Last week my dog wiggled her way out of her harness in our backyard and ran off. Thankfully, this story has a great ending. I want to share what I learned so you will be prepared if your beloved pet decides to go on an unplanned adventure.
On every website I looked at, while frantically searching for what to do, I read that dogs should wear a collar at all times with contact information, including the name of the pet and the owner’s phone number.
Sadly, I did not have a collar on my dog at the time. I have always heard that it’s much harder for dogs to get out of a harness than a collar, so I have always put my younger dog in a harness because she is so squirrelly.
However, Gwynnie did not have any identification information on as she raced through the neighborhood.
Knowing that, I did the first thing that came to my mind. I walked and drove through the neighborhood, calling her name. After about an hour of searching, I went home and regrouped. Searching wasn’t working.
I got on my computer and looked for suggestions on the Humane Society of the United States website, which gave me the following tips:
Contact local animal shelters and animal control agencies and file a lost pet report.
Search the neighborhood. Ask neighbors, letter carriers and delivery people if they have seen your pet. Hand out a recent photograph with information on how you can be reached if your pet is found.
Advertise. Post notices at grocery stores, veterinary offices, traffic intersections, pet supply stores, etc. Also advertise in the local newspaper. Include the pet’s gender, age, weight, breed, color and any special markings.
Try the Internet. Post information about your lost pet on social media sites.
The website for well-known dog trainer Cesar Millan (cesarsway.com) says to take bait when searching for your dog. The site says to take your dog’s favorite toy and treats and use them to lure your pet to come to you. Millan’s site also says it is a good idea to have a microchip implanted in your dog.
Microchipping involves implanting a rice-grain-sized chip under a dog’s skin. Even if a dog loses its collar, the microchip allows your dog to be positively identified as yours. Luckily, Gwynnie was microchipped when she was 8 weeks old, so I had hope that someone might take her to a shelter or veterinary office to have her chip scanned.
When I called Columbus Animal Care Services (columbus.in.gov/animal-care-services), it encouraged me to make posters and place them around the city. The shelter employee said many times people want to help, but don’t know how to contact the owner. I also called the Bartholomew County Humane Society (bartholomew
humane.org), where I learned that I should place an advertisement in The Republic.
The woman said that sometimes people wait until they see a lost-dog advertisement in the newspaper before they do anything with the animal they found.
With this new knowledge, I printed posters about Gwynnie and placed them throughout the neighborhood and at various popular consumer stops in the area. Thankfully, she was taken in by a helpful neighbor who was able to identify me through the posters I placed in the neighborhood. This was a stressful situation, but I am extremely grateful to know there are dozens of people who were willing to help.
After Gwynnie was found, I read on petfinder.com that it is important to have current photos of your pets so you can create posters that will help people identify your animal. Luckily, I’m a crazy dog person and have dozens of photos of both of my dogs.
Paige Harden is a lifelong resident of Columbus. A former Republic reporter, she is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.