I was heading out of the house one afternoon to run errands when a little white dog ran down the road happily. Eyeing the road for a human companion not far behind, there were none to be found. The next stop after my driveway? A busy street. In the air, rain came down.
“Hey!” I called out.
The dog looked at me.
“Come here!” I cheered with a smile in my voice, hoping to entice him to my house.
It worked. The dog wiggled his whole way down the driveway, as if he’d run and run, waiting until he’d found my front door.
I gave the dog a once over, trying to find some identification, but there was none to be found. He was wearing a harness but no tag, no collar. I poured him some dog food that I keep on hand for just such an emergency and called our local animal rescue, but no one had reported him missing. I left my number just in case and told them I’d keep him until his people came looking. I couldn’t stand to think of him in a cage. I pored over the Lost Pet pages on Facebook to see if anyone in our city had reported a missing dog. No such luck. I left a message and a picture with his whereabouts in case his family came looking.
Then I grabbed a leash I keep for such circumstances, attached it to his harness, and walked him to my car in the rain. He hopped inside like it was just what you do, and we drove down the street. I wound up and down roads in the rain, hoping I’d see his people outside searching for him, but when I pulled over to a lady walking her own dog, she didn’t recognize him.
David was coming home for lunch, and I was supposed to be making food for us. Instead I’d gotten sidelined by an adorable dog, lost from his home. With an old painting canvas and permanent markers, we made a sign that could withstand the rain to post at the end of the street with our number.
I whipped something up for David and I to eat and then took my friend to a local vet to look for a microchip.
“He’s chipped, but there’s no information on him that I can tell,” the veterinary assistant told me. “Try these other numbers.”
I called the number of the registry, the location where he was chipped, and an overall kennel club, but no one knew who he was.
Back at our house, my new friend relaxed next to me in the living room. He seemed a little bored, and I wondered if there were children at his home who would usually be playing with him about now.
Around that time my neighbor called. Another person in the neighborhood was missing a dog, and they’d seen my sign. Sure enough, it was her dog. The dog lived a mile down the road. They had an invisible fence, but it wasn’t working. A door had gotten left open and he was off.
As we said our goodbyes that night, I thought it would be the last I’d see of Griffin. (That’s his name.) Until Thanksgiving came…
Thanksgiving morning around 7 am I was checking my messages, when I noticed a private message on Facebook in my “other” folder. It was from a stranger who had seen the picture I put on the Lost Pet page in our town. She recognized the dog and said he was loose again. She asked if I knew the phone number of his human companions.
At first I was suspicious. He was lost again? Could that be right? Do I call my neighbor early on Thanksgiving? If it’s not her dog, I hate to bother her, but if it is her dog, of course, she’ll want to be contacted. I sent her a text.
“Hi. This is the person who found Griffin last time. If he’s missing again, I know where he is. Someone contacted me….”
She called. It was her dog. The night before, Griffin was in a hurry to go to the bathroom, and so she let him outside while she quickly got her coat. By the time she got outside, he was gone. She and her husband had gone looking for him in their truck, but with no luck.
That night it got down to about twenty degrees. Apparently around 4 am, Griffin had gone to a house and started barking outside until someone let him in. It was a family member of that person who searched on Facebook, found the picture, and contacted me.
Thankfully, I was able to connect Griffin’s family with the people who had him, and they picked him up that Thanksgiving morning.
It’s actually happened multiple times that we’ve found lost dogs and cats in our neighborhood, and so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way.
If you find lost dogs or cats in your area, here are some things to remember:
1. Obviously be careful around lost animals who may be hurt or scared. Griffin was incredibly friendly, but it’s good to be cautious around animals you don’t know.
2. Check for a tag on the collar with a phone number.
3. Put up large signs in your neighborhood at main streets with your phone number and a general description of the cat or dog. Again and again this has been the number one way that people have realized their cats or dogs have been found.
4. Call your local animal shelter and/or police station and give a description of the animal you’ve found and their whereabouts. The shelter will typically offer to house the animal if you can’t. However, since we have extra room, I’ve always taken them in. Leave your information with them, so that the family can contact you if their dog or cat matches the description.
5. Check out Craiglist & Facebook for Missing Pet pages in your area. Leave a description of the animal you’ve found, the area where you found the animal, and a way to contact you. That said, obviously this is the internet. If something feels off or suspicious about someone contacting you about the lost dog or cat, use your best judgment. (Update: Several people have noted in the comments the risks involved in posting a picture of the found animal online. Keep that in mind.)
6. Take the lost animal to a shelter or veterinarian in your area to test for a microchip. Most shelters and vets will check for free. Then you can call the associated phone numbers to hopefully get the family’s information.
7. Keep the following things on hand to help with lost animals: a leash, cat & dog food, an extra litter box & litter.
To keep your dog or cat safe and/or to find your lost companion animal:
1. Make sure your dog or cat has a tag with a name and phone number. Make it easy for someone to reconnect you with your dog or cat.
2. If they are microchipped, be sure that your phone number and other information is up to date on the chip. Typically when an animal is microchipped, you’re given a website address or phone number. Make it easy to find you.
3. If your dog or cat is lost, call local animal shelters in your area within a 30 mile radius and/or visit them to see if anyone has brought in an animal who could be yours. If not, leave a description of your missing companion animal.
4. Check Facebook and Craigslist for Missing Pet pages in your area. See if anyone has posted about your dog or cat and report yours missing.
5. Post signs in your area with a picture of your missing dog or cat, his or her name, description, and identifying marks. Be sure to leave a phone number where you can be reached.