I was walking my dog recently when I overheard two women in a car yelling out a name. They were driving slowly, and as they passed me they stopped to ask if I had seen their dog, who had jumped out the open window of the car not ten minutes earlier. He wasn’t wearing a collar or harness, and they had no idea where he had gone. Both women were shaken. “We lost him. Oh my god, we lost him,” sobbed the woman in the passenger seat.
“People really don’t know what to do when their dog goes missing or when they find a lost dog,” says Susan Taney, the director of Lost Dogs Illinois (LDI), a volunteer-based organization that provides education and resources to people on both ends of the lost pet spectrum and has helped over 22,000 dogs find their way home since 2010. The problem is that people don’t know where to start, or they focus exclusively on one mode of action when a multi-faceted approach is necessary.
When people lose their dog they panic, says Taney. “They send out search teams and start calling or chasing the dog. Frantic, worried people make the dog hyper-alert. Dogs are very intuitive and they know when they are being pursued. Then they’ll move out of the area, or worse, into traffic.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about those women and their poor missing dog. I still keep an eye out for him, just in case. And I wonder: What if someone else finds him, a collar-less, harness-less dog? What are the chances of him actually reconnecting with his caregivers?
LDI, which is partnered with Helping Lost Pets (HeLP), the largest lost/ found pet database in the U.S., provides a host of resources for people in both situations. On their website you can file a report if you have lost or found a dog. Listings are posted on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and shared among their 100,000+ followers. Here are the five things they say you should do if you find yourself in the harrowing situation of losing a dog or finding one.
In either scenario, working with others is key. Says Taney, “On our own page, we have fans and volunteers who match lost dogs with other pages, Craigslist, and shelter websites. There are groups in the Chicagoland area who help families with flyering, and then help with capturing the dog. Some of these same groups have scanners so when a dog is found, they can scan for a microchip.” A lost or found dog is a big deal and requires community effort. With organization like LDI and HeLP, you never have to work alone.
Lost or found a cat? The same advice applies! If your cat is lost, follow the advice above. If you find a cat, keep in mind that not all stray cats belong to homes. If you’re able to capture the kitty, check for a microchip or tags. If you find them and/or if the cat seems social and people-trusting as a pet cat would likely be, follow the advice above as well.