Lost Dogs

I’m inspired to write this after crying over the happy ending of a lost dog saga. A Golden bitch, who had been rescued from a hellish life in a puppy mill, had escaped from her new home and run into the woods. She was friendly and loving to everyone when she was in her foster home, but once she took off she became terrified of human contact. She was spotted numerous times, but ran off every time she saw someone, even from familiar dogs and her new, beloved human. The story reminds me of the time that I lost Tulip. It was only for nine hours, and it was one of the worst days of my life. She was old by then, with a severely weakened hindquarters, and I knew she’d never go running in the deep snow voluntarily.

After hours of searching the woods in a snow storm, calling and stopping at neighbors, we found her late at night, having slid partway down a small cliff, wedging herself between the ground and a large branch. We would never have found her if it hadn’t been for dear, wonderful neighbors, who thought they heard her barking and led us to where they thought she might be. We trudged through deep snow in the pitch dark, ears straining to hear something that might lead us to her. All 4 of us stopped cold when we heard a deep bark floating from the woods. “There she is!” someone said, and I began to cry. Not from happiness, because it wasn’t her. I knew her bark, and it wasn’t her. It was 10 pm and my frail, old dog was somewhere in the dark and the snow and the storm and the bitter cold and it wasn’t her. And then, moments later . . . I could cry remembering it, we heard a second bark. “TULIP!!! That’s her, I KNOW it is!”

We scrambled into the pitch dark woods, still unsure of where she was, and how to find her. Brambles tore at our clothes and the snow fell from branches overhead and melted down our necks, but we had heard her, and nothing was going to stop us from looking more. It was Jim who found her. His flashlight found two glowing eyes… maybe a raccoon, maybe a possum, but no, wait… it was big and got whiter as we approached, and there she was, stuck like a puppy put into a Christmas stocking, held fast by a fallen tree to the side of a steep creek bed.

It took almost an hour to extract her off the steep, slippery slope, and get her back to the farm. She had most likely been pinned, immobile in the bitter cold, for almost nine hours, and she couldn’t move her back legs. She couldn’t walk unaided for a week, but she slowly gained her strength, and graced the farm for another year. I will never forget the nightmare of that nine hours, and can barely imagine what it is like to lose a dog for three weeks (or forever).

I know not all stories end as happily as Tulip’s or the Golden who was found after extensive searching (by over 50 people!) this weekend, but I thought it was a good time to mention some things I’ve learned about finding lost dogs. I hope you all can add to the list, in hopes it will help some one down the line.

If a dog is missing:

First, ask what kind of dog is missing? According to Kat Albrecht, who wrote the highly recommended Pet Detective, lost dogs fall into three categories: highly gregarious ‘wiggle butts’ who go to the first person they see, aloof dogs who were never comfortable with strangers and avoid them until starving or weather stressed and “xenophobic” dogs, who are afraid of new things. Often, as was the case with the Golden, these are dogs who were not given healthy puppyhoods, and freeze and panic in new situations. Once scared, they won’t come voluntarily to anyone.

This describes the Golden who was just recovered. She adores people, once she is comfortable, but typical of this group, she ran from everyone who was trying to help her (even familiar dogs.) She was eventually recovered only because a large group of people canvassed the area, alerted everyone within miles, kept careful track of sightings, put food and clothing with familiar scents out and used live traps baited with food and familiar clothing. She was found, sleeping soundly, in a live trap over the weekend.

I’ve seen several cases like this, in which even dogs who were well-socialized become disoriented and don’t respond as you would expect. One client had a Husky who traveled 30 miles in one day, and avoided everyone who tried to call him until he got to a farm with a lot of other dogs. He was spared from being shot as a coyote only because the person at home called her brother to come kill him, so that she didn’t have to. Once he arrived, the ‘coyote’ was identified as a dog, and they managed to confine all the dogs in the barn. Albrecht says that country dogs tend to travel much further, city dogs stay closer by, in part because of highways and fences. (By the way, she also says that ‘outdoor’ cats vanish because something happened to them.. they are most likely injured or trapped. ‘Indoor cats,’ on the other hand, rarely go far, and are most often found close to home, usually hiding silently somewhere within one or two houses away.)

Here is what I know to do if your pet goes missing (please add to the list if you like):

1. Tell everyone. Go to every house, post signs everywhere, tell the delivery men, the vets, shelters within 50 miles… every one. And don’t leave it to just one visit, don’t hesitate to go back a week later with a new flyer (with a phone number to call)… lots of people will throw the first one away.

2. Put out live traps with food and clothing that smells like you. Check them relentlessly. This is how the Golden was finally captured. This is especially useful in country areas and for dogs who become shy once they are lost. Do not think you can predict how your dog will behave once he is lost in the woods… I’ve seen some amazing transformations.

3. Do not count on your dog to bark or your cat to meow. Jim and I had walked within 50 yards of Tulip hours before we found her, and she never made a peep. While we searched, I had felt sure that she would bark.. she was a Great Pyrenees for heaven’s sake, and she barked more than any dog I’ve ever had. But I hadn’t thought about the context of her barking. She never barked for attention or when she was playing. She barked at deer across the road, when she heard other dogs bark (which is how we found her), when cars drove up and when the coyotes howled. Her barks were alarm barks.. ALERT ALERT! but they were never made to get our attention to play, get food or be petted. I was completely surprised that she didn’t vocalize when we walked past her (she HAD to have heard us, we called ’til we were hoarse), but it makes sense now.

I had a cat, Ayla, who was badly injured by a stray cat and crawled under hay bales to die. By the time I got back from out of town she’d been missing for days. I searched the barn that night and morning, and thought I had heard, each time, one quiet, tiny meow, but nothing else. Pippy Tay found her… as I cried in the barn that morning, sure my cat was somewhere dying in the barn, I said “Pippy, where’s Ayla?” I didn’t expect anything of Pippy Tay, I was just asking for sympathy. But Pip turned and began to dig on top of a 10 foot high pile of hay bales. I found Ayla under 400 bales, almost dead from dehydration and an infected shoulder. Albrecht says that is typical of cats. If they are injured, they go to ground and remain silent, so don’t call for your cat expecting her to call back.

4. Don’t give up. Be relentless. One client’s dog ran feral in the woods for an entire Wisconsin winter, and was captured in spring. He went back to being a happy house pet without a hitch, even though he had been surviving on his own for months.

And, of course, there’s prevention, but that’s another topic. I’ll leave it for now at ID your pet! and look forward to hearing your stories and advice.

And how can I resist adding a photo of Tulip… suitably attired for a Christmas card of years ago?


  1. Another Kate says

    I’d just add:

    -If you have a dog who has any trace of fear towards people, then the signs will be your most important part. Make sure to put on them “Do not approach” and leave your phone number as big as you possibly can put it (think of seeing it from a passing car).
    -I know the sign making stinks, but it’s usually what produces the results. Sightings, nailing down a pattern, those are what is going to help you set traps and eventually catch the animal.
    -Use flour or other fine powder to see what is eating from your trap’s food. Sometimes you think you’ve got the dog and it’s just a raccoon.

    I fostered a poor abused GSD who has run off twice now, perhaps more before I met her. The second time she ran off, she had been adopted and took off with her “brother” who she then watched get hit by a car. He died, and she stayed on the run for a week till July 3rd, when she was trapped. Thankfully. If she was loose on the 4th, I worried at the time that her owners would never see her again.

  2. says

    One of my dogs went missing for a month. The way that we ended up finding him was by posting a large sign (we used foam board and attached stakes to it) at the main entrance to our neighborhood. We made sure that you could clearly read the information from the road and included a brief description, our number and REWARD. Exactly one month later, we finally received a call and were reunited with our Prophet.

    I always tell everyone who is missing an animal to do this (and I have lots of opportunities to do so, since starting an animal rescue 3 years ago).

  3. Deb says

    I recently had a friend whose very friendly, social Great Dane escaped from his yard. He got hit by a car and became very confused and frightened. My friend was able to track his bloody paw prints to a canyon located adjacent to a residential neighborhood. He searched for 5 days, and finally found his dog….skinny, dehydrated, but alive. He went from 10lbs to 90lbs in 5 days, but thankfully has made a full recovery.

    The neighborhood REALLY pulled together and it took everyone’s effort to find this poor guy. Getting the word out is SO important!

  4. Kim says

    great post! i was just following a lost Sheltie up in Alaska that they tracked for 3 weeks and finally nabbed her…it is always nice to hear of happy endings…i see so many tragic accidents happen in my field…i’ve never lost a dog, only for a short time, trapped in another room or someplace, but i understand the severe anxiety! i am known for catching any dog i see without an owner, and have returned many a dog, sometimes to homes where they didn’t even know they were missing…

  5. Susan says

    I can’t believe this is on here right now! I just spent a few hours with a friend whose dog bolted and is missing right now. Bimini had a bad start in life, though not technically a rescue, and her owner has been working Control Unleashed exercises with her. She bolted while on a walk about a 10 minute drive away from her home- with leash still attached to collar, and Gentle Leader on but not attached, to chase some deer. We called the local vets and shelter, and drove around all the developments in the nearby area, have now retired home to put together flyers, and left a sweatshirt in the parking lot where they were when she disappeared. My friend is heartbroken at the thought of her dog spending the night alone, possibly injured. And this just after putting their Golden down for a very swift acting cancer that hadn’t been caught earlier, dog playing at the park on Thursday, sick, in pain, and unable to eat or drink by Saturday.

  6. Susan says

    Update: Found! Someone at a bar found her, didn’t see the phone number on her tag, and called the police. Then the cops found it and called her.

  7. Robin says

    I helped search the last few days for a dog lost while being moved on the volunteer transport network, from Iowa to Alberta. Contrary to instructions the overnighter put the dog in the backyard without supervision and he climbed out and ran. From a puppy mill, he surely had a terrible puppyhood and just kept running. Various reports around town had people running and looking then finally, today, a really fresh report and everyone converging where he was seen. He had been travelling on the railroad tracks and all we can figure is that he didn’t even know enough to get out of the way. Hit by a train, he lost his tail and a paw will have to be amputated. Still waiting to hear if he will make it.

    I almost die of anxiety when one of mine is missing even for minutes.

  8. Nan S says

    It’s extra important to ID your dog when on vacation. Make sure the phone number is your cell, not your house. I always put a new waterproof address and phone on my Abbey’s collar before spending time at the beach house – the address, of course, is the beach house address. I figure its harder for the dog to find her own way to the temporary home.

  9. says

    As an animal shelter employee I’d like to add a few things.

    Call every shelter and animal control facility within a 50 mile radius and report the loss immediately. There was a dog that was lost just 2 blocks from our shelter, and by the time the owners found her weeks later she was in another shelter’s jurisdiction.

    Call the shelter periodically and check — even better go in person and ask to see the lost dogs. Shelter staff aren’t always the best at identifying the less common breeds. And sometimes you may have been told that your dog is a mix of some kind, but it doesn’t look like that mix and the shelter will call it something else.

    Have ID tags on your dog. If someone finds your dog they may call you directly rather than take your dog to whichever organization does animal control in your area. You’ll save time and money. If a stray comes into a shelter after hours they will not allow you to take your dog until they open the next day. You most likely will also be charged a pick-up fee, boarding and have to pay a loose dog citation.

    Make sure your dog is current on rabies and is licensed. Our shelter cannot release dogs without proof of those two things, and if your dog isn’t current on them you’ll need to pre-pay for rabies at your vet and then go to city hall to purchase a license. If you lose your dog on the weekend you won’t be able to get him back until Monday.

    Microchip your dog. If your dog loses his collar and/or tags this will be the way the shelter figures out whose dog it is. Make sure the microchip company has your current contact information. It’s very frustrating to discover that the dog has a microchip, but the contact information is out of date and we have no way of contacting the owner.

    Microchips are wonderful — we once had a dog come in with a microchip and when we contacted the owners they were ecstatic — the dog had been stolen from their yard a year before. Without the microchip they would never have gotten this dog back.

  10. MJ says

    Some folks lost a shy field spaniel on the northside of Madison last year. I think it swam out of the dog park on Cherokee Marsh. They did everything right, including large posters with pictures everywhere. And followups on the posters as they gathered sightings. They tracked him down to the 30 acres where I live so I got to see their tactics. Just as you said … towels and food in likely secluded areas and a crate (not sure if it was a trap) with food in a nice little niche in some undergrowth. They were on it around the clock and finally got him. Took nearly a week, though.

    Nice touch, they updated all the posters about the find and left them up for a few days. And then removed them all.

  11. Sarah says

    My dogs have each gone missing once, thankfully only for a few hours. In my case, I was very surprised by how they reacted. My very social “wigglebutt” dog was terrified when I found her after only three hours, and almost bolted from me. My aloof dog who has no use for strangers was also gone for about three hours. Then she jumped into a stranger’s car, allowed the stranger to read her tags, and sat quietly in the passenger seat until I arrived.

    I wonder if the circumstances of getting lost have anything to do with how my dogs reacted. My social dog ran off when she was spooked by an oddly-behaving hiker, so maybe she was primed to be scared of anyone she encountered while running. My aloof dog has separation anxiety, and got lost after breaking out of the house and jumping the front fence. I guess being alone was scarier than being with a stranger.

  12. Alexandra says

    Oh my, Susan, my heart goes out to your friend, and anyone else who has ever lost a dog! I am sitting here feeling anxious and slightly panicked over the though of one of my beloved animals being lost just reading this! Talk about one’s worst nightmare.

    My rescue Izzy bolted from our yard not long after we adopted her. She is of the xenophopic type; my friend spent about 20 minutes lying flat on her belly in the woods holding food to get a starving Izzy to come to her the day she was rescued from being a stray. My husband and I ran after her, and fortunately she popped out of the woods just down the road. To our horror and most unfortunately, she popped out just in time to get hit by a car. She then bolted again, but this time, thank God, she bolted to our house and stopped at the back door. As we ran up, she was obviously in a complete panic (as were both humans, by this time in tears) and didn’t seem to recognize us as all. She started to run again. My husband and I somehow had the presence of mind to both sit down on the ground and call her name sweetly. She did come to us then, and we were able to get hold of her. We are very, VERY lucky that she was only shaken and not seriously injured.

  13. Sarah says

    When a neighbor’s cat, literally just home from surgery with a drain in her chest, bolted out the door and hid, we searched for at least an hour before we realized that there were blue jays making a fuss around a large, dense brush pile. I don’t know if we’d have found her otherwise. She was invisible from any angle, and not making a sound even the whole time we were dismantling the pile. I have an extra fondness for the jays since.

  14. Kat says

    I love your pictures of Tulip. She reminds me so much of my childhood Pyrenees, Krystal. Krystal and her pup Charlie would escape periodically and roam but thankfully everyone for miles around knew who owned the big white dogs and before long we’d get a call often from several miles away saying that they’d caught Charlie (who loved everyone) but they couldn’t catch Krystal. Fortunately, she wouldn’t stray far from where he was confined and my folks would drive down to pick them up. Krystal would come to them and they’d load both dogs in the car and come home–well except for the time they weren’t very far from home, were muddy wrecks and Mom had just cleaned the inside of the car. They got to walk home that day.

    Thankfully, my current canine companion hasn’t been missing for longer than a half hour and has returned when he decided that whatever he’d found essential to investigate was sufficiently explored. We’re more likely to find strayed dogs than to have one. We’ve ended up with several stray dogs visiting us because they want to follow Ranger home. We’ll be taking him for a walk in the neighborhood and a dog, sans collar or tags for the most part, comes rushing up to greet him and then follows him home. The most recent visitor was a min-pin that we learned later had been wandering the neighborhood for a few days but had eluded all efforts by people to corral him. I know I couldn’t touch him but he was willing to follow Ranger anywhere. He hesitated at our gate but when Ranger glanced over his shoulder at the little guy and trotted off Short Stuff bolted inside. I worried about leaving him outdoors all night but he had Ranger’s couch and dogloo and of course Ranger, the next morning when I went out they were snuggled up on the couch together. And later after watching Ranger gobble cheese from my hands the little guy decided he’d get close enough for some too which enabled me to get a slip lead on him and turn him over to animal control, hopefully to be reunited with a family that was missing him. I have animal control on speed dial, that’s a sad commentary on how many dogs stray and wind up at our house. Of course there are also those that we know from the neighborhood and can simply walk home. I like those the best.

  15. says

    A useful reminder thank you. We run a animal welfare shelter in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Unfortunately many dogs go missing here, sadly many are stolen for resale as guard dogs, or to sell as food to the Asian community. If I may add to Patricia’s suggestions, make sure you have a current digital photo of your dog and place this on the poster advertising its disappearance and reward. Many times people contact us to say they have lost their dog but they cannot provide a photo.
    We also run an email alert system that has proved successful – a link up of pet lovers and veterinarians, so that the word is spread quickly and people watch out for the dog.
    Our happiest story is a reunion after a dog was missing for a month, so Patricia is right, keep on looking!

  16. Anne says

    My mom lost a 9 month old Aussie, Dash, for two weeks when he ran off chasing something and got lost. She finally found him 5 miles away on the side of a road eating a roadkill deer. He was in good shape but was the kind of dog who would not go to anyone he didn’t know. He looked at my mom kind of warily when she stopped her car, but then came to her, more than overjoyed to be found.

    Do you have any tips for people who spot an obviously lost dog, but the dog won’t be caught? I saw a collie recently- I don’t know if he was off on a lark and knew where home was or was really lost, but either way I’m sure someone was missing him. When I called to him he took off running.
    Weirdly, less than a week later I found another collie, different color, on the same road. She was stopping traffic by walking down the middle, so I pulled over and called her. She came right over, and thankfully had her address on her tag and I was able to take her home (her name was Lassie).

  17. Sabine says

    Just the thought that one of my dogs could get lost somewhere makes me cringe.
    Three years ago I adopted a puppymill survivor and I don’t need to tell you that this little girl was a mess. Her throat had been kicked in, her tail broken, her back injured, her jaws broken, a piece of ear cut off with scissors………just to mention a few of her ailments.
    So here I am with this little bundle of fear. Just looking at her, made her lose control of her bladder. Every time I tried picking her up she bit me and peed all over me. No wonder – the only handling she knew was being lifted into a breed stand, or being tossed back into her cage. :(
    The first week I had her, she somehow managed to get out to the yard and escape under the fence. This is, were my shepherd comes in. She succeeded in gently herding her back home. I just hid behind the door post not to scare the traumatized one and she more or less followed her “big sister” into the house. I was lucky – and so was the dog. That was three years ago. Today that little bundle of fear visits seniors at a nursing home. Still a bit skittish of people who walk upright, she absolutely adores the elderly. Here at a visit: http://666kb.com/i/beewuvyq9fsoe9eni.jpg

    Another case that breaks my heart is Billy the beagle. He’s been missing since March 2008 and there were multiple sightings of him. He adapted well to life in the wild (City that is…….) and there were numerous experts being brought in to help capture the little guy. So far to no avail.
    I even took my shepherd out there on numerous occasions to try and track him down in hopes he would even approach us. He does not want to be caught. Here’s his story: http://www.hart90.org/Missing/MissingPets.aspx#Billy
    I hope one day he will be found.

  18. S says

    Signs signs signs for sure – and places that aren’t just “dog oriented”. Post at your local coffee shop, sandwich shop, car parts and hardware stores – contractors, plumbers, electricians, construction workers frequent these places and are often traveling local roads and highways many times a day, crisscrossing routes. These people are usually have a soft spot for animals and can be your best eyes and ears. This happened to a coworker of mine – her dogs ran off and tragically one was killed immediately but the other ran from the accident scene and was lost for over 2 days. Posting a sign at a local car parts store led some guys traveling the highway to spot the dog on the median and call her – they successfully retrieved him.

    I also learned a hard lesson – a year or so back a loose dog ran into our yard, scaring my children who were outside. We all went inside and I didn’t attempt to call the dog back – yes, I know, bad of me. I hadn’t had dogs in awhile, I have small children, and no leashes around, so it didn’t even occur to me to call the dog back and put it in the garage or get a rope – I just figured he was roaming and he’d come back. Plus, I’d had a couple not great experiences retrieving roaming dogs to call owners who were indifferent at best towards their missing dog (oh, he always does that, he’ll find his way home) so I regrettably took no action this time. Well a day later someone knocked on our door looking for a dog and described that dog to a t – a young dog, recovering from surgery, who got spooked and ran. We gave them our phone number and we called our neighbors to keep a look out, but we never saw that dog again. Sadly, I don’t know for sure what happened, but my guess is that the dog never was found. It was the start of a cold freeze, and doubtful that a young dog would survive a cold snap we experienced. Lesson learned to safely try and contain a roaming dog – I”d want someone to do the same for mine.

  19. Sabine says

    Oh – I forgot to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and I also wanted to comment on sweet Tulip in her Mrs. Clause outfit. So pretty ! :)
    Makes me kind of wonder though, what our dogs think about us when we feel the urge to dress them up………… :) (My poor dane had to visit the nursing home dressed up like a horse every year. He was not amused, but the seniors got a kick out of it.)

  20. Gary says

    Can you expand a bit on how to set a live trap for an animal as big as a Golden? I’m familiar with small mammal traps but I’ve never seen one big enough for a dog. Where do you get such a thing, if you need one?

  21. Jessie says

    So glad that you were able to find Tulip!

    This is a really huge problem that owners often don’t contemplate until they’ve found themselves searching for a missing pet. And it’s truly frightening to realize how often pets get lost with a petsitter or while boarded or at the vet’s office! AKC Family Dog did an article on this very subject recently and how critical it is to have an action plan for a lost pet and to communicate it to anyone who could be responsible for your pet at any time, because sitters, vets and boarding facilities often will not notify you that your pet got out for hours after he goes missing. Owners really must tell caregivers that they want to be notified immediately if the dog gets out somehow. Ideally, they provide a copy of the entire action plan.

    You are so right Trisha that even a well socialized dog will remain quiet if frightened or injured. My dog has always slobbered all over every human within reach, but I had difficulty finding her once in my own yard! I was sure she had somehow escaped the yard because I couldn’t find her after she had jumped out of the car door and run behind the garage. I searched and searched, beginning with a quick check behind the garage and was sure she had gotten over or under the fence. At wit’s end, I started over, behind the garage. She was there! She had wedged herself sideways through a tomato cage, and, terrified, was just standing there shaking and afraid to move or even yelp. (Luckily she was AOK once I worked her out of the cage, but I was shocked to realize she’d been within 30 feet of me the entire time.)

    When I dog walk and pet sit, I always ask for the contact information of any neighbors or nearby relatives who know the dog so that f the worst were to happen, I can get a posse of ‘friends’ together immediately. I also ask for the dog’s microchip number and chip company, so I can call them immediately (this is stored right in my phone for each dog). I also have the various PD’s and shelters in my phone so I can alert them, too. Luckily I haven’t lost any dogs, but feel better with some sort of plan should it ever occur.

    Several companies make nylon web collars on which you can print your phone number. Orvis sells them but others do as well. This may be really helpful in the event that your dog does not want to be approached, as they can be read from a distance (which a tag can not.)

  22. Shannon says

    I lost my 1.5 year old Aussie twice who was unlikely to go up to strangers. The first time he was missing for almost three days. We were able to track his movement for the first day, but was never able to catch up to him another day and a half later, after putting up many signs at all his favourite spots I finally got a call from someone 5 miles away who found him, exhausted and hungry which may be why he finally went up to her, but his rescuer never saw any signs (his collar had all his info). Fionn had followed the train tracks where near where my friend had lost him. Unfortnately, I lost poor Fionn to a heart condition when he was only 2, but he was a runner til the end.

    I now have a velcro Aussie who is the least likely dog to run away. He’s trained as a scent tracking dog and I’ve thought many times about training him to search for lost dogs since we have so many go missing in our city since I know the pain it cause the owners.

  23. Laurie says

    So many stories of lost dogs and cats involve those pets who have recently had surgery. I would argue this could be due to the anesthetic. The anesthetic may take a lot longer to be metabolized than we realize as it is slowly released from fat tissue. Our pets appear awake and alert yet there is a residual effect. A good reason to be hyper – vigilant when bringing home a pet from surgery.

  24. Liz F. says

    Tulip’s story really drew me in… such a way with words.

    My heart sings with the success stories, but still wish I could do more to help. If anyone loses a dog in Oconomowoc, WI (or nearby I guess) I’ll be there with bells on! Do any online forums/discussion groups exist for people with lost pets, like posting a virtual sign?

    So sorry for the owners of lost dogs, as well as for all of the scared and lonely pooches out there. Hoping that by some miracle or heavenly grace that the holidays can be enjoyed TOGETHER this year.

    Many thanks to all.

  25. LynnSusan says

    Just one thought to add to all the great tips. Use the internet to its best advantage to find a lost pet. I belong to an active community message board. Once the word is out that a pet is lost, neighbors and friends, take up the alert. We have almost a 90% happy tail rate.

    It is useful to tell your kids (or your neighbors’ kids) to spread the word and post lots of posters near schools. Kids are lower to the ground (usually) and have a different POV. They are particularly good at locating lost indoor cats. Just be judicious in getting the word out to them —there have been so many perverse uses of “Help me find my puppy.” :(

    And here’s hoping that on this Thanksgiving eve, there will be even more happy tails of reunions.
    I am grateful for all the terrific advice that is shared here.

  26. Jessie says


    The internet IS a fantastic tool for finding a lost dog.

    Most of the chip companies have dog location services now, and you can sign up to be on their mailing list for ‘lost dog alerts’ in your area, whether or not you have any relationship with the chip company. Kennel Clubs and breed mailing listserves also pass these notices along.

    There are also numerous lost/found dog sites.

    Last January, I found a Rottie that I was sure was simply lost as he was in great condition ( no tags though!) After a half hour, I got him on a lead and eventually got him to a PD in a neighboring town (my town’s Animal Control refused to come get him, in violation of the law, but it was 10 degrees out, I had found him at a busy intersection and I had a dog aggressive dog at home–I needed to find a safe and warm place to put him! )

    I pout up lots of fluorescent signs explaining that he was three towns away, posted on many lost dog sites. I also posted on township forums for our town and neighboring towns. Someone recognized him there as a dog who had recently been escaping his yard. That helped to get him home. The owner had also reported him missing, and in my area, the shelters communicate with one another. When the owners called the local shelter, they were told that their Rottie was 2 towns away. That took 48 hours though–the website for our town gave them the heads up first. And I got emails for a month from the lost dog sites from people who had lost a Rottie. Those broke my heart, I’ll tell you!

  27. Deb Mickey says

    Unfortunately I’ve had way too many experiences with lost dogs – fortunately they all had good endings (knock wood!) :o) Here’s just a couple stories and what worked:

    A friend’s sheltie scooted under the dog sitter’s fence and was gone for about a week. In his element he was fairly outgoing but lost and on his own he was elusive. There were sightings of him but no one could get near him, not even his owner. What finally caught him wasn’t food but a live trap with blanket scented with a bitch in season inside. Being an intact male, he could hardly resist!

    Then, in one of my “wiser” moments, I took the five dogs hiking in the mountains just before dusk. We

  28. Andy says

    It’s been 11 months now since I’ve seen my 2 “wigglebutt” Boxers . I’ll see them again, I know I will. Thanks everyone for the extra advice.

  29. Tina says

    Please post advice about what to do when we come across terrified roaming dogs! This happened to me this morning. My dog is the nervous type already, a freaked out loose dog saw us, ran straight toward us baring all teeth, curled back lips…I thought this dog would attack my dog. I stepped forward firmly said “No!” and it ran off. Dog had a collar. I feel lucky in this encounter, but feel bad for the loose dog.

    I would want someone to help my dog if she got loose……..what to do to protect my dog and help the loose dog get back home?

  30. Amy says

    Great story. I compulsively read the “lost dog” columns of newspapers and craigslist – just in case I see them. There are so many dogs who roam free around southern Indiana. People just ignore them and drive by. I never know if I should stop or not.

    I worked at an animal shelter for 6 months. I think the most important thing to recovering a lost pet is to keep the tags/microchip info up to date. It was heartbreaking at the shelter how many animals had tags or a chip and were obviously wanted and loved, yet the owners were impossible to contact due to outdated information. I will never forget “Sir Percy”, a cat surrendered by an owner who had found him “lost” 3 years prior. No, she never had him scanned for a chip – but he had one from his first home (in CA – and this was in UT!). Unfortunately the number was disconnected, and Sir Percy was never adopted. If they had just kept that number updated, it would have been a happy ending!

    I agree with Khris – never depend on a shelter to call you if they find a dog that matches your dog’s description. Hard as it may be, you need to go in person and looks yourself.

  31. KateH says

    Gary asked about live traps for big dogs. For anyone with a big dog, find out if there are any greyhound rescue groups near you (and don’t scrimp on the ‘near’ thing – look throughout your state, if necessary). Not all groups are big enough, but a number of them have live traps because greys are so hard to catch by hand, so to speak. For this reason, there’s even a forum with an ‘Amber Alert’ section for lost greyhounds http://forum.greytalk.com/index.php?showforum=24 which has great info about finding lost dogs that can be used to help any dog.

  32. Denise says

    The greyhound groups are just incredible when helping corral a lost dog and I’m happy to hear that other groups are picking up on their methods. When my very anxious boy jumped from my brother’s car window and went missing one of the first things I thought of was to call a friend who is active in greyhound rescue. I know he’d have been happy to help even though my boy is too short and much to fuzzy to pass for any kind of greyhound! Fortunately, with the help of some kind strangers (he ran from them as I had feared but they were able to tell us where they had seen him) we were able to find him pretty quickly and mercifully, he responded immediately when I called him. I can tell you that there is nothing more beautiful than a great recall when it really matters! I’ve heard to many sad stories of panicked dogs who did not respond and was terrified that he’d do the same. Afterwards, one of the first things I did was put his information and photos on a flash drive that I now carry on my key ring, just in case I find myself needing to print out lost dog fliers miles from home – as we were that day.

  33. Debbie says

    I’d like to add a tip to all of the useful ones that have been posted here altho this one is geared more toward those who live in a rural area. In addition to all of the other actions like postings and notifying local animal agencies, I’d advise you also call your village president or town chairman/clerk. Often these are the folks who will get a call from other residents saying they have found/seen a lost dog. This is how we found our Springer a few years ago. He went missing while out in the yard with my husband; I think he got on the trail of an animal and simply kept chasing it. Dusk was falling and shortly after Bobby’s disappearance, we heard coyotes yipping nearby, like they do when highly excited or when chasing prey. Already in a panic by his disappearance, our natural assumption was that he had been felled by the pack so we headed off in that direction looking for a blood trail in the snow. :-( We didn’t find any sign of him and our next 3 days were tortured with visions of a horrible demise. I posted signs EVERYwhere, alerted all my neighbors and contacted the animal shelter in my nearest city. It was they who advised me to contact my town officials, which I did and that is how he was found. He had ended up at a farm 4 miles east of us and they had called the town clerk to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. Happy ending, thankfully, but it never would have occurred to me to let my local government officials know.

  34. Mary Beth says

    Thank you for your story! As a Dog Warden I wish my phone would ring off the hook when people lose their dogs. Too often they are in my kennels, safe and sound, but I have no way to know where they might belong despite my very best detective work.
    I could fill your blog with stories of dogs who were rescued, especially after long periods of time. I captured a sheltie who had been gone for over 2 weeks and was 30 miles from home. My police chief waited for the crying dog owner to leave just to make sure I wasn’t in trouble…he had no idea till he heard the story why I made the lady cry (tears of joy).
    Two of my dogs went missing for 5 days. They were 5 miles from home. I will send you the whole unabridged story, but basically after foot, car and horseback searches, they were found by airplane. This was my first sign of CCD in my old hound. From that day on he would wander and couldn’t be trusted off leash for even a second. I slept on the floor by the back door, didn’t eat, and was an emotional wreck by the end of those 5 days.
    Recently, an elderly corgi was captured after spending 3 years running through woods in an urban community. She’s in foster care right now awaiting the perfect home.
    Body language is so important and I thank you, Trisha, and all the other ethologists who taught me so well to watch every little nuance. It may take hours and hours of using body language to build trust, but there just isn’t a way to outrun a dog that’s in flight mode.

  35. says

    I have lost my female cocker since two months and half. It was securely theft because she had clear identification. My main interest is trying to decipher the causes by wich people takes dogs other than for sale. My Cocker isn

  36. says

    I volunteer for an animal rescue league, and we’ve had a lost foster dog since mid-April of this year. We still get regular sights and have used a tracker, Animal Control and traps with no success–but we haven’t given up yet! To learn more about what we’ve done to find our dog, you can visit her search blog at http://findberdina.wordpress.com.

  37. Marianne says

    In reading the postings, I thought I would share a story about my dog when she ran away.
    I had a diabetic dog and was planning to travel overseas with my family for 3 weeks. Since Scout was recently diagnosed with diabetes I thought it would be better for me to leave her in the care of a veterinarian instead of my best friend (and roommate) who worked long hours. I made arrangements for Scout to stay on a farm approximately 8 miles away from my house with a veterinarian that had a fenced in dog care facility.

    The first morning after I left her there (and I was on route to London) she decided to take off on the family after the veterinarian had opened the gate. She bolted into the corn field and would not let anyone get within 10 feet of her before taking off again. It was a hot day in July and Scout had not yet had her morning breakfast or daily dose of insulin. Her regular veterinarian said she could probobly only last about 2 days without food or medicine. (I’m sure you can only imagine my sense of panic after learning this bit of information!)

    Upon arriving in London, I received a phone call that my dog had run away. I was heart broken and helpless being so far away. My best friend and in-laws spent 1 day and 1/2 looking for her, but never found her. She was at one point spotted in the evening hours; however, she wasn’t allowing anyone to get close.

    The 2nd day in which she was gone my best friend spent many hours looking for her, but finally gave up and went home after no success. After being home for 2 hours, the two dogs that Scout lived with at the house began to act funny. They began to pace inside and made whimpering sounds. Feeling a slight sense of hope, my roommate went outside and began to call Scout’s name. A minute later, Scout came walking around the corner panting from the heat (and obvious long walk) and happily wagging her tail. She had managed to find her way home from being dropped off at a country home crossing an interstate, highway and several busy streets in order to get to my downtown home.

    If you have ever lost your pet, I’m sure you can imagine the emotions I was going through. While trying to see the sights of London (knowing their was nothing I could do), I was torn up inside thinking I would never see my baby girl again. Needless to say, I’m sure you too can imagine my sense of relief when I received the second phone call telling me my baby girl was home, safe and only thirsty from her 2 day excursion.

    Since this incident Scout has passed on. However, she continued to live a happy healthy life with diabetes for 8 more years. I hope hearing this story helps other keep the hope and faith alive in knowing that when your pets are lost they will eventually find their way home.

  38. Kelly Skistimas says

    July 4th, 2010 at 8:30PM our beloved baby Charlie (dachsund/beagle mix, 20 pounds, black short hair with brown face and paws, long tail) got spooked, terrified actually, from fireworks and was able to get enough momentum to jump a 4 foot fence. We were visiting family in Inola, OK, so he is nowhere familiar at all because we live in Dallas, TX. My husband and I are devastated. We looked all night the first night until 3pm the next day, then put up flyers in Inola, OK, told police and animal control and put an ad in the newspaper.
    My worry is, we don’t live here. We were supposed to go home Sunday, the day he went missing and get back to work. It’s Tuesday at 3:30 now, so he’s been missing 2 1/2 days now, 67 agonizing hours. From the research I’ve done, he could be 100 miles away. I feel so overwhelmed because we don’t know anyone here, no neighbors or friends, and my aunt and uncle we’re staying with are moving in a couple weeks. He has a collar with info tag and is microchipped, so we would have been called if he was found. So this tells me he’s still out there and we need to keep looking…how do you look by foot in a 100 mile radius in every direction? Any strategizing tips would be greatly appreciated. We are barely standing right now we miss him so much. This hurts.

  39. Crystallin says

    I’d love to hear more about how you found Charlie. I am in a similar situation with a very shy dog who is lost in a HUGE expanse of woods with almost no people around to see her.

  40. Jeannie Morson says

    This made me smile and hopefully after your last post it will do the same for you:
    If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. :)

  41. Lost puppy says

    I lost my 8 month old blk lab puppy yeatrday while hiking. He fell into a strong stream and I didn’t see him come back up. We have searched for hours and are going back out today. We live in Juneau Ak, so if anyone know of a service or people that can help me track him it would be appreciated if you could contact me. Keep him in your thoughts and I will update when more is available. Thanks Salix hopscotch36@hotmail.com

  42. Kendra says

    I need help!!! this is a complicated situation.. 7 months ago a very sweet emancipated chihuahua wandered up to our house. We nursed her back to good health. Come to find out she was also pregnant and had puppies , which really surprised us!! Bella did get fixed last month and her shots. Well, to make a long story short, bella went missing on Friday morning June 8, 2012. which was very unlike her. Been told they do or can go into heat once after being spayed. anyway, i put up signs with her picture, she also wore a collar with a tag with all our info.
    After looking all night and all day Saturday, she returned Saturday evening . Thank goodness. but her collar was gone. I took Bella for a ride, which she loves to do, and took down most of the signs close by. Well, when i got home, my husband was on the phone with some lady saying she owned Bella and wanted her back. I took over and talked with her. she told me that her dog had gone missing last December she tld me what she looked like and about her scar above her tail. One thing that made me wonder is that she said her dog was fixed. Well, Bella wasntwhen she came to us as she had puppies and we took her to get fixed. that was very strange to me. Lady told me where she lived and it is right up the street from us less than a mile. stated that Bella showed up on friday and just walked in their house. If she did in fact do that, which i doubt, she would have to cross a very busy highway. I know that could happen though. But the lady also said that they had just moved into this house when she went missing last December. So it was not very familiar to her.

    I told the woman if she had papers on Bella, I wanted to see them and pictures . if she had had her for 4 years she had to have some pics. The lady hung up on me. and called on a private number. I began thinking of what she told me and first of all, the thing about bein fixed was a red flag, second, it was easy for her to know what Bell looked like because she had her almost 2 days. third, i asked what happened to her collar and i was told she called the police and they took it. What? and lastly, I read the local paper every week on the missing animals and have never seen nor have I ever seen flyers. This town is not very big, country actually, so we would of seen. What should I do? We love Bella very much , even our other dogs. Our min pin was devastated and barking for her all night and day. I have a 6 yr. old that Bella has slept with for the last 7 mnths. this is a horrible situation. Should i call the police to see if there was a report in the last 6 months or yesterday? I cant just hand over Bella to someone that I have doubts about and put up all kinds of flags. Help!!!!!!

    one more thing… She said as soon as they opened the door she ran away. well, she came home to us!!! Btw, she is a very smart dog.

  43. Ed says

    Hi all, realise this is a very old post but if anyone sees this comment and has any tips please let me know.

    Our dig went missing from our dog sitter on 26th July and has now been missing for 6 nights. She is a rescue dog so is very timid by nature and was just beginning to come out of her shell and gain more confidence and now this has happened, we are devastated as you can imagine.

    Minnie is a mongrel, about 8 years old and is naturally fearful of people, there have been several sightings of her (none in the last 48 hours) and on some occasions we were at the location of a sighting within 5 minutes but couldn’t find her despite cycling round for hours calling her name. It could be that she was there but didn’t come out even for us which is very sad and makes me think we may never get her back. We’ve tried leaving out clothes for her to find by smell and pretty much every trick we’ve seen listed anywhere. We have looked for a sniffer dog to assist in our search but this isn’t a service available in the UK. I’ve been off work for a week and have been cycling around for hours every day looking for her but without any further sightings I don’t really know where to look. We can’t poster everywhere so is there any technique we can use for this to improve our chances?

    We are in London so there are hundreds of places for Minnie to hide, drink and find food scraps. Most sightings have been localised to a few roads a couple of miles from our house but we have canvassed the neighborhood and have not yet managed to spot her.

    If anyone has any tips please let me know.


    Does anyone have any other tips?

  44. Shelby says

    Our tiny 4lb. Chihuahua went missing yesterday (April 1, 2015) around noon. We have just moved to the area and it is very different from what she is used to. We live in a rural wooded area, not many neighbors around and I am at a complete loss as to how to find her. I have made up fliers to hand out to the neighbors that we do have, but I worry about wild animals getting to her. She could literally be anywhere. If I were to get traps I don’t know where to place them. She’s a tiny little dog so I don’t know how far she could have gone. My family is completely devastated, so any advice would be helpful.


  45. Cathy says

    I hoped you have found you little loved one. I too, have a chihuahua that went missing at the beginning of July 2015. The tons of acres of woods behind us. I have walked and walked but came up with nothing. Imam also looking for suggestions. I am praying she is still alive.

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