Our dog, Hank, spends hours hunting in the woods, always sure to make it home before dark. That is, up until one dreary November day when he was lured away from the property by a seductive chocolate lab. We searched for almost a week, following the steps below, until we finally found him less than a mile down the road snuggled up in the sun with said female. Having a pet go missing is a heart-wrenching experience, but if you find yourself in the situation, these tips just might help you find your loved one.
1. Start close.
Check all areas of your home once you realize your pet is not around, just in case your pal is hiding or sleeping somewhere out of plain sight. Think along the lines of under the bed, behind appliances, closets, cabinets, etc. Once you’re sure they’re not in the house, check likewise hiding spots outside. Cruise around slowly through the area to see if you can catch a glimpse of them running around. If you bring a photo along, you can ask neighbors and anyone else you pass by if they've seen your pet.
2. Make some calls and knock on doors.
Calling your local animal control, shelter, vets, and rescue groups may provide you leads at the least, if your pet hasn’t already been found by one of these organizations. However, descriptions and time lines may not match up perfectly, making it hard for those on the other end to identify your pet. If calling doesn’t get you anywhere, take the staff photos of the animal, a microchip number if they have one, and your contact information. Check back regularly for updates.
3. Spread the word.
Social media is one of the best tools for getting information out to a wide range of people quickly. Make a "Lost Pet" post, including photos, on Facebook and ask friends to share. There may be local groups or pages catered specifically to lost pets in your area. Put an ad on Craigslist. Tweet about it. Place an ad in the paper. Call in to an AM radio program. Sure, that one may be catered more towards buy/sell/trade, but you're still reaching a local audience. The more people you involve in your predicament, the more chances you have of coming into contact with someone that knows something.
4. Create and post flyers.
Use a bold headline and a colorful image at the top of the page to draw attention to your flyer. Include a recent photo of the pet, a description of them, when and where they were last seen, and lastly, your contact information. If possible, provide 2 phone numbers in case one cannot be reached. Offering a reward gives people an incentive to keep a more watchful eye out if nothing else. (Just be leery of scams!) Place them anywhere and everywhere you can; gas stations, grocery stores, street lamps, churches, restaurants, schools. If you have the resources to create large posters or signs, go for it!
5. Stay positive.
This might be the hardest part of all. Days or weeks may go by without any leads, which can be quite discouraging, but don't give up hope! Since the process can be emotionally and physically exhausting, take some time to regroup. Think about places or people you haven't checked out, and start again with a clear head. Remember that a happy reunion with your family pet is possible, even months after they've been gone.
There are also a few things you can do prior to losing a pet that can help avoid this situation entirely. Make sure that fencing and kennels are secure. Keep a collar and tag on them at all times with up-to-date contact information. Consider having them microchipped, as most shelters will scan new arrivals for them. Spayed or neutered pets are far less likely to flee when tempted by those that are not. Following all of the above guidelines won't guarantee that your pet will never slip away, but they'll definitely increase the likelihood of getting them back safely.
The Humane Society has a few suggestions, and more links to follow on this subject.
Register your dog on FidoFinder, a lost dog database, to have an additional resource to check.
You can watch the tips and Hank in action here!