Ten days ago at this time I was feeling pretty low. My dog Maple had been missing for 14 hours. We were on vacation at the Delaware Beach, and she slipped her collar during a walk on the evening of August 11. She ran off, in a neighborhood she didn’t know. It was dark, and although we had sightings of her that night, we gave up our search around midnight, waiting for the light of day to resume.
If you’re on Facebook like I am, your feed is probably full of posts about missing pets. I always read them, and in the past I’ve felt sympathy for the pet owners and concern for the animals. But I had never been wearing the shoes of the lost pet owner before last week. Let me tell you, those shoes hurt. It’s hard to describe the level of helplessness you feel, knowing your little furry bundle of love is out there in the great big world, facing who knows what.
I am beyond blessed that my story has a happy ending: we found Maple shy of 24 hours after she ran away. My heart hurts for all the pet parents whose animals are still missing. I know that if we hadn’t found her, I would be mired in grief right now, feeling anxiety day and night about what had befallen her. So I am writing this to share the tactics we used to get her back, in case they help one of you recover a lost pet.
LostPetPR on Facebook. Only 2 hours into our search for Maple, in the darkness in a trailer park next to the neighborhood we were staying in, I met a woman named Andrea. We were driving slowly down the main street, and she was out walking her Dachshund and two Bassett Hounds. I got out to talk to her, and I learned she runs the local missing pet site on Facebook. We exchanged information, and she urged me to post Maple’s stats on LostPetPR. Andrea then proceeded to walk a large circle THREE times with her Bassett Hounds and flashlight that night. She was texting me until almost 1 am with advice about what to do. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did for us, complete strangers. I credit God for putting us on the same path that evening, because I just don’t think it’s coincidence. Many areas have Facebook pages that function just like LostPetPR. Social media is a powerful tool.
- Microchip Support. Maple has a microchip, and I went on-line to Home Again to report her missing. By the next morning, I received an email from Home Again listing all of the local veterinary clinics and animal shelters that had been notified Maple was missing.
- FindToto.com. I wasn’t aware of this website until Andrea told me to check it out. You enter the exact location where the pet was last seen, and they pull phone numbers in a radius around that point. They call the numbers in that area up to 4x in order to leave the automated message about your missing pet. I did end up using this service, and I paid $175 for them to call 1400 local numbers. I wasn’t sure about how useful this was going to be, but about an hour and a half after the calls went out, I received a phone call from a neighbor who got FindToto.com’s message, telling me she had spotted Maple! This phone call served to focus our search on a specific street.
- Fliers and canvassing. I made full page fliers with the intention of posting them all around the area. At Andrea’s suggestion, I also made 1/3 sheet fliers, to hand out to people who were out walking or jogging. As it turned out, the 1/3 sheet fliers were the best investment. After I got the phone call from the neighbor as I described above, we started canvassing the neighborhood on the street she was seen. We had three adults and three adolescents walking the neighborhood, handing out these fliers. We were fortunate to be staying in a community with sidewalks and bike paths, where people are out and about.
- Community support. By late morning on August 12, many people in our community were looking for Maple. She was seen several times but was continuing to run from everyone. Our message to people was to not call out or run after her but to call my cell phone to report her location. In the middle of the afternoon, a neighbor called me to say she saw Maple go behind some bushes behind her condo. She was sending her husband down to see if he could get Maple. I quickly got off the phone and jumped in my car to drive there. I didn’t make it the whole way before my phone rang again. It was my friend, calling to say he had Maple in his car! The neighbor’s husband was able to pick her up. She was home: dirty, tired, hungry, and thirsty, but uninjured.
Because I’m not just Maple’s mom but also her veterinarian, she got a thorough exam after her walk-about. She has some minor abrasions on her belly that didn’t require treatment. I removed a tick from her (she had Advantix applied about a week before she ran away). A few days after she was bathed, she seemed to be quite itchy. I didn’t see any fleas, but I was concerned about mange (Sarcoptes scabiei), so I applied a dose of Revolution. Her itchiness has subsided at this point, and her world seems to be back to normal.
Have any of you been through the horrors of losing a pet? What was the outcome? What tactics helped you find him or her?