My Facebook page has been filled recently with photos of missing dogs and pleas for their return. Vetstreet.com listed the first annual Lost Pet Survey in 2012. The findings were:
- Only 15 percent of pet guardians reported a lost dog or cat in the past five years.
- Percentages of lost dogs versus lost cats were nearly identical: 14 percent for dogs and 15 percent for cats.
- 93 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats reported lost were returned safely to their homes.
- Only 6 percent of dog owners and 2 percent of cat owners found their lost pets at shelters.
- 15 percent of dogs were found because they were sporting identification tags or microchips.
As pet parents we are responsible for the well-being of our pets The steps to keep a pet from getting lost in the first place are simple and not cumbersome. I speak only of dogs as I have no experience with cats. My dog has never really been lost (disappeeared once for a few minutes though) and for a simple reason…she is always on her leash when she is not inside or in a fenced area.
Even in a fenced area though, dogs escape. My Facebook buddy Randi Robinson has been fostering Panda a beautiful dog with only three legs and Panda has gotten out of a chain link fenced yard on more than one occasion…because she can climb it! Make sure your dog isn’t able to jump over the fence or climb it. Check the fence weekly. You can turn it into a fun activity with your dog by throwing a tennis ball as you conduct your inspection. Sadie escaped from our 6 foot high solid wood fence at our East End home the first summer she lived with me.
Right…how could a small puppy get out of a fence like that. There wasn’t any space underneath for her to slip under nor were there any gaps in the fence and the gate was closed. I was sitting in the back yard with her and she was resting peacefully under my chair when all of a sudden fireworks exploded. I had no idea there would be a fireworks display that night at the Capitol because it wasn’t a holiday, but it turned out to be some sort of celebration of State Governors who obviously had something to celebrate.
My small puppy bolted out from under my chair and hit the gate hard enough to open it and she was gone. I screamed her name over and over as I tried to chase her, but her little black body disappeared in the dark. My boyfriend suggested I open the front door of the house and go around the block to see if I could find her and he would wait by the back of the house. I threw open the front door and took off around the block. No Sadie. As I ran past Rodney I asked if she was back and he said no. I began crying and ran to the front porch…no Sadie…I ran in the house and yelled her name…no response.
I sat down on the stairs crying and heard a small noise above me and looked around. There on the first landing cowering behind a plant…was my frightened puppy. I scrambled up the stairs and gently got her and held her close. I vowed she would never have an chance to get lost again. Science Daily reports that only 1 in 6 dogs return home on their own.
Sadie has travelled many miles and different cities with me. Every one of her collars has a tag on it with my name and cell phone number. I never leave her out of my sight and she is never off her leash. During a walk on the beach at Hilton Head a sudden storm came up and it took all my strength to hold on to her leash and make it back to the hotel. My reassurance should she get loose was the tag on her collar.
People don’t think how quickly a dog can get away from you. Even in my own driveway, I make sure before Sadie gets out of the car, I have her leash in my hand. She is after all a dog and one that loves to chase squirrels. If a squirrel ran down the hillside towards the road and she was not restrained, she would follow him and might never make it back. I don’t take that chance. I know a man in Georgia who was putting luggage in his car and allowed his dog to follow him…no leash…no collar. A cat came by and the dog chased it…into the path of an oncoming car and was killed. He was devastated. Don’t let his experience be yours.
Here are some simple tips to make sure your dog doesn’t get lost, and if they do to make it easier for them to be returned to you:
1. Make sure every one of your dog’s collars has a tag with your name and cell phone number.
2. Consider micro-chipping your dog. It’s priceless if your dog goes missing.
3. Never leave your dog alone outside a store as they can be stolen, get loose and run away, become injured or worse.
4. Fence your yard so your dog can get plenty of exercise and check the fence weekly. Don’t leave her alone there for extended periods of time. Dogs crave the pack and become bored. Dogs will try to find company and are also vulnerable to being stolen.
5. Keep your dog on a leash. I remove my dog’s leash after securing her in the car, but it gets attached to her collar before I let her out of the car…EVERYWHERE. Travel safely by using this technique…you don’t want to lose your dog at a Roadside Rest if she runs off to explore and can’t find her way back.
6. If you have a dog like Sadie that has anxiety over loud noises or crowds, don’t take her to places where she’ll be frightened. I was amazed at the strength Sadie had even as a puppy to get the gate open and getting lost in a crowd would be horrible.
If the worse happens, immediately call your local shelter and take a photo of your dog there. Keep your cell phone with you and pray for the call that she is found. Put up posters, use every available method to get the word out including all social media outlets. Make sure your neighbors know who your dog is and will call you in the event she gets loose in the neighborhood. These all can help, but nothing will ease your own anxiety and grief while your dog is missing. Accidents happen, but think of your dog’s safety first and your chances of her ever getting lost become quite small.