Category Archives: Search Strategies

The Lost Dog Puzzle

Just like a jigsaw puzzle, there are many pieces that need to fall into place when looking for a lost dog. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Not every lost dog will need to be trapped, nor will every lost dog end up in a shelter. Not every microchipped dog will be found and scanned; nor will a tag and collar get every dog home because they can fall off. 

From our experience we have seen a lot of lost dogs who may never be found because an owner or a volunteer group who is helping an owner puts “all of their eggs in one basket” and doesn’t consider the other pieces of the puzzle.  

Here are a few tips:

1. Enter your dog’s information in a free national lost dog database like Helping Lost Pets or Pet FBI, even if you are working with a volunteer group that has their own local database or Facebook group. If your dog is transported or travels a long distance, you need to know that your dog’s information can be searched nationally and for an indefinite period of time. Facebook listings quickly slip down a page and are forgotten.

2. Invest most of your time and energy into hand delivering flyers in an ever-expanding area of where your dog was last seen. Even if your dog was picked up by someone who intends to keep him; somebody, somewhere probably saw something. Make an emotional connection as you hand out flyers. This will help people remember you and your dog if they later recall something or see your dog tomorrow. 

3. If your dog is microchipped immediately contact the microchip company to “red flag” them as missing and to make sure everything is up to date. This will prevent a shelter, rescue or finder from trying to re-register the microchip to a new owner without you knowing about it. Remember, this could happen months or even years from when your dog went missing. 

4. Consider humane trapping ONLY when you know your dog is hanging out in one area and is reliably eating at a feeding station. Rushing out to set traps before this happens is usually a fruitless endeavor and is a common mistake that can cause an owner to lose hope. Likewise, when an owner sits quietly at the feeding site while the dog is eating and also leaves scent items, a humane trap may not be necessary. The dog may approach on his own. Check for other things that the dog may be able to be trapped in: a shed, house, yard, tennis court, etc. This may work as well as a humane trap.

5. Owners should always have control of the “search”. Volunteer groups who work independently without the owner’s knowledge or approval may undermine efforts of the owner. Also, this additional pressure on the dog may make him leave the flyered area or run into traffic and be hit. If you are an owner and a local volunteer group is not letting you retain control, ask them to remove themselves. If you are still having issues and they are setting traps or changing numbers on your flyers without your permission, call your local police department to ask for assistance. This is YOUR dog. You have the right to make the decisions. 

Six Tips for Dogs Who Go Missing From a Fire or Disaster

Dogs who go missing from a fire or disaster fit our profile of “Dogs lost from a Stressful Situation” so many of the tips are similar to those in an article on our website. If not chased or pressured out of the area, these dogs will often remain hiding nearby until they feel it is safe to come out. Additionally, these dogs may have been injured in the fire or disaster which may add to their level of stress and fear.  

Panicked searchers who are worried about your dog’s survival may make matters worse by scaring your dog out of the area. Unless you are sure that your dog was critically injured, ask people who are wanting to help you to distribute flyers instead of “searching”. This will give your dog an opportunity to come back on his own. 

Here are our SIX TOP TIPS if your dog went missing from a fire or disaster.

1. Leave scent items – including smelly food, water, your dog’s bed or blanket and articles of dirty clothing or even the pillowcase of the person most bonded with the dog. Many of these dogs have fled in terror and are hiding nearby. They may creep back when all is quiet.  

2. Ask everyone who is helping to not call or chase your dog. Your dog is already scared. Additional pressure from people “searching” may cause the dog to travel further away. If they are injured, they should be allowed to hunker down and rest. Dogs are incredibly resilient and you see many stories in the media of dogs who survive natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes and who eventually come back on their own. 

3. Enter your dog’s information into a national free database Helping Lost Pets or Pet FBI. This will ensure their information is searchable if they are found far away or are lost for a long time.

4. Quickly hand distribute flyers in the immediate area where your dog went missing. Expand this area as time goes on and remember to ask everyone to not call or chase your dog. If you have been injured in the fire or disaster, enlist trusted people to help you who understand how important it is to remain calm and organized. 

5. Notify all local authorities including police departments, animal shelters and vets clinics. Take two copies of your flyer to each – one for the back staff and one for the front desk and the public bulletin board. If your dog is injured, a Good Samaritan may pick him up and take him to a vet or shelter for medical care. Likewise, someone visiting the clinic may see your flyer and recognize your dog.  

6. If your dog is microchipped immediately contact the microchip company to “red flag” your dog as missing and to make sure your contact information is up to date. The microchip company needs to know that they should not transfer ownership to a new person without contacting you first. This can happen if your dog ends up in a shelter and completes the stray hold (which may be as short as 24 hours) without being able to reach you. 

Tips for Dogs Lost in a Rural Area

Dogs lost in rural areas can pose extra challenges because of the sparse population.  It is not unusual for sightings to be few and far between or for there to be a long physical distance between sightings. It can also be difficult to get sightings when crops are tall or on roads where the majority of people are just passing through and driving fast.

Why do lost dogs like rural areas? 

Scared lost dogs will often gravitate to a farm where it is quiet and there is a reliable food source like outdoor cat food or spilled grain. Farms provide a multitude of hiding places. Lost dogs will hide in sheds, old barns or under old farm machinery and creep out at dusk and dawn to eat. If the dog isn’t bothering livestock, farmers may let the dogs hang around indefinitely. But they may not proactively look for an owner because they assume that the dog was “dumped” off at their farm.

Therefore it is VERY important to flyer every farm in at least a 20 mile radius of where your dog went missing. Talk to the land owners and put a flyer in their hands. Ask them if they have seen your dog hanging around or passing through. Expand the radius to 30 miles or more if you don’t get a sighting. Use Google Maps and Satellite Photos to look for roads that you may have missed. Make it EASY for people to contact you by making sure that they have a copy of your flyer in their truck or on their fridge. 

Also: 

  1. Deliver several copies of your flyer to any equine or farm animal veternarians  in the area.  Ask them to pass them out to their employees and post one in the lobby for clients coming through the front door.
  2. Deliver several copies of your flyer to every equine facility in the area. Ask that they be passed out to boarders, trainers, farriers (blacksmiths), etc. who may routinely travel the route to and from the facility.
  3. Give copies of your flyer to all local delivery people including UPS, Fed Ex, United State Postal Service, garbage pick up services, feed delivery, propane and diesel fuel delivery, septic services, etc.  These people travel the back roads and need to know who to call if they see your dog. Don’t expect them to proactively report a sighting without a flyer in their hand. They may not have time to look through listings or post to social media.
  4. Deliver flyers to all farm equipment dealers, farm supply stores and feed stores in the area. Ask to post one at the counter and on any bulletin boards.
  5. Post a flyer at any local gathering places such as coffee shops, diners and taverns.
  6. Deliver flyers to the school bus drivers in the area.
  7. Ask farmers and hunters to check their game cameras for photos of your dog. Leave them a flyer so that they know who to call if they get a photo a week or a month from now!
  8. Use intersection signs at crossroads.  Remember to get permission first!
  9. Ask landowners for permission to search old barns, sheds and silos.
  10. Pay close attention to places where you see outdoor cats.  There is probably a food source that your lost dog may also be visiting. Check for tracks or ask permission to set up a trail camera to monitor.
  11. Run an ad in the local newspaper or shopper.

Never Give Up! Lost dogs are safely recovered weeks, months and even years after they have gone missing. Your dog may be hanging around a farm and is relying on YOU to bring him safely home.

Where Could Your Lost Dog Be? 2018

Where are they? In this blog post we’ll take a wild stab at our best guess (based on what we have learned over the last seven years).

The year has come to an end and we are going to ask you to click on this link and to look through our 2018Missing Dogs Albums one more time. or Helping Lost Pets. (If you are on a mobile phone, please search for albums or photos in the menu)  Although we have had an incredibly successful year (over 3,500 reunions so far) we have so many dogs that we are still searching for.

A small percentage of the still missing dogs are probably sadly deceased. BUT, we do know that a body is usually found and we encourage all owners to not give up unless they have confirmed physical evidence that their dog is deceased.  By far and away, our largest single cause of death is dogs that have been hit by a car (usually when they are being called or chased by well-meaning but misinformed citizens who do not know that you should never chase or call a scared lost dog). Our next most common cause of death is being hit by a train. Scared lost dogs will use the path of least resistance, and railroad tracks often provide a convenient route of travel between their hiding places and food sources. Unfortunately, some dogs are killed when the train comes, but again, a body is almost always found.  Our third most common cause of death is drowning; either by falling through thin ice, or by making a poor decision and bolting towards a body of water.  Lost dogs that are not being chased, approached or pressured will make wise decisions and may survive indefinitely.  Dogs that are being pressured or pursued will make poor decisions and may meet an untimely end.

Many people fear that their dog has been eaten or killed by coyotes. We do not find this to be common and very few of our deceased dogs have evidence of being killed by a predator.  Is it impossible? No. But dog/coyote altercations are almost always territorial (the dog is defending his yard or his territory) and scared, lost dogs are not territorial. They will defer to a larger predator.  Lost dogs simply want to survive – so they need to do three things – they will hide from predators (including man) and they will spend their time sleeping and traveling between their food sources and hiding places.   If a dog is killed by a larger predator – the body will usually be found. Predators do not tend to eat other predators and all members of the canine family are predators.

Where are the other still missing dogs? Some are still “out there” as described above. Scared and living in “survival mode”, these dogs may be rarely seen because they have become so adept at hiding and may be mostly nocturnal.  Eventually they will start to hang around one or more reliable food sources (often a farm that is leaving food out for outdoor cats).  If they are left alone they will become more domesticated and may be seen during daylight hours or even attempting to play with neighborhood dogs or farm dogs.  This is why it is SO important to continue to flyer in an ever-increasing radius of where your dog went missing from. Somebody, somewhere WILL see your dog and they need to know who to call when they do.

Some of our still missing dogs wandered far beyond their “jurisdiction”, out of the flyered area, and end up in the maze of animal sheltering and animal control. They may have been adopted to a new family or put down when their 7 day stray hold was up. These are a heartbreaker for us because the simple of act of posting pictures on line of impounded found dogs would bring most of these dogs home.  Our dedicated volunteers and fans scour the internet watching for possible matches but they cannot do this when there are no pictures available. Many Illinois shelters still do not reliably post pictures of impounded found dogs. Please ask them to do so. It is perhaps the simplest way to save lives and free up shelter space for those dogs that truly need it.

The last component (and probably the largest) are lost dogs that have been picked up by a Good Samaritan who meant well but then kept or rehomed the dog without searching for the owner.  Of course, this is illegal in Illinois, but it happens all too frequently. The current “rescue” phenomenon that is sweeping our country has kind -hearted people making false assumptions about the owners of a dog they find. They speculate that the dog has been abused, neglected or “dumped” and needs a new home. We have great success when we can get the finder to file a report with us so that we can post a flyer online.  This serves to dispel the false notion that people that have lost their dog don’t deserve him/her back.  We ask all of our fans to please spread the word to their friends, family and neighbors – Lost dogs don’t need a new home.  They just need to go home. Do not assume that you can keep a dog that you find. He/she is somebody else’s personal property and keeping him/her is illegal.

Thank you for helping us. Please take a few moments, scroll through our missing dog albums, and maybe, just maybe we can help reunite a few more of these dogs in 2019.

Placing Paws Rescue commitment to bring Ebony home!

 

Ebony is a rescue dog with Placing Paws Rescue, where I am a volunteer. She was adopted out and escaped from her new owners house less than a week after being adopted. I live close by, and as soon as she went missing me and other Placing Paws volunteers were out. We put up flyers like crazy, fielded sightings, walked for miles talking to people, feeding stations were set up with cameras.

Eventually a pattern emerged and we were able to figure out what to do and where. Placing Paws spared no expense in finding her, and I was NEVER going to give up on her until she was found. It was exhausting, hard work, but to me, and Placing Paws, worth every second. When she was caught ( in a live trap) she was loaded up and went straight to the vet to be checked out. She has a nasty gash in her shoulder which had already started healing and a fever, but she will be fine 🙂

We are lucky because we are a pretty tight, dedicated rescue group who truly love our animals. A true team effort.   Thank you for all you do to help get these fur babies home !!! 🙂

Thank you, Julie C, for sharing Ebony’s story.

Driveway Drops – What is that?

Time is of the essence to get the message out about your lost dogs.  Many times it is just plain overwhelming when you realize how many houses there are in your area..

A group of women in the Chicagoland area came up with the idea of driveway drops.  This is a  quick and simple way to get the message out

What do you need to get started?

Sandwich bags

 

Pebbles or rocks

1/4 page flyers that you can make yourself or use Helping Lost Pets 1/4 page template on the HeLP website to print on neon colored paper. (can use a full page flyer (folded) or even preprinted business cards)

Helping Lost Pets website makes it easy to create 1/4 page flyer

Enlist your neighbors, kids and friends to help you put the driveway drop bags together. Put pebbles and flyer into a sandwich bag.

Finished bag

Easy peasy to make and  to distribute.  Have one person drive and the passenger toss the bags into the driveway.  Some owners have done 500 bags in one night.

 

Thank you, Kim, Rosanne, Elaine and Colleen for your commitment to bring lost dogs home and idea of driveway drops!

That Moment You Are Never Prepared For

It was a typical summer day. All seemed normal in the family’s world – except their boy, Freddy,  wasn’t with them. The family was on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and Freddy was staying at a reliable boarding facility. It was one the family felt comfortable leaving their best friend at – 16 years in business, and never a flaw or escape.

Until now.

The call a pet parent never wants to get – the one that shatters your world and turns it upside down – came that afternoon. Freddy had escaped from the facility and was on the run. No collar and no tags (as a safety precaution and to prevent injuries, boarding facilities do not leave collars/tags on), but one redeeming feature: Freddy was microchipped and his contact information was up-to-date.

Over 4,100 miles away with fear and panic setting in, Freddy’s family contacted a friend whose sister lives and breathes Lost Dogs Illinois. The friend called her sister and set into motion events that gave the family a glimmer of hope.

Lost Dogs Illinois has a “5 Things to Do When You Lose a Dog” action plan that the friend and sister deployed immediately. Step 4 of the plan tells pet owners to ask people not to call out to or chase a dog they see if they think it is lost. Instead, ask them to sit or lie down, with no eye contact, and toss out a few pieces of tasty treat to lure the dog to them.

Sure enough, a call came in with a sighting of Freddy. A little food, a little water, and scent items like clothing were taken to the sighting location immediately to lure Freddy in. Now it became a waiting game; someone had to sit a distance away from the location, wait, make no sudden movements and, above all, be patient.

The patience paid off hours later, when one of the boarding facility’s employees spotted Freddy near the site. The mission then shifted from finding Freddy to encouraging him to come to the employee. Freddy’s family’s friend then came up with a genius masterstroke – why not let Freddy’s mom call out to him via Facetime?

It worked! Freddy heard his owner’s familiar voice calling softly to him from 4,100 miles away over the phone, and Freddy followed the voice right into the employee’s arms. Freddy was SAFE!

As a longtime follower of Lost Dogs Illinois, I have learned you can never tell people enough about what this organization does to help recover lost dogs. Spreading the word about Lost Dogs Illinois is the MOST important message you can convey to pet owners – even owners who have never lost a dog – because you just NEVER, EVER know when you or a friend will need LDI’s help and resources.

Freddy LOST 8/10/2017 SAFE 8/10/2017!!

Thank you Evelyn for sharing Freddy’s story!

 

Patience, setting up a feeding station, creating a safe zone and luring Minnie to safety!

Minnie was what we call a “Kentucky Stray”.  She was transported from a high kill shelter in one of the states south of Illinois and brought up to a rescue.  Minnie went into a foster home but unfortunately escaped.  Dogs who are used to being out on their own take time and patience to get them comfortable with a home environment.
Flyers were posted when Minnie first went missing.  Calls were coming in and her foster mom would rush to the location but she would be long gone by the time anyone got there. Minnie was figuring out where to find her necessities; food, water and shelter.
After she was missing for about a week and a half, a group of volunteers offered to start mapping the sightings, doing more flyers, and doing “driveway drops” hear sighting locations.   She was very, very, close to her home but a busy street was between the area where she was living and her home.
With the flyers and drops, more sightings came in and a pattern of location and time started to emerge.  She seemed to travel at night, which is very common  for dogs in survival mode.  It keeps them safer from predators, including humans.  It’s quieter at night…
While looking at her pattern, we noticed a few houses on Caton Farm that had pole barns.  One of the volunteers knocked on a door and asked if she could look around the property.  The owners were eager to help and let us do whatever we needed.  The volunteer found a pole barn, with an opening in the back. She also found several canine prints that were Minnie’s size, along with some dog poop.  The home owners had dogs but said theirs did not go back to that part of the yard.  The back of the pole barn was alone a fence line, and on the other side of the fence was a subdivision of town homes where there had been sightings of Minnie.  She was definitely there.  We thought maybe staying in the pole barn for shelter.

Signs that a dog was living there.

Minnie’s safe place.

Using a crock pot of smelly food to keep Minnie in the area. It was very cold out.

Since the flyers were doing their job, the next step was food and a game camera.  A camera was put up on Friday and food was trailed into the subdivision and along the fence where we thought she was traveling. Saturday morning proved what we thought.  Minnie showed up the night before and was eating the food.  That night a trap was deployed, more food trailed and within a half hour of setting it all up she was back.  It took a short time for her to decided she wanted the yummy chicken legs in the back of the trap and she was safely caught!

Minnie checking out the trap

Minnie trapped safe!

After a week and a half of trying to catch a glimpse of her when the sightings were called in, more flyers went up on day 13, driveway drops done on day 14, sightings mapped on day 15, camera and feeding station on day 16 and safely trapped on day 17.  Following the advice of Lost Dogs Illinois and Helping Lost Pets make this a textbook rescue.  Minnie was eventually adopted by her foster family and is now known as Lucy and is loving life.

Minnie now called Lucy

Thank you, Elaine, for sharing Minnie’s story.

“People Told Us She Had Gone Off to Die”

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Nala resting at home!

When Nala went missing from her Schaumburg, Ill., home in late November 2015, well-meaning people told her family that the 13-year-old Golden Retriever had likely just “gone off to die.”

“We had had her from the time she was eight weeks old, and I didn’t want to hear that,” said Jean Cullen, the family matriarch.

The Cullens had installed an invisible fence around their property so Nala could have the run of the yard. However, the fence had deteriorated over the years, and Nala eventually figured out where the gaps were.

“We would let her out, and she would visit our next-door neighbor and our neighbor two doors down, looking for treats,” Jean said. “She would always come back within 15 or 20 minutes, when she heard us call her name.”

On November 30, though, Nala didn’t come back when called. The neighbors said they hadn’t seen her.

The family put up posters and looked for Nala under bushes and in neighbors’ sheds and garages, all to no avail. Jean also posted a lost-dog alert on Lost Dogs Illinois, on the recommendation of a co-worker.

Although she and her husband both had to leave town on business trips, the Cullens’ teenage son continued to search while they were gone.

He called them Dec. 6 to say Nala had been found – alive – in a basement window well of their neighbors’ house, two doors down.

A window well is a semi-circular area, several feet deep, dug out around an underground basement window that allows light to come in. The family that owned the house said they never heard Nala bark or make any other noise the entire time she was in the well, despite the fact they are in the basement quite often.

It wasn’t until they moved their boxes of Christmas decorations piled in front of the window that they saw her, staring back at them.

“Her groomer said Nala is such a mild-mannered dog, she probably thought she had done something wrong and didn’t want to call attention to it by barking,” Jean said.

It had rained during the week Nala was gone, and she likely drank the inch or two of rainwater that accumulated in the well. Still, “She lost eight pounds and couldn’t stand,” Jean said.

“She had no broken bones, just some scratches and was really weak.”

Nala was back to her usual weight (52 lbs.) within a week of her homecoming. The Cullens now have a long tie-out post in the backyard for her, wanting to take no more chances.

“Her wandering days are over,” Jean said. “It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through, and I am so grateful to the Lost Dogs Illinois volunteers for contacting us several times to give us support and hope.

“I was afraid that, after a week, she had been stolen or was dead,” Jean continued. “The volunteers eased our pain; they were so concerned for us and for her.”

Jean says she has learned an important lesson from this experience.

“Never give up, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone to find your pet,” she said.

“Who would have thought we’d find Nala at the bottom of a window well?”

Losing Their Way

Thank you Lydia Rypcinski, free lance writer.

 

Did Your Dog Get Scared By Fireworks? Don’t Panic!

If your dog went missing from the fireworks last night – don’t panic. Immediately put out your dog’s favorite blanket, some food and water, and something that smells like you (a dirty sock or pillowcase). Then file a report with us from this link: www.HelpingLostPets.com/LDIL. Our volunteer flyermakers will post your dog’s phone and information on our Facebook page. Tell EVERYONE – to not call or chase or whistle to your dog. Let him relax and he may very likely come home on his own when it is quiet. Do NOT let people congregate in your yard or driveway. Your dog is frightened and will stay in hiding until everything calms down.

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