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What to Do if Your Pet is Lost

I had a scary thing happen today. Max got out our back gate because the pool guy didn’t close the gate and properly latch it. I’d let him out to do his business and after a half hour (because sometimes he takes 20 minutes), I went looking for him. He wasn’t anywhere to be found. I grabbed a leash and went calling his name. My neighbor 2 doors down said that a woman had picked him up at the house across the street from me. She rang that doorbell, but not my own, and I’d just missed her driving away with him. She told my neighbor that she was going to come back to put up signs for him and she took his number but didn’t give him hers. So I gave him my number and then I put up a simple sign in my front yard:

Lost Pug – Maximus – along with my address.

I then waited by the front window and watched for the car matching her car’s description to drive by. I saw her drive by, look at the sign, and then she pulled into my driveway and I went out to speak with her. I told her I was indeed missing  a pug. She drove home (a few streets away) and brought back Max. He’s now tired out and resting from having played with her dogs for 3 hours. I thanked her profusely!

I was very grateful that my story ended this way because it could have ended another way.

So here’s what you do if this happens to you.
1. Don’t panic! (this is a hard one for me) and go outside looking for your pet. Bring treats and call their name.
2. Immediately ask your surrounding neighbors if they’ve seen your pet.
3. Immediately make a sign that says Lost Pet – Pet name – Pet Color – and your address on it to put up around your neighborhood. I’m the first house on my street so I put it up right next to my mailbox where it couldn’t be missed. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to get the point across. In Max’s case I wrote ‘LOST PUG – BLACK DOG – MAX’ and also put my house address.
4. Reach out to your local shelters to let them know that your missing your pet. Tell them your pet’s name, what your pet looks like, and give them your number so that they can call you if your pet is found. If you can, email them a picture of your pet.
5. Tweet about your missing pet. I’ve seen people do this recently on twitter, saying Missing X dog in Y area. This could help locate your pet faster. I didn’t do this because my neighbor had spoken to the woman, and she said she was coming back, so I was stuck waiting.

We’re very lucky that Max was only missing for a few hours. I definitely think it is critical to get a sign up immediately and talk to your neighbors when looking, as well as searching.

Other things that you can do for your pets:
1. Get your pet microchipped. Phaedra and Max are microchipped. This means that if they get picked up by animal control or anyone else, they should be able to read that they belong to us.
2. Always keep a small collar with identification tags on your dog. This is a no brainer, yet Dave had taken Max’s collar off. I’m getting Max a harness that doesn’t ever have to come off. Phaedra, as you know, always has a collar on.
3. If your dog has a medical problem, state it on the tag. I’m actually getting a new tag made for Phaedra that says she’s got Addison’s Disease because if she were to get out, if she didn’t get her DOCP shot she would die. She’s got to have that shot every 6 weeks. So my new tag for Phaedra will have her name, Addison’s disease, and my phone number.

So yeah, I had a stressful afternoon and I was worried about Max. I’m so glad he’s home safe.

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  • I’m glad you got him back! This would be really scary. I have two cats and they are NOT allowed outside. If I lost one of them I would be devastated. They both have collars with our address and phone number but they tend to get out of them. I only have one cat microchipped, maybe I should get the other one done as well.

  • I’m glad Max is okay! A local radio station in my city has started letting people call in with missing pets during the morning show, and encouraging people to call the station instead of the shelter if they find a dog or cat that matches one of the descriptions. If they have found the right pet (usually they’ll collect more information about the animal off the air so they can be sure that a caller’s found the right one), they then give them the phone number of the owner to arrange a pick-up. Over the last two months, they’ve helped at least eleven dogs and cats get back home.

  • Oh my gosh. I’m so so glad you got Max back safe and sound!

    I have three indoor kitties, one of which likes to go dashing out the front door (or into the garage, where she also isn’t allowed) if people make the mistake of leaving it open for even a few extra seconds. My roommates have spaced out and let her escape way too many times and they really should know better. It’s really frustrating. Thankfully I’ve always been able to catch them quickly and they’ve never left the yard, but I always get so stressed out that they’re going to run off.

  • So glad Max was found and got home to you safely and quickly. That’s every pet owner’s nightmare. I know it is for me and my kitties.

  • Whew!! I recently had an old high school friend lose their dog in a more heartbreaking way. The dog got hit by a car after escaping their yard. She was picked up by animal control, but they told my friend that she had severe I juries, would need a wheelchair too, IF she survived. My friend couldn’t afford the multiple thousands of dollars for this, so they had to say goodbye. However here’s where it gets strange. The dog somehow got rescued by a woman who got some organization to pay for the surgery. She is keeping the dog. Last status I heard was that the dog was being fitted for her wheelchair (she had lost a leg in the accident). I’m very happy the dog is alive, but I personally am a little angry and confused as to why the original owner wasn’t allowed to keep her after the organization paid for the surgery….but they are happy that the dog is alive and in a great home, so I kept my mouth shut! 🙂 I’m so glad Max’s escapade turned out much better!!

  • I liked that your lost pet story had a happy ending. It wouldn’t be fair for you to lose Max or Phaedra after all the time and thought you put into their care, especially when you love them so much. Where I live 50% of dogs are just guardians to their houses, never get in or pet and I think they look so miserable.
    When my labrador, Bambu, was 1 year old he got out the open door (just because young labs like to explore) and I (15) panicked instantly. He was microchipped, but we live next to very busy roads and some wild nature (as in lakes and mountains 2 minutes from my house), so I thought the worse. Then, I remembered he got scared by cars, and how he liked to be walked. Hurried to our standard walk route, and sure there he was, just walking by himself next to the road xD He probably thought “if something works, why change it?”. I loved that dog something fierce, and even if he’s dead now, when I think about him all I feel is happiness that we got the good fortune to have him, and viceversa.

  • I’m so glad that you got Max back so soon. I know that feeling, I used to have gardeners that would constantly leave the gates open, and the dogs would head out their dog door and go for a nice long walk. Mind you, the gardeners had to leave not one, but 2 gates open for them to get out, but it happened at least 3 times that I can remember. Luckily they had their tags on, and are micro chipped. I did have to report them missing to the local animal shelter once. Got them back late that night. I’ve lucked out that kind people have found them each time, and called and returned them.
    I’ve also picked up countless animals I’ve seen walking on the streets. I’m still surprised at how many people don’t have collars on their dogs. It would be so easy for me to get them home then, instead of having to put up signs or walk around neighborhoods. One time, as a last resort (I was going out of town and wasn’t able to keep a found dog), I had to take a girl into the shelter. Luckily the lady at the shelter recognized her right away and said ‘Did you find that dog?’, called the owner, and I dropped her home (sadly, they didn’t seem all that excited to have their pet back, nor terribly thankful for my trouble, but I was just glad the poor thing wasn’t wandering the streets in the heat of the California summer anymore).
    It’s late, I’ve written too much, sorry. I’m just glad that Max was found by a good person who returned him, and not someone who decided ‘Cool, free pet!’. Welcome home Max!

  • Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine how you felt. Well, I can and I never want to feel that. Thank goodness you have such good neighbors. I’m so relieved for you guys and Max.

  • Glad he was found so soon.

    In the Chicago and Illinois area there is a Facebook group for lost dogs and cats. You can post a found or lost dog/cat on there. It helps spread the news quickly especially when you use the share button.

    I joined both so I can keep up if there is any lost pet in my area.

  • How scary, I can remember those times it happened with my dogs. I’m so glad he’s back home safe. Your tips are great – especially not panicking and talking with your neighbors – they helped me a number of times, especially since they knew who my dogs were and that they lived with me. My dogs used to love to ride in the car, so I’d drive my car slowly around the neighborhood calling for them – and they would respond to that and jump into the car thinking they were going somewhere fun.

    Also a good point you made about checking on Max after 30 minutes – if your pet is taking longer than usual doing his/her business, it’s probably worth checking out what’s going on.

  • Happy to hear Max is ok! When my dogs were small puppies, he girl across the street came over and opened our gate and just let them free. I don’t know why, she was just an odd kid… It was definitely an adventure trying to round up 9 dogs!

  • Knowing your neighbors as a pet owner is sooo helpful, too. If people know you have whatever kind of pet and they see it, like one of our neighbors who lost their dog, they can do a lot to help you. 🙂

    I am so glad your ADORABLE boy was returned to you.

  • When our Ollie ran away last year, we also took the advice to leave food and a dog bed on our porch, along with draping used towels and bedsheets over the railing so that if he was lost, he could pick up the smell and follow it home. It worked! He was fast asleep on the porch the next morning.

  • Very good post. I would also add though do not just call the shelters- physically go there. Sometimes the description you give someone there translates differently to that person and they are picturing a different pet.

    My pets are microchipped, but with the current issue in Chester County, PA (one state over from me), and the cat Chrissy, I also just got new collars for all the cats and signed up for The Pet Protector with new tags, just to be extra safe.

    Short story: Chrissy is an indoor cat that escaped one day and was missing for months despite the family’s efforts to find her. The owner got a phone call from the SCPA saying they found her cat and contacted her from scanning the microchip. The owner was then later told her cat was given away to another family. The court date is approaching.

    Long story:

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