Last updated on November 24, 2015
A pet parent’s worst nightmare, next to having their pet pass away, is having their pet go missing. Over the past 10 years or so, my spouse and I have helped reunited at least a dozen lost dogs with their frantic families. The dogs seem to find their way to our house. If a dog goes missing, my wife and I like to joke that they find their way to us to help reunite them. It wasn’t always an easy capture, though. Here are three of the dogs we’ve rescued and how we reunited them with their pet parents. Read on and find out how you can help a lost dog.
Sitting in the home office, typing away, and the familiar jingle of dog tags made itself known.
“It can’t be happening again,” I mused to be my spouse.
“There’s a shih tzu in front of the house, Carol,” echoed towards the office.
Looking out the window, jaunting around the front yard and sniffing the lawn was Ginseng. At the time, we still subscribed to the daily newspaper. Perusing the lost and found, there was Ginseng with a $100 reward attached. Ginseng was, by far, the easiest catch of all. I sat on the front porch steps and beckoned, “here sweetie, come see me.” And Ginseng traipsed over. He was missing for three days and sauntered onto our lawn. Thankfully he had an identification tag on and we reunited him with his frantic mom.
I will never forget the two mutts who went missing – they belonged to our newspaper carrier at the time. She was headed out on her morning route, and her two dogs bolted out the front door. Amazingly, they sort of stuck together and were roaming the streets of our neighborhood. The paper carrier lived 20 minutes away by car, so they had a lot of roaming to do in order to make it our street. Again, that familiar jingle jangle of the dog tags could be heard. Initially, I spotted one of the smaller dogs and was able to lure him in by saying, “here, treat, want some treats?” I sat near the edge of the curb and let him approach me. He did and I snagged his collar. My spouse was not home at the time, so there I sat on the curb in my bare feet holding a dog by the collar. What a sight for sore eyes I must have been. NOT.
I took the little guy into my foyer. As I was looking for a spare leash, I see a medium-sized thinner and taller dog go racing by. I let the little guy home in my foyer and closed the door, but not before taking my dog, Dexter, with me. I have found that sometimes having my dog with me entices a stray dog to come when called. I also know this can be a risk and a loose dog can be frightened, angry, scared, and even bite, or all of the aforementioned.
We cautiously approached the dog, who bolted. I did not want the dog to go into the street. We stepped up our pace and occasionally shouted out words, including, “kitty,” “wanna go for a ride,” and “here puppy.” I even brought out the big guns and shouted, “squirrel.” After 45 minutes of following the dog in and out of yards and trying to keep up, we managed to corner him in a garage in someone’s back yard. I had an extra leash with me. At this point, my wife shows up and says she was going up and down the streets looking for me because she came home to a strange dog in our foyer. She was able to leash the loose dog, who was incredibly exhausted at this point. Dex and I needed a break, too.
No tags on either dog. Ugh.
I like to hold onto a dog when I find him or her. Sometimes I even wait an hour or two in case frantic pet parents are out looking. In this case, my instincts were right. I saw a car slow down on my street as the lady asked if we saw dogs running loose. When she saw the two dogs in our case, she cried. They were reunited. I explained how tags are a good idea and why along with microchipping.
Never a dull moment in my life.
Ultimate Escape Artist
I live in a small community of tree-lined streets, homes abutting each other’s backyards separated by hedges or fences. One street over resides Vixen and her family. Vixen is a gorgeous 6-year-old Boxer with a spirit of love and a zesty spunk any responsible dog owner would relish. I’ve “rescued” Vixen from the streets of our neighborhood FIVE times. 1, 2, 3, 4 and as of recently, six times!
Cooing, baby talk and liver treats on tap, Vixen comes to me with minor prompting. Me, on the ground, coo cooing to her and “come here, baby guuurrrrl” sweet talking Vixen to my leash-in-tow hands. Vixen responds in the “rub my tummy” position, allows me to leash her, and snarfs the treats into yummy-dom.
On this final time, I decided to call the cops. I knew where Vixen belonged, but I wanted his parents to take responsibility. She is such a good dog, honestly. And yes, I have been told to keep her and re-home her, but something deep inside me knows that is just wrong. I also know it is wrong that these people are not taking the situation seriously enough.
I’ve been to this woman’s house, asked her to watch her dog more closely, told her how it was running in traffic. I’ve recited the “please, ma’am, just keep an eye on her” speech and I even asked her neighbors if they could talk to her. Nothing has helped. Now on the fifth capture in two years, I called the cops. Maybe if an officer could explain that she has to watch her dog more closely. I always fear that telling the authorities may result in the owner “punishing” the dog. You never know how people will react.
I explained everything to the cop: my plight, poor Vixen, the escaping. Vixen sits, the look of crazed escapism in her eyes, darting to and fro, “can I run free now, can I run free?” She appears in good health, a few minor scrapes, but appears fed and in good condition. She dispenses licks freely, too. The officer is familiar with Vixen.
We finally are able to contact the owner, who pulls up… aggravated and frustrated in front of my residence. They got her out of work for this? Clearly, she isn’t happy. Neither am I. Knowing confrontation serves no one, I wait for the man in blue to take charge.
“Dammit, this dog does it for spite,” she speaks.
I kid you not. Spite. The dog. In Vixen’s mind, she concocts schemes to escape from a house, a yard and then roam a busy neighborhood peppered with cars and oblivious people to inconvenience her owner into getting her. Vixen needs to join a poker tournament with scheming skills of that degree.
Of the many things that dogs feel and the array of emotions they encompass, spite is not a part of a dog’s fiber.
The cop looked at me in the “oh Lord” sort of way and the owner rambled how she cannot keep Vixen secure. She works all day, the kids are busy, she has no time for this, this dog has been nothing but trouble. It gets free from the house. Opens doors, gets out of back yards, scales fences.
Finally I spoke. “Why are you keeping her?”
She had no idea what to say and took the leash, thanked the cop for his time, ignored me and walked away. As Vixen waggedly hopped into the car, I quipped one last time. “Please keep an eye on her.”
Most articles online give advice about how to find a lost dog, but very few tell people what to do if there is a lost dog out there and you happen to find him or her. I cannot begin to tell you the number of dogs we rescued from a highway or side of the street and got them in our car. We are very cautious about handling the dog: Anything from biting in fear, to disease, to dog fights can ensue. Thankfully, this has never happened to us. And I have a set of paw prayers I say every night that it never will happen to us…or to you.
Dogs roaming the street need your help. They do not belong there. A dog is roaming alone because:
A) You aren’t in the United States and it’s the norm in another area of the world;
B) He or she is lost;
C) The dog’s owner/parent is irresponsible and allows the dog to roam free;
D) The dog is living the life of a stray;
No matter the situation, he or she needs your help.
How to Help a Stray Dog
Don’t cause an accident: If you are driving along and spot a stray dog, your first instincts, like mine, might be to stop and get out and help. This can cause a major accident or worse. Pull to the side of the road safely, use turn signals, and put hazard/emergency vehicle lights on.
Animals can behave unpredictably, so use caution in trying to secure him or her. Restraining the animal is key but running after her may make things worse. One time, I opened my car door and the stray dog hopped right in. I carry a dog leash and collar with me along with a bottle of water, bowl, and some treats. I rotate them every few months. Most lost pets are exhausted, dehydrated, and/or hungry. They can be injured, so you need to be careful and make safety a priority.
Use caution in approaching the dog. Cornered pets may feel threatened. Here is a handy chart to assess a dog’s body language:
I know some people carry canned tuna or freeze dried liver pieces in their car. The scent is so pungent that it may lure the dog to you.
If the dog is snarling, growling, or you otherwise feel threatened, you cannot risk getting harmed. Try and stay with the animal and call for help. Depending on where you live, the party to contact will vary. In rural areas, the police might help. Sometimes the police have helped me with a recovered dog. Sometimes the police were called by the frantic owner and I was able to reunite a dog with his parent. In other cases. the local animal control agency will assist. In after hours situations, I bring the dog home with me if possible. I have had a lost Jack Russell Terrier spend the night in my guest bedroom, so it can and does happen.
Once the dog is safely in your care, the following is a checklist of who to call/connect with to try to reunite a lost dog with his owner/parent:
* If you decide to keep the dog until his owner is found, let animal control know. Pet parents should call local animal shelters to report a missing dog.
* The dog should have immediate medical treatment at an emergency hospital if there is any outward distress or injury. If you are keeping the dog until the owner is found, veterinary care should be provided in the event of internal injury or disease. You don’t want to expose your pet(s) or yourself to something if there is an issue.
* Place an ad in the local newspaper. Hang signs around town. If you opt for something like Craigslist, use caution. You want to be sure to reunite the dog with the rightful owner and not someone sinister who buys dogs on Craiglist for any number of horrific reasons.
* Check lost pet websites. More and more lost pets are reunited with their rightful owners because of lost pet websites. Start with Petfinder Lost and Found Pets
* Our friends at the Humane Society report that you need to check on any relevant laws in your state, county, or town and contact your local animal control agency, humane society or SPCA Many times the animal you find along the highway will turn out to be un-owned, unwanted, and unclaimed. Even so, the person finding the stray dog or cat does not automatically become the owner or keeper until he has satisfied certain state and/or local requirements.
When All is Said and Done
If you’re uncertain about whether or not to help or keep a stray pet you capture, please read this: If your dog went missing and someone found him or her, what would you want to happen? Would you want that person to keep the dog or try to get him back home?
Wouldn’t you want the finder of the dog to get him any necessary medical help and try to reunite you?
Your final question should be: Do I want this pet to be a permanent part of my household and my life? Am I prepared for this? Do I have the money to care for another pet? If not, then taking the dog directly to an animal shelter or contacting animal control for help is in the best interest of everyone.
Prepare for the Worst
No one wants their dog (cat, etc) to go missing. The best gifts you can give your pet to keep them safe and get them home fast if anything should happen includes:
1) Microchip the pet at the veterinarian’s office
2) Have a prominent, current ID tag on the pet – we also have a PetHub QR code scannable tag on our dog
3) Never let your dog roam free: I know this sounds like common sense, but a dog should not be roaming free. Period. A leashed dog is a safe dog. And a dog who does respond on voice command is great, and something my dog does, but I do not let him roam the streets.
4) Don’t let your dog walk by your side leash-less. I am seeing more and more of this disturbing trend. Passersby don’t appreciate a loose dog, and that’s what a dog without a leash is: loose. In most cases, it is also against the law.
If Your Dog Goes Missing
Read this article and bookmark it now. My dear dog buddy and amazing human being, and my bridesmaid, Sam Ratcliffe, penned this article on 12 ways to find a lost dog. Read it and keep it handy to share. 12 Ways to Find a Lost Dog.
Medicine Vs Mom
In an ongoing effort to bring you the best information from a dog mom’s perspective as well as a vet tech perspective, check out what Rachel Sheppard of My Kid Has Paws and her take. Click here for How to Help a Stray Dog from Rachel.
Did you ever find a lost dog? What do you do when you see a dog roaming alone?