WHEN YOU'VE LOST A DOG

* * Reprint permission granted: Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California , Inc.* *

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The unthinkable has happened: you have come home to find your dog missing! Your first reaction is panic! How did he get out? Who opened the gate? Oddly enough, the second reaction is usually denial---"He'll be back; he'll find his way home. He isn't really gone for good."

Neither reaction does anything toward finding the lost dog and may delay or even prevent his recovery. Let's look at some practical steps instead.

BEFORE HE IS LOST

IDENTIFICATION AND PREVENTION

The first steps toward recovering a lost dog are taken before he disappears. They are "identification" and "prevention". (If your dog is presently missing, skip this section for now, but come back to it after you recover your dog.) Identification takes several forms: have clear, current pictures of your dog available - particularly when he's dirty or ungroomed. (The missing dog rarely remains well-groomed for more than a few days.)

Be certain your dog is wearing a current license at all times. As identification, this is only valuable if it still on him when he is picked up, but it may give you - and him - a few extra days grace if he is brought to a pound or shelter. If you don't keep a collar on your dog all the time, fasten his license to a thin nylon cord (a bright color is best if you can get it) and tie it loosely enough around his neck to easily slip over his head if he gets hung up.

If tattooing is offered anywhere in your area, have your dog tattooed on the inner thigh then register that tattoo with a national organization such as National Dog Registry or AKC. An unregistered tattoo cannot be traced back to you. The police can trace a tattoo that is clearly identified as a state drivers' license. Microchipping is safe and permanent and can be done by most vets and/or shelters. Many shelters will scan for a microchip when they won't roll a dog over to check for a tattoo. Be certain you have your current address registered with the microchipping service - the AKC offers one such service called Companion Animal Recovery

"Prevention" is more than just a fence and a gate. All gates leading to the street should be equiped with spring closers, and locked. If service persons need access to your yard insist on firm schedules so you can put your dog elsewhere when they are expected

Introduce your dog to the neighborhood. Let your dog learn landmarks to help him find his way home if he does escape. More importantly, introduce to him to the neighbors---particularly children who may play out front and elderly people who may spend time watching what goes on. They maybe among the first to spot him when he does ramble. Emphasize that he is never let out alone and give them a number where you can be reached if they do see him.

SEARCHING FOR THE LOST DOG

As soon as you are certain your dog is not home, call or visit everyone in the neighborhood who might have seen him take off. If Animal Control is still open, telephone them immediately---before you go out to search for yourself. Ask about their policy for identifying lost dogs---some require that you personally visit the shelter to search---and ask if they will take a description of your dog. Tell them that you will guarantee to pay necessary veterinary expenses if your dog is found injured. This is important because some agencies have a policy of simply euthanizing seriously injured animals.

Mobilize your family and friends. Have someone search the immediate neighborhood on foot; have others search the roads or streets in a car. Stop frequently to ask people if they have seen "a big white dog". If the search is still fruitless by dusk, go home and prepare for your next step in the search.

Call your breed Rescue Representative. They frequently hear of "found" dogs and may keep a list of "lost" ones. Call people you know who have your breed of dog---they are more likely than others to "tune in" to a new dog in their neighborhood.

Now get out the pictures you have of your dog. Choose the one that looks most like him at this time. If you don't have any pictures, choose one from a dog book. Don't have any dog books? Go to the library before it closes and Xerox every picture of a Pyr you can find. Or follow some of the links to other Pyr pages and download a picture.

MAKE A REWARD POSTER


Now make a poster. Either use the ones at the GPRNC site or make your own. Take a sheet of white paper; you will enlarge the picture with a xerox to fill the top third of the sheet. Directly below that, in large letters, print the word REWARD! An offer of a reward attracts more attention than a simple notice of another lost dog. And the reward itself doesn't have to be very large to be effective.

Below that, print a simple description of the dog itself: describe the dog as "very big", "long-haired" and "white" and add descriptions of color only if they are visible from a distance. Give the dog's sex and age and weight if you know it. Since few people know how to estimate weight, and fewer yet how to measure height, these two figures may be more confusing than helpful.

Mention the neighborhood or district he is missing from---as "South Santa Rosa" or "near 5th and Main"---but do not give your address. Add your home phone number, a number of a friend who is home during the day, and that of your local rescue representative. (Be sure to ask them first, of course.) If you have an answering machine, change the message to assure callers that this is the number to call if they found your dog, and repeat the offer of a reward. Then check it several times a day for replies. If you have a cell phone, see if you can call-forward your home number to your cell phone.

If you don't have an all-night copy center nearby, go to bed, try to sleep, and prepare for a lot of work the following day. If you are scheduled to work, plan to call in sick.

Take your poster, and the dog's photo, and head for your nearest copy center. Don't use the copy machine at your neighborhood grocery; it rarely has the features, or the kind of paper, you will need.

First, use the copy machine to enlarge your dog's photo so it will fill the top third of a sheet of paper. Adjust the exposure to give the best contrast. You may want to use a dark pen to outline the dog, or trim away the background so only the dog shows---don't visually clutter the picture.

When you have the photocopy you want, place it on the top of your poster and make one copy. Make any corrections you need to with black pen and white-out---this will be your "master". Now run at least 100 copies of that master on white paper. If your copy center can supply paper slightlyheavier than standard "20 lb copy bond", it is worth the extra money.

MAKE A MAILING LIST

Get out the Yellow Pages and plan on sending a copy of your poster to every veterinarian, to every feed and pet supply store, to every boarding kennel and dog groomer, and to every animal-control and law enforcement agency in your county. If you live in a small county, near the border of another county or near a freeway, plan on increasing your search to include nearby counties. The reference section of your library has telephone directories for other counties. Use Post-Its to say "Thank you for posting this notice" with your signature. The easiest way to mail the poster is to fold it in thirds, staple or tape the bottom, and stamp and address the outside.

Once you have mailed a copy to everyone on your list, it's time to "paper the neighborhood". Check the white pages for the locations of schools, parks and playgrounds within five to ten miles. Children are often the first to notice a new or stray dog in their neighborhood and are attracted by the word "REWARD". Staple your notices to bulletin boards, on fences or on utility poles where children are likely to notice. (Required caveat: yes, I know it's illegal to post anything on utility poles. However, you can tell from the number of staples in them whether this prohibition is enforced in your area or not.) Don't forget the public-notice boards in most large supermarkets and shopping centers.

Telephone local radio stations and ask if they have a "lost pet" service. Some do and will list your dog for free. Phone your local as well as nearby metropolitan newspapers and place "LOST DOG" ads; they should run a week, including at least one weekend.

VISIT THE SHELTERS PERSONALLY

Personally visit every pound and animal shelter in your county and give them a copy of your poster. Find out their policy on accepting or holding strays; tell them if your dog had a license and/or a tattoo or microchip when he disappeared and reiterate your offer to be responsible for his veterinary care if he is found injured.

Check back with the shelters daily for the next couple of weeks. Telephone the County Road department and find out their policy on disposing of dead animals found on the highways. Get a copy of your poster to those responsible.

Make a point of meeting your mail delivery person and handing them a copy of your poster. They might spot your dog on their rounds. Do the same with the garbage collectors and the utility department meter readers as well as the persons who deliver the daily papers.

All of the above greatly increase your chances of getting your dog back safely. Meanwhile, review your security measures and revise as necessary to prevent future losses.

Good luck.

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