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 April 30, I pulled up to a house, and I saw a proud new father in his driveway holding his son. I exited my vehicle and introduced myself. A few hours before, I had seen a post on Facebook about a local family dog, Champ, that was missing. As soon as I could, I contacted the owner, Jeff, to learn more about his dog. He told me Champ had gone missing the night before. He was a large, brindle 10 year old male Lab/Boxer mix, with a white chest, red collar, and friendly disposition. I thought to myself, friendly, big, older dog; this should be easy. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
As Jeff held his son, he explained what had happened the night before: he was letting the dogs out before heading to bed. Champ and his brother, Jager, went out. Jeff let the dogs back in, or so he thought. He locked up the house and went to bed. In the morning, he discovered Champ was not in the house, and not outside. Champ was gone!
Champ’s information was immediately put up on the Lost Dogs Illinois Facebook page and other area pages. Soon, Jeff and his wife got the first call of many from people seeing Champ over the next 8 days. The first few calls had Champ heading toward a nearby golf course. Jeff and Jess headed out to look, then spent the day driving around passing out fliers and talking to people in the neighborhood. Many were now on alert and knew to call them if he was spotted. That evening, with a heavy heart, Jeff and Jess went home without finding Champ.
The following day, I made more fliers, hoping to get them hung. I also put a flier on the back window of my car and encouraged others to do the same. I was getting stopped multiple times by people asking questions and telling me they were watching out for Champ. Jeff and Jess continued to get calls seeing Champ in the area of the golf course and by the red barn. As more people shared the posts of Champ missing, there were more cars in the area. That meant there were more eyes to spot him, but also more cars that could hit him, and people to chase him away. Another full day came and went without Champ home.
Champ was spotted but managed to slip into clever hiding places each time. I received a message around 10:15pm that night that Champ was now spotted a couple miles down at a park. He was just an arm’s length away from someone, but when they said Champ’s name, the dog turned and ran into the darkness of the park. Someone posted the sighting online and people arrived at the park using flashlights. A police officer even used his spotlight to help. However, if Champ was there, he was not going to come out with that number of people searching. Jeff took the shirt off his back,and put it and some treats under a play area he hoped Champ would go to for rest.
On Saturday morning Jeff woke early to check on his shirt and treats. No Champ, no change. Thinking that it was the weekend and that Champ would be ready to mingle, Jeff was sure he would go up to someone and would be home that evening. Families would be out in yards. Fathers would be barbecuing dinner, and the smells would lure Champ out of hiding! Jess also created the Find Champ Facebook page. Champ had 771 followers very quickly. The day passed and there were just 2 calls and still no Champ. Jeff and Jess put out another blanket and treats near the cornfields where they thought he may be.
Seeing Jeff and Jess looking a little defeated, I reached out to Susan from Lost Dogs Illinois. She knew Champ was missing, but I needed to fill her in on what we had been doing and ask for suggestions for next steps. She mentioned that Champ may not be seen for the same reason we thought he would be. Because it’s the weekend and a lot of people would be out, he would hide. I also inquired about using a tracking dog, and she said they do not recommend tracking dogs. They do not find dogs. She did suggest a feeding station and trail camera. She also offered, if needed, a large humane trap. After talking with Susan, I shared her suggestions with Jeff and Jess. They felt that setting up a humane trap would not be an option as Champ was a Houdini, and there was no way he would be kept in a trap if he went in. We set up a feeding station where he had been spotted on several different days which lead right to an area we would eventually call “Tick Field.”
The next morning we went to the feeding station hoping we would walk up and find Champ resting on his blanket with a full belly of chicken and bacon. My heart sank. The bowl was untouched. I went home and printed a map marking all the sighting locations. I was trying to see if there was any pattern to his movements. For a few days it seemed he was on the golf course during the day and park at night. If this was true, where was he hiding?
Monday was uncomfortable. Silence is usually a blessing, but this time we would have welcomed the phone ringing and it wasn’t. No one was calling – was Champ ok?
Tuesday morning was an eventful one. Jeff and Jess started receiving calls at 6am. Champ was spotted walking down a road. Then, he was on a path behind an elementary school. This was the closest Champ had gotten to home. We wondered with the rain from the night before, were all the scents being picked up and he was on his way home? Again, people were posting all over social media and the area had people everywhere. Champ once again outsmarted everyone and slipped by. At this point, Jeff and I were thinking how crazy it is that Champ has been seen by everyone else but us. We had spent every free minute looking for him and hanging fliers and talking to people, and Champ never showed himself to us. I asked for help to post fliers in this new area. I was going up and down the streets placing Champ’s information by the mailbox flags. I knew we could not place anything inside a mailbox. I noticed a mail truck coming our way and was happy to see it. In recent days I had been able give other mail carriers a flier that was happily received with well wishes for finding Champ. This was not the case with this time. She ignored my 2 attempts to get her attention and then turned her truck around and started up the other side of the street where I had just been and watched her as she went up to the mailboxes and took the fliers. Shocked, I looked at the other volunteer and said, “She is taking the fliers!” He was just as stunned. He caught up to her truck and asked her why she was taking them since they were about a lost dog. She snapped at him something about postage and drove off. I called the post office to find out that no one is allowed to put anything inside or on a mailbox.!
Wednesday went by without a single call. Jeff and I began to walk behind the houses into “Tick Field.” We were playing detective, not allowing Champ to be steps ahead of us anymore. This is when Jeff mentioned Champ also ‘army crawls’. I am out here looking for a brindle coated dog that would blend into everything that also army crawled! We found some fresh dog poop and a toy that had the stuffing newly pulled out (this is something Champ would do). As we walked, Jeff was pulling ticks off of himself. Jess showed up and had Jager, Champ’s dog buddy, with her. He seemed to walk a path they felt was where Champ walked. When we exhausted our “research” of this area we headed to the car. While walking back to the car, Jess about stepped on a snake. Thankfully she saw it before, stepped back and we concluded it was just a garter snake. WHEW!
Thursday was another quiet day with no calls. I had just finished checking the feeding station when Jess called. It was about 8:15pm, and she had just received a call from a couple of girls who were out on their bikes and saw Champ. He was over by the gates by the beach. This was about 2 miles from the last place he was seen on Tuesday. I was close to the street so I headed over. We had not had any calls since Tuesday morning, and there was still a constant flow of cars and people looking – Champ had moved somewhere quieter. I heard a ruckus in a yard when I pulled into the gates where he was said to have headed. It was really dark by this time, and it made it very difficult to see. I also knew I could not say his name without him running, so I was praying for backup, just in case. That’s when Jeff pulled up. We canvassed the street and yards, not expecting too much. We went down to the gate where he was first spotted before the girls called his name and he ran. There, we met another woman who saw him too. She said he was standing, sniffing around. He was there long enough for her to pull out her phone and bring up his picture, she was 100% sure, it was Champ. The concern about cars was even greater now. As we stood there, cars sped by. We couldn’t afford other people looking for him to add to the traffic on the roads. Even worse, Champ could run into the road!
Thankfully, we moved fast. One woman had already posted the sighting on FB, but we were able to delete it before anyone saw it. I talked to Jeff, asking him to keep this quiet, just between a small group of us for Champs safety. Let’s let him get comfortable, even if it took another day or two. We called it a night shortly after to allow Champ the space to find a place to rest and be safe for the night.
Friday morning, both Jeff and I did a quick drive around before work. Neither of us saw anything, which was okay though. For the first time I actually felt that Champ was safe. SUDDENLY, at 2:42pm, I received a text. This is what I saw: “Look who I have!” I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was incredibly happy for Jeff and Jess. Champ looked good. Now, what was the story?
Well, after the Tuesday morning sightings, it seems that Champ headed down toward the beach through the gates. He took up residence under a deck. A gentleman had spotted him, but was unaware that Champ had been missing for all these days. While we were on call for sightings, a relationship was building between Champ and this man. In the morning he would give Champ pancakes, and for lunch he would have some chicken. This afternoon, Champ came out for a little love and his new friend was able to get the phone number off Champs tags and call Jeff. As you can imagine, with this news Jeff rushed over to the house. Champ was under the deck. There was only one way in and one way out. Jeff walked to the back and he whistled “his whistle” and Champ came out like a flash to greet his dad. After a few minutes of hugs, kisses, and tears, Jeff thanked the man and headed home with Champ. I was able to stop by their house within the next hour. I was so happy to meet this big boy that led us on an expedition that lasted for 8 days!
Champ’s travels took him to the golf course, through corn fields, by the red barn, the park, on bike paths, digging in backyards, trotting under windows, and traipsing through the woods. He came through it all with an abundance of ticks and only a small cut on his paw. Other than that, he was tired and a little clingy, but Jeff was just fine with that as long as Champ was home.
Here are some of the important things I learned while searching for Champ:
- I think the most important thing I learned was that having a ‘core’ group is crucial.
- Too many people responding to a sighting pushes a dog further away.
- Dogs get to a point when running scared where they won’t answer, no matter how friendly they are or who is calling them
- Keeping some information quiet is best for the safety of the dog.
- Set aside your emotions and think of the dogs safety first .
Finally, I was reminded that we live in such a wonderful community. I have seen again how one dog can bring people together, and now, I have 2 new amazing people in my life ‐ Jeff and Jess, and, of course, Champ and his dog buddies at home. That little boy Jeff was holding when I first stopped over is in for an exciting story when he grows up!
Sidenote: We want to thank Kerry, Jess and Jeff for sharing their story about Champ. LDI’s mission is to empower our dog loving communities with resources, tools and tips on how to find lost dogs. The more knowledge that is disseminated; the more dogs will be returned home safely.
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
Your lost dog has been missing now for several weeks (or months) and your sightings and leads have fizzled out. Don’t despair. It is never too late to jump-start the search for a long-lost dog.
This article is designed to give you some ideas for reigniting your search to give you a place to pick up again. Hopefully, you have read our other articles on shy lost dog search strategies and friendly lost dog search strategies. If not, please check the categories at the right that link to many more articles. We also hope you have mapped all the sightings on a map, either a web-based map like Google Maps or a large-scale paper map.
Now, imagine you are a detective working on a cold case. You may talk to 99 people who have not seen or heard anything. You are looking for the ONE person who has. Someone, somewhere has seen or knows something. Be persistent and don’t give up. Even if they haven’t seen your dog, they may see your dog tomorrow. Putting a flyer in their hands ensures they will know who to call when they see him.
Look at your map and draw a circle in a one mile radius around the last confirmed sighting. Go back to the last confirmed place that your dog was seen and flyer heavily in a one mile radius. Don’t let false assumptions or geographic barriers deter you. Don’t assume that your dog would NEVER have crossed the highway or the river or the lake. False assumptions will make you miss possible sightings and leads.
Talk to everybody! Put a flyer in their hands and ask them if they have seen your dog or if they think a dog may have been hanging around their house or farm. Did they see dog tracks under their bird feeder? Was their dog poop in their yard when it shouldn’t be there? Was their outdoor cat food disappearing faster than normal?
Visit EVERY place that serves food in the one mile radius. Don’t forget convenience stores and gas stations! Talk with the kitchen staff and management. Did anybody see a dog hanging out near the dumpsters? Did anybody notice dog tracks near the dumpsters in the winter? Did any restaurant patrons mention a dog hanging out in the parking lot? Did anybody see a similar looking dog being walked in their neighborhood?
Think about the demographics of the neighborhoods in the one mile radius. Maybe you need to print some flyers in Spanish or another language? Or, maybe there are some older residents who don’t get out much to see signs and flyers but may have taken pity on your dog and fed him over the winter? Think about the people that may not have seen or understood your first round of flyering.
Now is a great time to refresh your posters and intersection signs. You may want to change the heading to STILL MISSING – so that people know that the search is still on. Think outside the box. Ask every business in the one mile radius if you can hang a flyer in their window and employee break room. Maybe your dog approached workers on their lunch break. Or maybe they saw him when they were driving to or from work.
If you don’t get any new leads in the one mile radius; you will need to expand your area. You may want to consider using USPS Every Door Direct Mail. Beware of some of the other lost pet mailing services that you will see advertised. Some of them are scams and do not reach the number of homes that they promise.
Refresh the memories of the animal control facilities, shelters, police departments, vet clinics and municipal offices in your county and surrounding counties. Send them fresh flyers.
Give a new flyer to postal workers, delivery drivers, school bus drivers and garbage truck drivers. Don’t forget pizza and sandwich delivery drivers also! They are out and about in the evening, when your dog may be moving around, looking for food.
Check with your local Department of Transportation. Have they found any deceased dogs alongside the road? Or has a dog been spotted eating on a deer or other wildlife carcass?
Repost your dog on Craigslist and your local online classifieds. Consider taking out a print newspaper ad also. There are still many people without computers or the internet!
Remember, Never Give Up! Re-energize and jump start the search for your missing dog. Your dog is depending on you to bring him home.
Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from 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.
Toby is a shy Australian shepherd, spooked by the July 4th fireworks from a house other than his own. He bolted and has not been seen since. He has four of thefive risk factors that will make him an elusive dog to catch. You have enlisted the help of friends and family, not to “search” for Toby; but to help implement the steps of Five Things To Do If You Have Lost Your Dog.
And it worked! You got your first phone call! Time to rush out there with all your friends and bring Toby home! Right? Wrong…. Not so fast. Make sure you read and understand these steps thoroughly BEFORE you get that first sighting call. Because how you handle sightings can mean the difference between a successful recovery, or the failure to capture Toby safely.
Get yourself a small bound notebook to keep all of your sighting information in. This will be your Sighting Journal and you need to have it handy at all times. You never know when you will need to add to your notes or refer back to them. Just like a good police officer takes notes, so does an effective lost dog owner. Keep a printed map of the area with your sighting journal. Even though you may transfer your map information to Google Maps or Mapquest (more on this later) – it is useful to be able to quickly refer to a map when you are on the phone with a sighting.
Make it EASY for people to call you. Answer the phone on the first or second ring. If it has to go to voicemail – change your voice mail message so that the caller knows they have dialed the right number. Dogs lost from shelters, rescues, vet clinics or boarding facilities should not use their regular office line. This is confusing to callers and when the facility is closed, the call will be several hours old before it is received, wasting valuable time. People with sightings will usually only make one attempt to call you – make sure you get that call!
Be prepared to ask the right questions and get the correct information. Many owners get overly excited and in an attempt to rush to the sighting location, they forget to ask important questions. Make sure you get the name and phone number of the caller so that you can call back if you need more details or have forgotten something.
Think of this as an interview, ask questions and listen. Ask the following:
- Where did you see my dog? Ask them to be specific. For example: the dog was going north on Ash Street towards the Bay City Mall. On the other side of the street was Walmart.
- When did you see my dog? Again, ask them to be specific. The dog was seen at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 7th.
- What was the weather like when you saw my dog?
- Can you describe my dog?
- What was he doing? Was he trotting, running, darting in and out, sleeping, playing with other dogs, walking, etc?
- Was he wearing a collar? What color is the collar? Did he seem okay?
- How was he carrying his body and tail? Was he low to the ground – almost like crawling? Was his tail up or down? Was it wagging?
- Thank the caller and ask if it is okay if you call them back if you think of something else.
After each sighting – post it on the map. These sightings will help determine where to continue to pass out flyers and post signs; set up a feeding station and trail camera; and possibly set a trap.
You NEVER want to disclose a sighting location publicly – on a Facebook page, in a blog, or to the media. Keep the location confidential because wanna-be heroes, reward seekers, and curious people can derail your plans very fast. Then you will be picking up and starting all over again. It is very frustrating and easier to avoid problems by keeping the details confidential.
Next, you want to visit the location. But again, preparation is everything. Make sure you take everything with you that you need including:
- Your sighting journal
- Your cell phone (set to vibrate only)
- A stack of flyers
- Smelly food (small cans or containers of pop-top cat or dog food work great) Do not use dry kibble. It doesn’t have enough odor.
- Water jug and a small bowl for water
- Familiar scented articles (your dirty sock)
- Smelly dog treats that you can put in your pocket
- A leash and collar
- A trail camera and supplies if you have one already (more on this in a future article)
When you arrive at the location, don’t slam the car door! Stay calm, if your dog feels your nervous energy, he may take off again. Make sure that if you have a helper with you, they also understand how important this is. It is your job as the owner, to keep control of the situation and to keep your emotions in check.
Never have a large group convene at a sighting location. You may need friends to help you deliver more flyers shortly – but have everyone meet at a coffee shop or other location, away from the sighting.
IF you see your dog – possible, but not probable: sit or lay down on the ground by yourself and scatter tasty treats around you and WAIT quietly. It may take minutes or hours for the dog to creep towards you. You have to be patient. Any sudden moves will very likely send him fleeing again.
If you don’t see your dog – (very likely), don’t waste time driving around looking for him. Open a small can of cat or dog food and put it in a safe location away from the road. In hot weather, also put a bowl of water nearby. Then immediately begin to go door to door and flyer – speaking with everyone. If one person saw your dog, it is very likely that somebody else did also, and you may get some more information. Don’t just put these flyers in the newspaper boxes. Knock on every door and talk to someone.
If no one is home – leave a flyer at the door that you have written on: SEEN! 10 a.m. July 7th “right across the street” or “corner of this block” or “edge of your property”. This will give the homeowner the sense of urgency that your dog is very close. Or course, your flyers have already been printed with the words, “Do Not Chase or Call” on it, right? And you aren’t offering a reward, right? Both of these steps are very important for the shy dog or the dog that has been lost from a stressful situation because the LAST thing you want people to do is to chase your dog out of the area in their attempt to catch them.
Before you leave a sighting location, check back on the food and water you have left. Has it been touched? If not, you are going to set up a feeding station: a fancy name for a blob of smelly food on the ground and a bowl of water. Try to replenish this twice a day. If your dog has been in the area once, it is very likely he will return and you want to encourage him to stay in one area. Leave just a small quantity, it should be enough to keep the dog from leaving the area, but don’t overfeed him! You want him to visit the feeding station regularly.
Pat yourself on the back and go home and write more notes. Transfer your sighting to an online map and rest. You have done a good job with your first sighting and now you have a point of reference to start from.
Next, we will talk about monitoring your feeding station effectively. Part 6
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.
You’ve lost your shy dog and you’ve done a good job delivering flyers and posting intersection signs. Now your sightings are coming in but you’re having a hard time keeping track. The sightings seem to be all over the place. It couldn’t possibly be your dog, in so many places, in such a short amount of time. Or could it?
Lost dogs in survival mode require three things. They require food and water, hiding places, and avoidance of predators (people). If you use maps and satellite photos to assess food sources, hiding places and safe, secluded routes of travel; you may start to see a pattern emerge. Using an online mapping service is an invaluable tool to help you record and evaluate your sightings.
Google Maps is a free web mapping service that can help you plot your sightings and give you clues to your dog’s whereabouts. Be aware though, that Google maps and satellite images are not updated in real time, they could be several months or years old. New construction may not appear on the maps and photos. Buildings and landscapes change and you will have to take that into consideration. Photos are taken during different seasons. Summer photos will appear very different from photos taken in the same area in the autumn after the leaves have fallen.
Different areas of the country have satellite photos taken at different resolutions. Generally, the more populated the area – the better the photo, and the closer that you will be able to zoom in and see detail. Many urban and suburban areas also now have Street View – a setting that lets you see buildings and landmark features as if you were standing on the ground in front of them.
This blog isn’t a tutorial on how to use Google maps. There is plenty of information on-line. Instead, we want to give you some specific tips on how to determine where your dog may be. The best way to learn how to use Google Maps is to dive in and try it. Enter the address where your dog went missing from. Practice changing from map to satellite (aerial photo) view, and zooming in and out.
Practice adding place markers for the following. Use different colors and symbols for:
- Locations where your dog went missing from
- Every sighting with a time and date
- Areas flyered
- Sign locations
- Potential food sources
- Potential hiding places
- Potential routes that your dog is traveling
Switch to satellite view. Objects viewed from the air appear different from the ground. Practice somewhere you are familiar with. What do these things look like from the air?
Vertical landmarks from the ground may not be easily apparent on a satellite photo. Watch for the shadows made by the objects. Vertical landmarks include:
- Water towers
- Power lines
- Church steeples
- Cell phone towers
- Tall buildings
- Doppler radar sites
Look for possible hiding places that lost dogs commonly use:
- abandoned farms and homes
- golf courses
- parks near populated areas
- industrial areas
- run down neighborhoods
- quiet suburban neighborhoods especially if they adjoin parks and trails
Look for possible routes of travel that lost dogs commonly use:
- bike and hiking trails
- fence lines and the edge of fields
- logging roads
- power lines
- pipelines and cut lines
- railroad tracks
Be aware that narrow roads, trails, and power lines may “disappear” in summer photos because of tree foliage. Railroad tracks are usually very apparent in photos because of the width of clearing around the track bed. Trees do not usually overhang train tracks.
Look for possiblefood sources:
- restaurants and hotels
- farms (cat food, corn and spilled grain)
- convenience stores and grocery stores
- campgrounds, picnic grounds, rest stops and parks
- golf courses with food services
- food processing plants
- feed mills
Keep your Google map updated and share it via email link with the friends, family and volunteers that are helping you. Lost dogs will often fall into an habitual pattern, visiting the same food sources and using the same hiding places and routes of travel. Flyer these areas heavily to get more sightings. Place intersection signs strategically so that passersby will also be on the lookout for your dog.
You may realize that sightings that seemed impossible at first, really are possible when you view them from the air. Driving routes are often much longer than the routes that lost dogs will take. Using shortcuts, they can travel what appears to be a long distance in a short amount of time.
Advances in technology are giving us more and more tools in the toolbox of lost dog recovery. Using Google Maps can save you valuable time when recovering your lost dog.
A tutorial showing how to create a Google map and drop markers to help you organize an effective search for a dog created by Retrievers Volunteer Lost Dog Team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQRfKf2gb4k