Category Archives: Rescues and Shelters

Articles and tips for shelters/rescues to help capture a lost foster or adopted dog.

PLEASE SUPPORT House Bill 4029 – A Bill That Would Help Reunite More Lost Pets With Their Families

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WE NEED TO PASS House Bill 4029

We can’t quite understand it.  Why would a common-sense piece of legislation that would require animal shelters to scan all dogs and cats on intake and notify owners be opposed by an animal shelter organization such as the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation?

We can’t figure it out. This  Illinois Animal Welfare Act pretty much mirrors the Illinois Animal Control Act, which already requires animal controls to scan all dogs and cats for microchips and notify owners.

510 ILCS 5/10, http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1704&ChapterID=41  Impoundment, redemption for animal control

So why shouldn’t shelters be required to make every attempt to find the owner before placing the animal in another home or facility or euthanizing?

Here’s the new legislation:
See 225 ILCS 605/3.10 new http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=4029&GAID=13&LegID=90246&SpecSess=&Session=

Seems pretty straightforward. We believe that every facility that shelters animals should seek to verify ownership, even for “owner surrenders” because we can easily imagine scenarios where a disgruntled neighbor, angry ex-spouse  or someone who finds an animal could take it to a shelter to relinquish it

This only makes common sense to verify ownership at the initial intake before transferring, adopting or euthanasia. This also allows the opportunity for a family to claim their animal.

During the committee hearing process, the Committee accepts Witness Slips to enter your support of the bill.  So please take the few minutes to register per the instructions and send in your electronic witness slip for support.  Instructions to register.

Then register your support for the bill through the Illinois General Assembly website.

  1. On the General Assembly’s homepage, click on “GA Dashboard”
  2. Click on “House” in the left hand menu
  3. Click on “Committees”
  4. Scroll down to “Executive Committee”
  5. Click on the gavel icon on the right hand side of the screen to “View committee hearings.”
  6. Click on “View Legislation” box, on the right
  7. Scroll down to HB4029 and click on the “Create Witness Slip” icon, on the far right
  8. Fill out your witness slip and be sure to check “proponent” and “Record of Appearance Only”

The Executive Committee meets this Monday, April 20 at 4:00 pm to consider this bill.

Please register your support by 4:00 on Monday, April 20.

The bill’s sponsors are: Deborah Conroy and Silvana Taberes

Members of the Executive Committee are:

Chairperson: Daniel J. Burke

Robert Rita

Chad Hays

Edward J. Acevedo

Luis Arroyo

Greg Harris

Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr.

Joe Sosnowski

Ed Sullivan

To Hold or Not To Hold – Is it the law? – That is our question

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Almost every week, we get comments from Good Samaritans who state they took a “found” dog to a shelter or vet clinic to be scanned for a microchip . If a microchip was found, the facility employees told the Good Samaritans they needed to sign over the dog to them because it is “the law”.

We can’t find that darn law. We have actually reached out to directors/managers of other animal control facilities and vet clinics in Illinois to find out if such a state law exists. We check ed other facilities’ policy. They told us that they take the Good Sam’s information so when they contact the microchip company, the owner can call the Good Samaritan directly to retrieve their dog. Therefore the dog never has to enter the shelter. There are not any impound fees or opportunities for the dog to be exposed to other animals with unknown medical histories. This is especially important now when the canine flu is so prevalent. . I think we can all agree that this totally makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is needlessly impounding found dogs into an already over-crowded shelter, exposing him/her to stress, illness, and possible death by lethal injection. Of course, this also causes stress for the owner and the shelter staff.

Keeping animals out of shelters should be everyone’s goal. If such a law exists that says found dogs with microchips must be impounded, we haven’t seen it.

So Lost Dogs Illinois says Show us the Law!

Use Facebook to Help Increase Your Shelter’s Return to Owner Rate

dogx-topper-mediumMany animal shelters in America have contracts with local municipalities to hold “stray” dogs for the state-mandated stray hold to give owners an opportunity to reclaim their lost dog. This period of time varies from state to state.

A shelter typically has two windows of opportunity to help people find their lost dog:

  1. When a person who has lost a dog comes in or calls to file a report.
  2. When “stray” dogs are picked up and impounded at the facility.

Today we want to talk about using Facebook to maximum potential to help lost dogs get home. We are thrilled to see so many shelters and animal control facilities (big and small) using Facebook to try to reunite lost dogs with their owners.

We have been in the Facebook game since our inception in early 2010 and we’ve seen a lot of changes along the way. We have gained a large following and have learned many lessons from our successes and failures. We have seen what does and doesn’t work. We have also seen some shelters start to post impounded found dogs on Facebook and then stop, claiming that it isn’t working or that it requires too much time.

We would respectfully like to offer some suggestions that may help make everyone happy:  shelter management, the taxpayer, the shelter donor and volunteer,  the dog’s owner and of course the dog that gets to go back home!

The benefits of posting found dogs on Facebook are numerous:

  1. You will decrease the length of stay for animals in your shelter.
  2. You will free up space for needier animals.
  3. You will increase your shelter’s reputation and goodwill (and possibly generate donations from grateful owners and fans). Nothing tugs at heartstrings better than happy reunion photos when an owner reclaims their dog. Make sure you have a camera handy!
  4. You will become a resource in the community for owners who are missing their dogs. Post articles and tips to help people find their missing dogs. Also post happy reunion stories, microchip clinics in the area, and lost pet flyers for members of your community who are missing their pet.
  5. You will help your community make a “paradigm shift” that not all stray dogs are homeless.

If your “stray” intake is low use your main Facebook page to post them. The beauty of posting lost and found dogs on Facebook is that a neighbor or complete stranger might “happen chance” to see the post of the found dog and know where he/she belongs. Or, they might see the lost dog and then see the post.

Yes, the people that are actively matching (the owner, our volunteers and members of the public who enjoy doing this) will seek out the info where ever it is stored, whether it be on a website or a separate Facebook page but that only takes care of the actual matches (where a lost report matches a found report) which is still a fairly small percentage of the reunions.

The best chance for a “happen chance” reunion is to get the posting in front of the biggest audience possible, which is almost always your main Facebook page that you use for all of your shelter Facebook posts. Pictures of impounded pets are one of the most widely shared posts on Facebook (much more than adoptable pets) so posting them on your main Facebook page has the added benefit of driving traffic to your page so that your adoptables, fundraisers, etc. are also more likely to be seen.

A common mistake we see is shelters that try to run a separate Facebook page for found pets and then not actively working to build the fan base of that page. The average person is not going to stumble across the Found or Stray page by accident and Facebook does not make it easy to search.  So you will only reach those that are actively looking for your page and the likelihood of “happen chance” reunions will be greatly diminished.

If your shelter has such a high intake of “strays” that posting them on your main page is not feasible, then yes, perhaps setting up a separate Facebook page is the best solution.

Here are a few suggestions if you set up a separate page:

  1. Make sure that you include your location name and county in the title of the Facebook page. Make it as easy as possible for people to find it. Include it on your website and in any literature you distribute.
  2. Include links to the Stray page in the “About Us” section of your main Facebook page.
  3. Drive traffic to the Stray page at least once per day (more at the beginning) by sharing a post from it onto your main page and reminding your fans that “All impounded pets at xxxx shelter can be seen by visiting our Stray page”. Use hotlinks and Facebook tags whenever possible so that people can just click and be taken directly to the new page.
  4. Ask one or two volunteers to help you with this page and give them full access to it. They should engage with the fans and commenters. It’s called “social” media for a reason!  Make sure they answer every question and respond to comments. Get your community actively engaged in helping reunite found pets!
  5. Volunteer Facebook administrators can also share the posts on other neighborhood pages – including police departments, newspapers, radio stations, vet clinics, dog parks, town pages, garage sale pages, buy/sell pages and popular neighborhood hangouts like bars and restaurants. This can quickly increase the fan base of your page and makes an excellent and rewarding volunteer opportunity for someone who cannot make it into the shelter to do hands-on work.
  6. Do not get discouraged if the public offers to adopt the dog rather than trying to find the owner. Create some standard responses that your volunteers can copy and paste below these comments. And remember! You are lining up potential adopters if an owner does not come forward.
  7. Link your “Stray” page to a Twitter account with a free Facebook app that will automatically retweet everything you post. Once it is set up it is seamless and maintenance free.  You will reach a much broader audience especially if you use hashtags in front of the location. Many police departments and media outlets monitor twitter via hashtag and will retweet your posts for lost and found dogs.

Thank you for helping more lost dogs get home! You can find more tips to help increase your Return to Owner rate in this blog post: Reuniting Lost Dogs with Their Families – How Shelters Can Help

Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs in Chicago

As most of our followers know, we supported and reposted the petition for Mayor Emanuel and Chicago City Council to revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs. We want to explain why we agree with the petition.

Last November we voiced our concerns on our Facebook page about the ordinance being passed by the budget committee. We asked our supporters to contact their aldermen and the Mayor to ask them to table it for public discussion. The next Wednesday our director attended the meeting to voice her concerns during public comments and was dismayed to find out that no public comments were allowed. The resolution was passed with 49 ayes. Alderman Pope moved to reconsider the foregoing vote. Motion was lost.

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What could have been done differently?

First of all, the Mayor and the Aldermen could have set aside the ordinance and asked the Commission of Chicago Animal Care and Control (advisory board) to research ways to increase the return-to- owner rates for Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC).

Here are some ideas that other cities have adopted to increase their return-to-owners rates. (tax dollars being spent wisely)

  1. Offer a “Free Ride Home Program.” Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Washoe County (NV) have similar programs. Animal Care staff will give a pet one free ride home per year if it is wearing a City pet license. No ticket will be issued for the first time licensed pets run at large. This puts licensing in a positive light showing the benefits of what it can do for an owner and their pet.
  2. Offer free or low cost ($5.00) microchip clinics. Washoe County, Nevada offered one year of free microchips and saw a 30% increase in their return to owner rates. (Side note: CA based Found Animal Foundation offers $4.95 microchip with free lifetime registration) In a recent study of US animal shelters, 52.2% of stray dogs and 38.5% stray cats with registered microchips were reunited.
  3. ID Me programs – ASPCA study found shelters that provide engraved ID tags with collars at the time of adoption or redemption show that pet owners will keep the collar w/tags on their pets which provides instant identification.

These are just a few simple suggestions to increase a shelter’s return-to- owner rate. There are many more.

We would like to have these questions answered regarding the reduced stray hold:

  1. Where was the discussion on how this would affect hundreds of thousands of families and their loved family pets in Chicago?
  2. What are the safeguards if a family of a dog or cat of “unknown ownership” comes in after the stray hold with proof of ownership? Can they get their dog or cat back? What is the procedure?
  1. Animal Welfare League (AWL) is the one of three non-city agencies that holds animals for City of Chicago. They do not post photos of found animals. Are the animals held for 3 days at AWL and then transferred to CACC to be held for another 3 days or does the stray hold clock start clicking at AWL.
  2. Because the new ordinance states “In the event the executive director determines that an animal of unknown ownership suffers from severe behavioral issues, the executive director may allow any disposition, of the animal after three days.” What is the definition of severe behavioral issues? What are the qualifications of the person who is determining these behavioral issues?
  3. Finally, where was the public campaign to explain this ordinance to citizens who considered their pets loved family members?

Many lost pets go unclaimed because it is virtually impossible for the average citizen to figure out the “system” in Chicago and Cook County. The owners are looking, but not in the right place, they don’t know where to look and the shelters make the false assumption that the animal is a “stray” or has been “dumped”. Factor in that a large percentage of the urban population speak limited English, have limited finances, transportation and computer access. They may work two jobs or shift work, and cannot visit the stray holding facility during normal business hours. This makes it difficult for people to claim their animals. The reduced stray hold exacerbates the problem.

Again, we are asking that you continue to sign and share the petition. Please send in your questions and comments to your aldermen and the Mayor. Thank you for your support and taking the time to read our blog.

City of Chicago Aldermen

rahm.emanuel@cityofchicago.org  Mayor

@ChicagosMayor Twitter

Mayor’s Facebook Page

susana.mendoza@cityofchicago.org  City Clerk

City Clerk’s Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top Five Reasons Shelters/Stray Holding Facilities Should Post Pictures of Lost and Found Pets on Facebook Or Their Website

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5. Shelters/stray holding facilities that post pictures and flyers of lost and found pets on Facebook or Websites generate goodwill, positive press and donations.

4. Shelters/stray holding facilities will elevate their reputation in the community from “dogcatcher” to compassionate life-savers. Since “stray” contracts are funded with taxpayer money, they will show that they are using their funds wisely.

3. Pictures and information about lost and found pets are widely shared.  This will increase a shelter’s Facebook “edgerank” making their other posts appear more frequently in their supporters newsfeeds, generating more adoptions and donations. We post a shout out on LDI’s Facebook page  if your organization is posting “found” dog pictures on your organization’s Facebook page.

2. Since an estimated 40 – 60% of animals in shelters are lost pets, proactively working to get them home by posting pictures will reduce overcrowding and disease, and free up kennel space for needier animals.

1. And the NUMBER ONE reason that shelters/stray holding facilities should post pictures of lost and found pets on Facebook and Your Website?   Because it makes reunions like this happen. Need we say more?

Pebbles & Sydney 12.2014

Reunited ~Peebles and Sydney from Chicago were reunited within seconds of their owner posting on Lost Dogs Illinois Facebook page.  One of Lost Dogs Illinois loyal fans checked Petharbor and found their listing on the website.

Thank you to all of the shelters who do post pictures and share flyers of lost and found pets on your Facebook page and Websites.  YOU are saving lives.

 

 

Putting the Pieces into Place for Your Pet’s Microchip

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Disclaimer-Lost Dogs Illinois believes all dogs should wear a collar with an up to date readable id tag and have a properly registered microchip.

We know microchips work in helping pets get home when all the pieces fall into place.

First, the animal is brought to a vet clinic, rescue/shelter or animal control facility that scans every animal entering the facility using AVMA standards and has a universal scanner with working batteries that reads all chip frequencies and then:

  • Your microchip is registered to you
  • Your information is up to date
  • The chip is registered to the right animal

All too often we hear reports of found dogs that have chips but; they are not registered, not registered to the correct owner or the information is out of date. At events where we offer free scans to dogs many owners do not understand how microchips work and that they need to register the chip and always keep the information up to date.

So to help get the pieces into place we strongly urge you to make sure your pet’s microchip is registered to you and the proper animal and your information is always kept up to date.

ANNAPOLIS – A HEARTWARMING STORY OF AN AMAZING REUNION AND A REMINDER TO NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!

Annapolis

Annapolis and Gizmo were playing in their yard in Bureau, Illinois in June of 2013 when they both got out through a hole in their fence. Immediately upon discovering they were missing, their owners, Stefanie and David, ran around to the front of the house only to discover Gizmo standing right there in front of them and Annapolis nowhere to be found! It was if he had vanished into thin air!

Stefanie and David registered their lost dog immediately with Lost Dogs Illinois, and then they set out searching for him. They scoured the neighborhood going door to door and hung flyers everywhere they could think of. They contacted every vet clinic, humane society, and shelter in the area, only to be told he had never been found. Any potential sightings only led to dead ends and disappointment. They even went to local adoption events thinking they would somehow locate him. Yet all their hard work never paid off.

However, his owners never gave up hope! They each had a set of websites that they checked daily that included every humane society, shelter, and animal control facility in the area. They checked craigslist, liked every dog-related Facebook page they could imagine, and they followed up on every lead and every sighting, even going places in person to check if it was their beloved Annapolis.

Then on December 23, 2014 Stefanie was perusing the local shelter pages when she came across a post for a male chiweenie who was up for adoption. He was listed under another name, but she was almost 100% positive this was Annapolis. Once they got a hold of the shelter, Stefanie and David made the hour-long drive to the Henry County Humane Society to see if this was their dog. When they got out of their car, a volunteer was just taking the dog out for a walk. As soon as they saw the dog, they immediately knew this was Annapolis! He came running up to them with his tail wagging as if he knew he had finally been reunited with his owners.

Now that they had finally found him, they wanted to know how he had ended up at the humane society. They were told that the local police had found Annapolis running loose in an industrial area and that no one ever claimed him. He was surrendered to the local no-kill shelter in Henry County and was being prepped for adoption when Stefanie happened upon him on that Tuesday just before Christmas.

Annapolis finally arrived home on January 7th, 2015. He settled in right back into his old routine. It was if he never left!!!!

Stefanie wanted to share a few words of wisdom with those still looking for their lost pets:

“I would of never thought to microchip my pets, I have a fenced in yard and live in a small town, everyone knows everyone and their pets. But now I know you can never be to safe! My dogs now are chipped, collared, and never left unattended in my yard.

When losing a pet you never want to give up hope. Yes it might get hard to believe your pet will be reunited after a month even more after 6 months and after a year your hope might slim but always keep looking never give up, We would of never  found Annapolis if we would of just gave up.”

WELCOME HOME ANNAPOLIS!

Written by Amanda T., LDI volunteer

Where Oh Where Could My Lost Dog be Held in Cook County?

Cook County, Illinois, population 5.2 million encompasses 1635 square miles and includes the City of Chicago, the third most populous city in the United States (2.7 million citizens).

If you assume that Cook County residents mirror the national average, then over 65% of households own a pet. With many households owning more than one pet, it can be safely 10752093_10205148870672529_1897965488_nassumed that there are potentially several million owned pets in Cook County, Illinois.

When these pets go missing, where do they go? Where are they taken? That’s where the real mystery begins.

Since dogs and cats have four legs and walk, we can safely assume that many lost pets venture outside of their local “jurisdiction”. There are over 130 municipalities (excluding Chicago) in Cook County. These municipalities have “stray holding” agreements with various facilities including shelters, vet clinics, and police departments. These facilities do not cross-communicate with each other. In fact, most of these facilities do not even post photos online of the lost pets they have impounded. It is also very common for a Good Samaritan who finds a lost pet to take it to the “wrong” facility (outside of the jurisdiction where it was found), complicating matters even further.

Many lost pets go unclaimed because it is virtually impossible for the average citizen to figure out the “system”. The owners are looking, but not in the right place and the shelters make the false assumption that the animal is a “stray” or has been “dumped”. Then factor in that a large percentage of the urban population speak limited English, have limited finances, transportation and computer access. They may work two jobs or shift work, and cannot visit the stray holding facility during normal business hours. If by a stroke of luck, a lost pet IS located, reclaim fees are often so high that the owner can not afford them. (For example, fees at Golf Rose Animal Hospital are as high $35 per night for some contracted cities).

Unfortunately, the outcome for many of these pets is death. “Pet Overpopulation” is blamed, and efforts to increase adoptions and speedy transfers to rescue groups are introduced. These pets don’t need a new home. They already have one. They need to go home.

Here is a limited sampling of some of the stray holding facilities in Cook County. If you live in any of the cities or municipalities that are not listed, please call your local non-emergency police number and ask where a stray animal is held. Then call the facility and ask if they post pictures of impounded pets on their Facebook page or website. When you have gathered this information please email it to us at lostdogsil@gmail.com so we can update our list.

City of Chicago Animal Care and Control. Found pets are posted on Petharbor but not on any social media sites. There is no proactive program in place to get lost pets back home. Owners must wait for guided group “tours” of the facility to see if they recognize their impounded pet.

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control – No facility. No listing on their website to indicate where the lost pets for the over 130 municipalities in Cook County are taken.  No database of “found” animal pictures. No pictures on social media.

Animal Welfare League holds “found” animals for the unincorporated section of Cook County and maybe other cities. No listing of which municipalities contract their services are on their website. No pictures of “found” animals on their website or Facebook page.

Golf Rose Animal Hospital is the holding facility for the following:

– Schaumburg          – Hoffman Estates

– Palatine                  – Elgin

– Barrington Hills     – South Barrington

– Arlington Heights  – Rolling Meadows

– Roselle                    – Mt. Prospect

– Carpentersville      – South Elgin (part time)

– Elk Grove Village (Emergency Medical Only)

– Certain unincorporated areas of Cook County

No pictures are posted on Golf Rose Facebook page or website. As far as we know, there are no pictures posted on any City Facebook pages.

How do we resolve the issues of Cook County’s animal control system? Please speak out 10808265_10203498734689201_1875989022_nstrongly to your local elected officials about this issue. They are our pets, and we deserve the right to know where they are being housed. Simple changes like posting “found” dogs pictures on social media/website or posting the list of stray holding facilities website can make a huge difference.

Bobbi “Marley” Story

Rescue is never ever what we anticipate.

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We have literally been through hell these last few weeks.

We wanted to share with you that as of tonight, Marley (Mia) has been safely reunited with her rightful owners. It is a very long story, but we can assure you that she is safe, loved and so wanted.

We discovered that Marley’s microchip was misread at the shelter when we tried to register her. We learned that she was reported missing during the Polar Vortex in February 2014. We are still reeling in this discovery.

We had a very difficult decision to make. We’ve long been advocates of keeping animals safe and we have also shared countless stories of lost dogs and reunification.
We wanted to do right by Marley. We knew that she was found in deplorable conditions. It was easy for us to assume the worst. It was easier to believe that she was better off in rescue.

We were faced with a moral and ethical decision. We prayed like crazy and knew that we had to do the right thing and it was up to the owner to show us how much they truly searched and cared for this dog.

With the help of CACC and rescue friends…our prayers were answered.
Records of their search were shown via microchip and at the shelter. Mia’s owner just gave birth on October 1st and was still in the hospital when she received our phone call through the shelter. She literally discharged early, with her new baby and drove directly to the shelter to be reunited. There was no mistake that this dog was loved, wanted and missed. We are thankful that we could witness the reunification and feel the out pour of emotion. We are also grateful that they want us to stay in touch and visit this special angel.

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Thank you Making A Difference Rescue for sharing Mia (Marley) story.

https://www.facebook.com/Makingadifferencerescue

LadyBird, this is Haven1. Come in LadyBird.


Here at HoundSong we believe in an open door. We have long proselytized the open sharing of what happens from day to day in our rescue. An easy thing when all is good and the stories we share are like handing out warm chocolate chip cookies. Not so easy a thing when we “screw the pooch”. Grab a coffee; kick up your feet, here comes the story of most ridiculous gaffe ever made in the search for lost dog.

ladybirdOn Wednesday, Febuary 5th 2014 LadyBird the Beagle went “missing” from her foster home. LadyBird is an odd cookie. Others have called her a puppy-mill dog. This is somewhat of a misnomer. She was a breeder dog, but not from a puppy mill environment. She does suffer some of the same malady’s common to puppy mill dogs. She is a timid, antisocial, brooding, sort of gal who is not particularly interested in interaction of any sort. She is a “duck and cover” gal. She can hide in plain sight…like a Ninja. LadyBird, the Beagle Ninja.
(…and thinking about it now, if she were a Black Ops Specialist, she even has a cool code name. Haven1, this is LadyBird.
This is Haven1, go ahead LadyBird
I have eyes on the package, are we ROE clear?
Red light! I say again, Red Light!  We are not ROE clear. Hold at Epsilon 1. Cover and observe.
Copy Haven1, hold and cover. Observe but do not engage. LadyBird out.)

LadyBird’s ninja like skills is why, at first, her foster mom did not panic when she seemed to be missing. It is not uncommon to go most of a day and not see, or only have a fleeting glimpse of, LadyBird. In what has become a practiced routine, her foster mom set about a search patrol of all LadyBird’s usual hidey holes. Behind the couch, under the computer desk, behind the toilet, under the bed. One by one these locations were searched and cleared. One by one these locations were empty. After about 4 hours since the last LadyBird sighting, frantic destruction of the entire house began. At 8 hours and a search of the house, yard, and neighborhood, it seemed LadyBird had gone off mission…
LadyBird had gone rogue.

We have been rescuing hounds for 18 years. In those 18 years, the wanderlust of the hound has afforded us a particular set of skills. We have searched for A LOT of dogs. Add to these the dogs for whom we have used the skilled nose of our Bluetick Coonhound, Ranger, to track and locate for other people, and we have spent more hours stooped over muddy prints in the rain and baiting feed stations than I care to count. My point being, we are not amateurs. We know how to get it done. Or so we thought…

posterpicWe spent the next week following our lost dog SOP(Standard Operating Procedure).
Phone calls to authorities – Check.
Fliers and posters – Check.
Boots on the ground (in snow up to our asses) and eyes on task – Check.
…and so on and so forth right down the list.
We followed the procedure, as we had SUCCESSFULLY done a hundred times. My wife, in her usual obsessive manner, drove off an entire oil change up and down every street and alley with her wide, panicked eyes peering into every shadow as though this could be the moment we found her. We tripped and tracked behind every print in the snow as though our hopeful steps would surely lead us to old LadyBird. We did, as we had always done on every search. Only this time nothing happened. Not even a sighting.
In 18 years we have never had that happen. We always had at least a sighting.

By the 5th day we were deeply worried.
On the 6th day, at 10:30PM, LadyBird was found pattering around in the backyard of her foster home as though she had never left.

…and she hadn’t.
She was in the backyard the whole time.

This is what we saw.

I want you to keep in mind we had searched everywhere in the house and yard for LadyBird. We had gone as far as poking snow drifts with a broom handle like we were searching for an avalanche victim.

The foyer to LadyBird's underground bunker

 

LadyBird had made herself an “underground” bunker with a hidden secret entrance that would make the designers of NORAD jealous.

 

Oh look, a hallway.

Peeking into the common use room.

 

She divided her bunker into three areas. A entry, a common area, and sleeping quarters, all joined by a short hallway at 90 degrees to the previous “room”.

 

The sleeping quarters.

 

Here, back far enough where not even the most harsh weather and strongest winds could not reach her, is the sleeping quarters. We found her choker collar here. So cozy a room had she made for herself, while it was about 10 degrees outside, the collar was warm to the touch.

 

Opening holes to the common area and sleeping quarters.

 

What was left after we nuked her bunker.

 

So…
You can laugh at us if you like.
Feel free to call us stupid. You can even accuse us of being irresponsible or remark how unbelievable it is that we left her there…in some of the worst weather “the region” has seen in years…to shiver and suffer in the cold.
Truth is, we have no excuses.
It seems unfathomable that we did not find her hiding, in the snow, under decorative grasses, just 35 feet from the backdoor of her foster home. It seems unfathomable and inexcusable. However, our mistakes are not the moral of this story.

The moral of this story is multifaceted.
1. When searching for a lost dog, never rely on what you “know”. Our experience blinded us. We had searched the yard for LadyBird. Not seeing any tracks or visible sign of her presence (and having poked to death the snow drifts with a broom handle)we wrote it off a possibility. We went about our search thinking like people, rather than like a dog. We approached this search as we had approached a hundred others, seeing it through the eyes of all our previous searches…when we should have tried to approach it using LadyBird’s eyes.
2. Double Check and Triple check. Even if you have searched an area, search it again. Even if your dogs is not hiding under a bush in your own yard, he/she may return near home from time to time.
3. Do not give up. In severe weather (or severe experiences like tornado’s or floods)people have a tendency to assume “Fluffy could just not have lived through that.”  In temperatures as low as -30 degrees, inches upon inches of snow stacking up all over the area, and without a single sighting of her, we were just a day or two from assuming the worst for LadyBird. Nagging in a dark corner of our minds was the thought that LadyBird had been hit by a plow and was buried somewhere under one of the mountainous piles of snow along the roadway.  We were very close to calling it hopeless….for you and I it would have been hopeless. For our animals though…well…when it comes to staying alive they are just smarter.

We post this in the hope that others may learn from our mistake.
Never assume…always look with unfettered eyes…and always know that, in terms of survival, you are not smarter than your dog.

Thank you Darin Lee of RodDar Houndsong Rescue for your honest account of LadyBird’s adventure.

http://www.houndsong.com/

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