off. I still don't know how they were able to spot her. Chelsea is the same color as trees/rocks/snow and she camouflaged well in the woods. To say that this little dog was able to survive four nights, in below freezing temperatures in the woods with coyotes, foxes and a recently seen bobcat is nothing short of a miracle.
We each played a vital part in Chelsea coming home and we couldn't have done it without one another. The community of neighbors and the strangers on Facebook is both overwhelming and amazing!
Facebook Directory of Lost Pet Groups in New England
HELPING LOST PETS
If you see a lost or stray dog in your neighbor, please contact your local Animal control officer, the Local Police or Helping Lost Pets.