Thank you, Elaine, for sharing Minnie’s story.
When a good friend and someone I have learned much from, Katie C, reached out to me to help with another loose rescue pup name Leia. I said yes. We followed our usual routine and started a group message with volunteers and the rescue. The rescue was totally engaged in doing whatever was needed and as was the foster family. This in itself helps the whole process in general. Sometimes we use the word “textbook” loosely because when helping with a lost dog anything and everything can happen. But , I do know this. There are some steps that have proven to make the journey easier. Leia went loose on a Saturday and was safely trapped by Tuesday morning
- Flyer. Flyer. Flyer. (This was done immediately for Leia)
- Sightings start coming in
- Speak with callers and get better details. Leia was seen several times in yards where flyers had been given to homeowners. Guess what? They called.
- We established a good area for a feeding station and camera and trap. All the meanwhile still flyering.
- Learned and saw for our own eyes Leia in the area and actually engaging the zip tied trap baited with irrestable food. We knew she was comfortable and….
- Set and watched the trap.
- Safely trapped Leia
To say this went like clockwork is true. Flyers generated sightings. Sightings told us areas where she was. Homeowners were willing to allow us to use the tools we needed. Finally, patience and observation helped us capture Leia safely.
Thank you, Rosanne, for sharing Leia’s story.
Stella’s rescue is such an important story to tell. Both the family and Buddha Dog Recovery and Rescue hope that her story can help other families know what to do and what not to do when their pet goes missing.
When Stella went missing on May 13th, a recovery group out of CT urged the family to hire a tracker out of Rhode Island. After paying $450, this tracker told them that Stella was cornered and picked up and taken by someone. Terrified and heart broken at thought of Stella being taken, her family posted signs that Stella was stolen. The truth was, Stella was never picked up, never stolen…she had never left the area as confirmed by countless sightings that started pouring in. The tracker could not have been more wrong. When confronted with the numerous sightings, both the tracker and recovery groups go to answer as always, was that whomever had Stella, let her go. Once again, this recovery group urged the owners to bring this same tracker back out to track Stella AGAIN and still sticking to same bogus story that she had been picked up. Stella was being sighted in a concentrated area, on the same streets over and over and over for a couple of weeks. Instead of setting up much needed traps for Stella, this recovery group had the family doing pointless bacon burns morning, noon and night for several days with the hopes that Stella would just come out of hiding and come out for the owner. Finally, after weeks of wasting precious time, resulting in Stella traveling further away, the recovery group set up a trap that was far too small for Stella. Not only was the trap too small but it was not set up properly and was left unmonitored, leaving a possum in the trap overnight and in to the next day which caused Stella to move from that area…again!
It was at this point that Jenn and I were contacted by the family. New signs were made and the poster coverage was expanded miles out from her last known whereabouts. After almost a week of no sightings, we finally got the call we were waiting for, someone who saw Stella’s poster on facebook, saw her six and half miles away from where she was last seen. More posters went up and we began mapping her extensive travel and figuring out her travel patterns, which included running along and crossing dangerous route 84. We immediately set up traps and an enclosure in the woods alongside route 84, monitored with a wireless feed so that the area would remain undisturbed. We repeatedly got Stella on camera along with a host of her furry friends, which included a very unwelcome fisher cat, a fox, possum and three different cats. The traps were monitored around the clock and many sleepless nights in the car ensued, so that if any of these creatures set off the trap it would be immediately reset so as not to scare Stella off from the area. Not disclosing many of her sightings and the location of the traps were instrumental in Stella’s capture. Stella’s daily travel pattern was a ten mile straight line back and forth appearing at the trap every two to three days. One terrifying night we helplessly watched from a distance as she slept directly along side route 84 by the enclosure, one false move and she would run directly in to traffic. Finally, last night she appeared on camera for what would be her last time, I called Jenn who lived minutes from where our enclosure was set up and she was there momentarily to hear the door slam shut…Stella’s time on the run was finally over! I made the call to Stella’s family and through screams of joy they made their way to meet Jenn and be reunited with their sweet Stella. All the sleepless nights, the poison ivy and poison oak was worth it!!! If proper recovery steps had been taken in the beginning, Stella would never have been in such danger on route 84 and would have been home long ago. By sharing the full story of Stella’s rescue we hope to help other families.
Thank you Buddha Dog Rescue and Recovery for giving us permission to print Stella’s Story.
On an early January evening, while cooking dinner, one of my dogs started barking like crazy at our front door. I went to see why she was barking, and saw a black & white dog in the driveway across the street. I immediately went out and tried to call her, but she just looked at me, went up the driveway and was gone. I rang my neighbor’s doorbell and told them about her. They informed me that they had been seeing her for a couple of weeks. I called Animal Control because I thought it might be someone’s dog from our neighborhood. When the Animal Control officer arrived they did a “drive-by”, didn’t see her, and left. I checked Lost Dogs Illinois’ website to see if I could find any similar dogs that had been posted as missing in the previous two weeks with no luck.
A couple of days went by without a sighting. That Saturday we decided to walk around the neighborhood to see if we could spot her, and we did! We called Animal Control again. When the officer arrived I gave him a description of the dog. He informed me that they had been looking for the same dog for 6-8 weeks. I went back on the Lost Dogs Illinois website to search for missing dogs back to November or December. That is when I saw Pebbles. She had been missing since November 24th from Carpentersville. I wasn’t sure if that was really the dog I was seeing because we live in Elgin. We are about 10 miles from where she was last spotted. Could this really be Pebbles?
At first we were unsure if we should contact the person who posted her to LDI’s page. We weren’t positive it was Pebbles, because she wouldn’t let us get close enough to get a good look, but the similarities were uncanny. Our thought was “some hope is better than no hope” so we got in contact with Rayann, Pebbles’ foster mom. She informed us that Pebbles had gotten out while on a trial adoption with a family in Carpentersville.
Rayann and another woman came out the next night to help us search for her. We had no luck that night, but told Rayann we would not stop trying and would text her if we spotted Pebbles again. Steve spent countless hours tracking and searching the neighborhood. He was out there in a blizzard, and on many below-zero nights, hoping to find signs of where she was sheltering. He had a few leads, but never truly found her it. Pebbles did lead him on a couple of nice long walks around the neighborhood as she darted in between houses and through yards.
We then set up a feeding station at our house, handed out flyers, and knocked on peoples’ doors to generate sightings. It turned out that a lot of people had seen Pebbles. We installed video cameras at our house so we could watch and record when the dog was coming to eat. The first time we got her on video, I sent it to Rayann, and she confirmed it was in fact Pebbles!
At that point, we weren’t sure how we were going to catch her. That’s when I saw a post on LDI’s Facebook page about a dog that had been missing for a year and was recently caught. I commented on the post saying how it gave us hope about catching Pebbles. Susan Taney and Katie Campbell replied to my comment and from there we started messaging on Facebook.
Susan informed me that she had a trap we could borrow. The next night, Susan drove out to our house and showed us how to set the trap and explained how to lure Pebbles into it. We spent two weeks slowly moving the feeding station into the trap. Then, at 3:59am on February 22nd Pebbles worked up the nerve to go all the way into the trap. She set off the trap but, unfortunately, the trap door bounced and she was able to get out. Our hearts were broken. The next day we started the process of slowly moving the feeding station into the trap again. Pebbles was now so leery of the trap that she wouldn’t go anywhere near it. It was time to devise a new plan.
After consulting with Susan and Katie, we decided it would be best to try and get her into our backyard. My husband, Steve, is very handy and extremely talented when it comes to thinking outside the box and putting those ideas into motion. He thought that if we could get her into our backyard and figure out a way to get the gate to close behind her, we could catch her. He rigged up a whole pulley system with ropes and bungee cords tied to our gate, with the other end of the rope tied to a frozen hot dog. Pebbles had a history of taking the food we left out for her and running off with it to eat somewhere else. If she tried to take the hot dog and run she would set off the trap, and the gate door would close behind her before she could get out. Once again, Pebbles outsmarted us. She came into our back yard several times, but each time decided to lie down and enjoy her hot dogs in peace. Again, it was time to figure out a new plan.
Steve made some adjustments to his design, and decided that he was going to attach a rope to the gate and bring it up to the front porch of our house. We were hopeful that when we saw her on the camera in the backyard, we could go out front and pull the rope to close the gate. We tried this every night for about a week, but Pebbles would never come when we were awake. She somehow knew exactly when we went to bed and would show up about 10 minutes later. We nicknamed her “Santa” because she “knew when we were sleeping and when we were awake”. She would then wander around our yard and peacefully eat her hot dogs.
Finally, on March 17th , Steve decided he was going to stay up late to see if she would come. It was around midnight when he saw her on the camera. Her head popped through the open gate and she looked around. She then came all the way into the yard and started sniffing around. Steve immediately went out our front door and pulled the rope with all his might to shut the gate. The gate was closed and she was now in our back yard! I was awakened when he said “I got her…she’s in the back yard!” I instantly called Rayann to tell her the news. She was so excited that she got dressed and headed out our way. Now we had to try to get the slip lead on her, and it wasn’t going to be easy. Pebbles is extremely fearful of people…even those whom she had been seeing and smelling, and who were feeding her daily.
I messaged Katie and Susan for advice. Katie suggested one of us go out there with food, sit down, and slowly scooch our way toward Pebbles. I armed myself with a bowl of cut up hot dogs and headed to the backyard. I sat down and had Pebbles in my sight, never making direct eye contact with her. I used yawning and lip licking as calming signals, while pretending to eat the hot dog pieces and gently tossing some to her. Every couple of minutes I would scooch a little closer and she would move away a little more. After about an hour and a half I was able to get her in the corner behind our garage and shed. She let me get close enough that I could softly pet her and tell her it was going to be ok. I pulled the slip lead out of my pocket and gently slid it over her head. She never resisted. She knew her ordeal was over and she was safe. I called Steve to let him know that he and Rayann could come outside. Rayann was so happy to see Pebbles, and Pebbles was happy to see her too! We were all in tears.
On March 18th at 2:00am, after three months, several failed attempts, a blizzard, below zero temperatures, accidentally trapping a raccoon, and overwhelming concern for her safety, Pebbles was finally safe! Pebbles is now in her forever home with Rayann (who is going to adopt her!) and all of her doggie siblings. She got a bath, a new collar and tags, and is proudly strutting around showing everyone. A very happy ending to a long adventure for everyone!
Thank you Amy for sharing your story! You and Steve rock as Good Samaritans!
Using a portable grill can be very helpful in catching a shy, scared dog. If you are getting sightings of your dog in a general area, we recommend setting up a feeding station. This can help to keep a lost dog in one area and eventually lead to capture. However, sometimes it is difficult to get a lost dog to find the feeding station. Grilling meats with a portable grill can help!
The smell of bacon or bratwurst cooking on a grill is very strong. Humans can pick up the scent of grilled meats when someone in the neighborhood is grilling out. Which means a hungry dog can also pick up that yummy, tempting scent, but from an even greater distance since dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans.
When you are grilling for a shy, lost dog, you must do it very quietly. You do not want to scare him out of the area. Pick a location near to where your dog’s sightings have been, but make sure it is an area that is people-free and safe for your dog (away from roadways, train tracks and thawing ponds). If your sightings have been consistent and you suspect that your dog is using a regular path of travel, then we recommend grilling near that pathway. This can improve your chances of your dog finding the tempting food. It is also important to get permission from the landowner to grill on their property. Make sure to read and abide by the grilling instructions included with your portable grill. Never leave a grill unattended.
Once you choose the location and receive permission from the owner of the property – you can begin. It is best to only have ONE person grilling to prevent your dog from getting scared away by the sounds of your voices. Remember, for a shy, lost dog – two’s a crowd! Once your grill is set up and the meat is cooking, quietly sit in the area for as long as it takes to cook. When the meat is cooked, you can place it on the ground or in your dog’s dish. If possible, set up a trail camera facing the grilled food, so you will know who has stopped by to eat and when (set the time/date function on the camera).
Don’t be disappointed if your dog does not find the food within 24 hours. Just grill quietly again the next day and leave the area. If your dog is seen eating the grilled food, it is important to continue to keeep yummy, tempting food at this location. He or she will be sure to stop by again for more. Once you know that your dog is coming to this feeding station on a regular basis, you can consider setting up a humane live trap near the food. Please see our articles on humane trapping for details.
Good luck and happy grilling! Remember, your lost dog is depending on YOU to bring him safely home.
Colleen Duero, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin Volunteer
Effectively coordinating your volunteers in the search for a lost dog is what we call “harnessing the energy”. When everybody is on the same team and pulling in the same direction, great things can happen. When the efforts are scattered and fragmented, volunteers will get frustrated and the search can end badly.
This article will focus on the steps to help your rescue or shelter’s volunteers work effectively as a team to generate sightings of the missing dog.
First and foremost – please make sure that you have done the Five Things to Do If You Have Lost Your Dog. Putting scent items and food at the spot where the dog went missing from will help keep him in the area – even if he is unfamiliar with the location.
1. Assign one “point person”. Preferably this is the person that is most bonded with the lost dog (the owner or foster parent) and with the biggest emotional committment to the process. The point person must be a responsible individual with the time required to be able to answer EVERY phone call and go to every sighting location. The point person must be dedicated to the process for the days, weeks or months that it might require to successfully catch the dog.
2. Use a phone number on the flyer that will be answered promptly. Do not use a shelter phone number that won’t be answered during closed hours. Do not use an automated voice system or answering service. Many people who see your dog won’t call again. They will try ONCE. If you miss the opportunity to speak with them, you may never get another chance and you might miss valuable information about your dog’s location. Do not rely on texting. Callers need to hear your voice and your emotional commitment to the dog. This will encourage them to keep helping you.
3. Change the message on your phone to include a message about the missing dog. If the caller reaches an ordinary voice message, he may hang up and not try again. The caller must know they’ve reached the correct number to report a sighting.
4. Do NOT offer a reward for the missing dog. In our experience, this is almost always a bad idea. Rewards encourage people to chase the dog, possibly into oncoming traffic. A dog that is being pursued for a reward will not settle and will become more and more elusive and possibly move out of the area altogether. Then you will have to start all over in a new location. You want sightings of the dog so that you can implement a plan to catch him safely. Rewards are counterproductive to this effort because you will not be able to pay a reward for each sighting.
5. In the early hours of the dog going missing; rescue volunteers may panic and want to rush to a sighting location to “search”. This is almost always a bad idea. Their energy should be used for quickly flyering the area – going door to door and trying to speak to as many people as possible and leaving a flyer in their hands. Searching for a shy lost dog will chase the dog out of the area and possibly into the path of traffic. Or the dog may go into hiding, reducing sightings and prolonging the search. Your goal is to let the shy lost dog settle, without the pressure of being pursued. You will have a much greater chance of catching him.
6. The point person should be organized and ready to distribute maps and flyers to the volunteers. Use a Rubbermaid tub in a central location to store flyers, maps and supplies. Then anyone with some time to spare can do some flyering without duplicating efforts.
7. Don’t congregate noisily in an area to flyer. Don’t slam car doors. The dog may be hidden somewhere nearby watching you. Too much activity may frighten him into leaving the area. Flyer in groups of two for safety, but be quiet and calm.
8. Pace your volunteers. Make sure they understand that this could take weeks or months. Volunteers will be needed to flyer after every sighting, to make and move signs, to update Craigslist, radio, and newspaper ads and to keep notifying vet clinics, shelters, etc.
9. Try to keep everyone “in the loop” so they feel useful and engaged. Consider using a closed Facebook group for the volunteers to keep everyone informed. Stay positive. Negativity won’t help and will probably prolong the search. Don’t waste any time in assigning blame for how or why the dog went missing. This does nothing to help find the dog and will decrease the morale of the team.
Next, we’ll focus on the best way to respond when you get your sighting calls.
Previous Article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-2/
Feeding stations are an important tool in the toolbox of shy lost dog recovery. It is a fancy name for a blob of smelly food on the ground, a bowl of water and a way to monitor the two. You can also leave an article of your clothing at the feeding station. Remember, lost dogs are drawn by smell – not by sight or sound. This is why it doesn’t do any good to call or whistle to them, and may in fact drive them farther out of the area.
Shy lost dogs that have gone into survival mode are only concerned with three things:
- finding food and water
- finding hiding places or shelter in inclement weather
- avoiding predators: humans. Yes, this means you, the owner. Don’t take it personally!
This is instinctive for dogs and it gives them the ability to live out indefinitely on their own. Never, ever underestimate your dog’s ability to survive.
The key to a successful recovery is to provide the dog with these three needs. Once these needs have been met, he will start to settle in to a predictable routine. He will start to return to a more domesticated state of mind. This can take a few hours or a few months. A feeding station is an integral part of this process.
Most owners make the mistake of not putting food out at a sighting location or if they do, they abandon it after a day or two. Big mistake! If a dog has been in an area once, it is very likely that he may return to that area, and your feeding station will help draw him there.
For a little humorous break in an otherwise serious topic, here are the top ten reasons people have given us why they won’t leave food out for their shy lost dog:
- Raccoons will eat it
- Cats will eat it
- Other dogs will eat it
- Skunks, possums, rats, aliens will eat it
- Will attract coyotes and foxes
- The lost dog will get loose stools or an upset stomach because it’s not his regular dog food
- The lost dog will get some rare deficiency disorder from eating cat food
- Food will get wet if it rains
- Don’t have a dog food bowl handy
- Too expensive to put out food for their dog
To which we say “So What? Your dog will be eating road kill soon.”
So, put your excuses aside and put the food out. The only place that you can’t legally put out food is a public park because that would be considered feeding wildlife. Almost everywhere else, if you politely ask permission and explain what you are trying to do, property owners are generally very eager to help. If you can’t get permission, set up your feeding station at the nearest point to the sighting where you can get permission, and use really smelly food.
We like to use small containers of canned cat food or inexpensivecanned dog good because it is cheap and can easily be stored in the car, but you can be creative. Rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone, canned tripe, grilled brats, bacon. Think about what would be smelly and delicious to a dog. If you have rushed out to a sighting and forgotten the food, stop at the nearest convenience store and pick up a hot dog that is cooking in one of those mini rotisseries. You don’t even need the bun. Try explaining that to the clerk!
If you are using a bowl, it is always a good idea to drizzle some of the drippings onto the ground as well. That way, if a cat or raccoon does eat all of the food, the dog will still be attracted by the smell on the ground. Don’t use dry dog food or raw meat. It doesn’t have enough odor. You want your offering to be more delicious and tempting than the restaurant dumpster or roadkill down the street. Part 7
Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from over thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.
Your lost dog is visiting your feeding station! You are seeing him on the camera and you want to rush right out there and scoop him up and bring him home! Not so fast! You have worked so hard being patient and diligent. Don’t mess it up now by scaring him off. Then you will have to start all over in a new location. Now is the time to carefully strategize your next move.
Never, ever post the exact location of a sighting, your feeding station or a trap location on Facebook, Craigslist or any kind of media. Keep your cards close to the vest. You don’t need wanna-be heroes, or curiosity seekers trying to “help” you out by visiting the area. This can pressure your dog to move on again.
Don’t be alarmed if your dog doesn’t visit the feeding station every day – especially at first. He will probably come at dawn and/or dusk. At first he may just grab a bite and run off; or he may take the whole bowl and carry it off under a bush or deck, to eat in hiding. You will have more success if you position your feeding station so that he has some privacy, but also an easy escape route if he feels threatened.
Remember that the pictures you see on the camera may at first glance, not look like your dog. Study them carefully to be sure. You can download them into a photo editing program (most computers are sold with a simple one already installed) and lighten or enhance the pictures. Colors can be distorted, especially in the nighttime pictures, and dogs can look smaller or larger than they really are depending on the height of the camera. If your dog did the grab and dash; you might only get a glimpse of an ear or a tail. Generally in a few days, they will be more comfortable at the feeding station and you will get better images.
Your dog may be sharing the feeding station with other animals. No worries. We see this all the time and it makes for some pretty interesting trail camera photos. It has no bearing on whether or not you will catch your dog, so don’t let it bother you. In fact, the presence of other animals coming and going may be reassuring to your dog. It must be a safe place if other animals are there, right? You may see skunks, cats, raccoons, possums, crows, and even other lost dogs on the photos. Switching to beef-based foods may reduce the number of other visitors. If you are having lots of cats and raccoons visit, try switching, especially if you have been using fish.
While you are waiting for your lost dog to fall into a predictable pattern of a behavior, you want to be thinking about the next step: capturing him.
For some dogs, especially those that are extremely bonded with their owner, the owner may simply have to sit on the ground, close enough to the feeding station that they can see the food bowl, but far enough away that the dog doesn’t feel threatened. Plan your visit when you expect your dog, judging from the pattern of the date/time stamp on the pictures. Bring a book and your tasty treats, collar and leash, and sit quietly on the ground. Read, sleep, or check emails on your phone. But set your phone to silent and don’t talk on it! Be patient. Your dog may appear and approach you. Don’t make any sudden moves. It may take a few days of this, but your dog might crawl right into your lap, when the lightbulb suddenly goes on in his head.
If you lost a newly acquired dog or foster dog that isn’t bonded to you, it might not be so easy; and you should probably consider using a humane trap. Now is the time to start inquiring about where you can rent, borrow or buy one. Check your local animal shelter or animal control facility first. They may have one available that they will rent for a small fee.
Does your dog generally like to go into a crate or kennel? Dogs that are very comfortable being crated are usually easier to trap.
Is your dog fearful of a kennel or crate? Check to see if there a fenced yard, tennis court, ball diamond, or garage nearby that you can lure your dog into. Or maybe you will want to slowly set up some temporary kenneling. Again, patience is the key word. Slowly moving the food bowl, day by day closer to an enclosure until your dog is finally eating in the enclosure can be a very successful method. If you proceed too quickly, you risk scaring him off to another area. Starting all over is always slower than being methodical and patient, so take your time.
Next we’ll talk about humane trapping – because we have many tips to share that will help you maximize your chances for success. Part 9