Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing Lucy’s story.
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing Lucy’s story.
Last February, Ace was being transported from Oklahoma to his new home in Wisconsin. Ace’s family met the transporter at the Petro gas station in Rochelle off Illinois-39. Ace backed out of his collar and escaped.
Below is the map of Ace’s sightings. You will note that Ace stayed in close proximity of where he went missing (Petro station just left of the cloverleaf). Residents were told to let Ace settle in the area, keep a feeding station going and soon a trap was set up (yellow marker). Ace was caught almost immediately after the trap was set up. It was a Safe and Happy Reunion!
Click here to read more about Tips for Dogs that are lost other than home.
This area of the western suburb was very busy with traffic, businesses and restaurants and close to the expressways. It was a dangerous area for her to be lost in because she could have easily darted into traffic and been hit. The owners lived some distance from the area where she got loose and for the first week did not really know how to proceed. A few calls had been made to the local police of sightings but the owners thought animal control would catch Juno. They reached out to the previous foster who reached out for help.
A week later flyering was started and a pattern began to emerge. Juno had settled near a brewery, Ikea and some brush and water. A feeding station and cameras were used to help determine better times when Juno would emerge and show herself. Employees saw her and called and were gently reminded to not chase Juno or feed her because a plan of action was in place to capture her safely.
A humane trap was set up with food for Juno. She was initially interested and realized the food was near. She ate some, circled some, left and came back and tested her surroundings even though she knew the noises, the cars and her routine. She would stick her head in and out. Juno was always alert and would also stretch her legs far out even when engaging the trap. After some time, it seemed she was so close but the door bounced down and Juno spooked! She ran away and did not come back that night or the next day.
We kept the feeding station with a trap set and watched but Juno wanted nothing to do with it. Flyering continued. It was decided to just keep the cameras out and food available without the trap, to give Juno more time to feel comfortable and eat. It worked. She came back several times day/night.
Susan from Lost Dogs Illinois donated their outdoor kennel which her husband had refurbished to make a trap with a guillotine door. These traps are sometimes used for scared skittish pups and or for pups that may have spooked from conventional humane traps). Because the traps are large and harder to transport, there use takes time and planning.
Two volunteers, Frank and Tom worked on the trap and added a laser trip function, which runs on a battery charger and 120lb magnetic door. We were able to transport this to the area where Juno was feeding. We assembled it and got cameras up to monitor Juno’s behavior. Everyone volunteered their time to monitor the cameras and trap. We never leave a trap set and unattended for safety.
After the trap was set up, it took Juno a full two days to get used to it. (This could go quick or for some dogs takes days, weeks or longer of slowly moving food inside). On night one Juno was very aware the food was in and around the trap. She did her dance around the trap and left and came for approximately 5 hours, then left until the following evening. When she returned, she did alot of the same back and forth. But, all kinds of good food eventually overcame her fear and and she safely entered the trap. Gotcha!
Even though Juno got loose from an unfamiliar area she still stuck fairly close ( within a 2 to 3 mile area). Flyers generated calls about sightings, cameras helped track a pattern and feeding stations kept Juno coming back. The patience of using the right trapping procedure paid off. This sweet pup was off the street!
Two weeks ago, Lost Dogs Illinois received an email from a woman located in Seattle, Washington who needed help in capturing her shy, scared and confused dog named Jimmy. We exchanged emails several times giving advice and suggestions. We asked her to share her story. Welcome Home Jimmy!
At the end of July 2015, I got two little dogs who had been rescued from a puppy mill: Ladybug, a rat terrier breeder (who was due to be euthanized by the breeder because she was too old to have any more litters); and Jimmy, a one-year-old toy fox terrier (TFT). I have had a lot of dogs, but they have all been big, bouncy, confident dogs (mostly mixed breeds). Having small dogs was a new experience for me but, by Thanksgiving, I felt like both dogs were really integrated into our family.
The night before the holiday, I took both dogs with me to visit a family member who lived in an apartment about five miles away from my home. I couldn’t find a leash for Ladybug in the house, but knew there was one in my car. At the last minute, however, I wound up riding with someone else and forgot to get the leash. I was a little concerned, but Ladybug always stays close to me when she is off leash (which is only when we are going from the front door to the car or vice versa), and even if she goes sniffing around the driveway, she always comes immediately when I call. So I figured it would be okay. Let’s call this “Big Mistake #1.” ALWAYS HAVE PROPER RESTRAINTS ON YOUR DOG WHENEVER YOU TRAVEL ANYWHERE.
We got to the apartment without any mishaps and spent a couple of hours visiting and making appetizers for the next day. The dogs seemed happy scrounging for scraps under the kitchen table. I was feeling a little lazy and the apartment was a second-floor walkup, so I asked my hostess if she would take the two dogs for a pee break. Big Mistake #2. NEVER ASSUME THAT YOUR DOG WILL BE COMFORTABLE WITH ANYONE, EVEN SOMEONE THEY ALREADY KNOW.
I asked if we shouldn’t put the harness on Jimmy, instead of just a collar, but my hostess thought it would be okay. Big Mistake #3. A FRIGHTENED DOG CAN GET ALMOST ALWAYS GET OUT OF A COLLAR. MAKE SURE YOUR DOG IS SECURE.
As they were leaving, it was clear that the dogs didn’t want to go with my hostess. They were obviously distressed, but after a few seconds, she seemed to have them under control, so I was relieved and let them go. Big Mistake #4. LISTEN TO YOUR DOG – IF HE DOESN’T WANT TO GO WITH SOMEONE, DON’T MAKE HIM! (I now realize that my dogs were thinking – “they are trying to take me away from my human,” so of course they were scared.)
After a few minutes, we thought we heard my hostess shouting outside. One of the other guests went down to the street, but didn’t see anything and came back up. We waited for them all to come back, but they didn’t. At some point we realized that our hostess had left her cell phone in the apartment (can we say Big Mistake #5?). IF YOU HAVE A CELL PHONE, KEEP IT WITH YOU WHENEVER YOU ARE WITH YOUR DOG OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE OR YARD – YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT NEED HELP (ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD).
After about 45 minutes, our hostess appeared, breathless and upset. She said she had lost both of the dogs and we should come look for them. As we arrived at the front door, Ladybug appeared. Our hostess took her upstairs and the rest of us went looking. Needless to say, we couldn’t find Jimmy anywhere, although a couple of people reported seeing him running. We gave up and went back to the apartment. Jimmy was lost.
We spent the next three days looking for Jimmy. There are plenty of resources that can tell you how to conduct a successful search, but please let me summarize our actions and tell you what worked the best.
Around the time we tracked Jimmy down to one small area, someone sent me the article on Shy and Elusive Dogs. I sent an email using the links on the website (lostdogsofamerica.org) and received a response from the Director of Lost Dogs Illinois. I finally understood that calling Jimmy was not going to make him come running. Jimmy was viewing humans – all humans – as predators, so we needed to let people know that they shouldn’t try to call him or coax him or catch him.
The neighbor who had first contacted me said that Jimmy had mostly been seen in three yards on the other side of the street. She suggested that we set up a feeding station for him in the middle house and I went and met the homeowner. He had seen Jimmy coming in and out of his yard and had already put out food. By Sunday evening, the food and water were in the yard, tucked away under a bush.
Monday morning I dropped off some food from home and a well-scented blanket. During the day, our volunteer advisers from Lost Dogs of America sent me text for people in the neighborhood and I created this flyer. After work, I went and handed it out to each house on the block and talked with as many people as I could. I stopped off in the yard with the feeding station and saw that the homeowner had also put out a small dog carrier and put the blanket inside of it.
Tuesday, I got a call from the homeowner. He had seen Jimmy quite a few times and it looked like someone had slept in the carrier. He also said that there were little paw prints all over his porch and that Jimmy had popped on the welcome mat. He took this as a sign that Jimmy was feeling a little more secure in that yard. I also got a call from the neighbor across the street, who was going every day to put wet food on the ground near the feeding station. We all agreed to just keep up the feedings. I also contacted our City Animal Control department, which is able to set humane traps to catch elusive dogs. The trapping officer only works Wednesday through Saturday, so I left a message for her to contact me.
Wednesday there were more sightings in the three yards. One person said Jimmy had actually gone up onto her deck for a little while. I was glad to hear that he seemed to be staying put, but I was also really missing my pup and kept thinking about him getting hit by a car. It was a hard night.
Thursday morning, I decided that I needed to try to make contact, so that at least Jimmy would know that I hadn’t abandoned him. I took the day off and got to the yard with the food around 9 a.m. I bundled up in another funky blanket and lay down on the porch. I had only been there a few minutes when Jimmy appeared. I ignored him and he paused when he saw me on the porch, but went on to grab some food and left.
I stayed buried in the blanket and peeked out. He kept coming back every few minutes. I decided to cover my head too so I wouldn’t be tempted to make eye contact. After about ten minutes I heard a little whine and when I peeked out, Jimmy was very cautiously approaching me. He was obviously frightened, so I didn’t do anything except lift the blanket in a little bit. He snuck in and kept sniffling. By the time he was all the way under the blanket, he knew it was me.
I let Jimmy lick my face for a few minutes and then made him put on the harness I had ready. That’s pretty much the whole story. He was a little skinny, but checked out okay when I took him to the vet. I feel extremely lucky, knowing how many lost dogs never make it home. You can believe I will be putting all the lessons I learned into effect and remembering all of my Big Mistakes. Thankfully, while we were looking for Jimmy, someone sent me the article from the Lost Dogs of America website about shy and elusive dogs, or I don’t think we would have successfully recovered my dog.
So Jimmy’s owner sent this last tip to me: We have never used this before – but whatever it takes……..About scent marking for a stray dog: It’s standard advice to scent mark in the area where the dog has been seen, especially if you have set up a feeding station. I’ve see suggestions to use a dirty piece of clothing or a blanket from home. Personally, as I tend to think like a dog, I believe that urine is the best scent marker. Just pee into a disposable cup and then transfer the urine to a little dropper or squirt bottle – the kind that eye drops or nose spray come in is perfect (then put the filled dropper bottle inside a Ziploc bag in case of leaking). It only takes a few drops in different locations in the area where the dog has been sighted — try to renew the markings once a day. Just make sure that the drops form into a “trail” leading back to the yard where the dog is being fed. You may think that the dog doesn’t know what your urine smells like, but you’re wrong. Your dog’s nose will tell him that you have been there.
‘Reva is safe! She was brought to her new home on Friday, September 4th. Since getting there, her owner has walked the same route with her daily.
Because Reva came from a feral/skittish lifestyle, she took the opportunity to bolt when a door was opened. Her harness broke in a freak accident and she took off. For the next 8 hours, she was spotted looping the subdivision her house is in and the golf course behind it. Reva knew what way Dan walked her only after 3 short days. Routine is essential with a new dog, especially a timid one. Smart cookie.
Dan and Denise quickly called the local police station as well as animal control. Flyers and posters went up, neighbors were asked not to chase her, but to call immediately with sightings. Reva came to the front and back of her new home 2 or 3 times. Her bed, fresh water and food were placed behind the house. We really believe not being chased kept her safe and in the area. As nightfall came, there weren’t any sightings of Reva for over 5 hours. A humane trap was set and baited behind the house next to her bed and Dan set watch. And then, an amazing phone call took place: Reva was in someone’s fenced in yard! The homeowners saw her, called Darien PD (which had Dan’s contact info and description of Reva) and Dan was able to pick her up from the house.
Accidents happen. Harnesses and leashes may break when you least expect it. We followed the advice our friends at LDI stress: do not chase and get the word out immediately. Because authorities were contacted, flyers stressing not to chase were posted and the neighbors didn’t disrupt Reva’s loop pattern, she is safe. Never underestimate the intelligence of a dog. Reva was able to retain her walking route only after a few short days, which is critical for a shy dog.
Thank you for the wonderful support, LDI!’
Thank you, Katie Campbell, for sharing Reva’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!
In this final segment of our series for shelters and rescues, we will focus on some of the common mistakes that can lead to a prolonged search or unfortunately even the death of the missing dog. Most of these mistakes can be attributed to a lack of leadership or the absence of a strong point person on the case. We covered this in detail in Part 3 of the series. Without strong leadership, the volunteer base will become frustrated and frayed. Some may become disinterested, some may give up, and some may go off on their own, using methods that we would never recommend. These include:
We hope this series has given you some guidance and ideas if one of your rescue or shelter’s foster or adopted dogs go missing. Searching for a shy lost dog is expensive and time-consuming. Pre-planning, volunteer training and avoiding common pitfalls will save you the time, money and resources that could be better spent on saving more lives.
Previous article – https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/
Your team of volunteers has worked hard at flyering and posting signs and now you’re getting some sightings! This article will cover what we have found to be the best method for handling these.
The point person should keep a sighting journal. It is hard to remember all of the details from a phone call. Something that may seem insignificant at first may become very significant as time goes on. So most importantly, get the name and phone number of the caller, so that you can call back with any extra questions!
Ask the right questions and make detailed notes.
1. Where did you see the dog? Ask them to please be specific. For example: the dog was going north on Ash street toward the Bay City Mall. On the other side of the street was Walmart.
2. When did you see the dog? What was the weather like? Again, ask for specifics. Example: The dog was seen at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 5th. It was raining at the time.
3. Can you describe the dog? Was he wearing a collar? What color was the collar? Did he seem okay?
4. What was he doing? Was he trotting, running, darting in and out of traffic, sleeping, playing with other dogs, walking calmly, etc?
5. How was he carrying his body and tail? Was he low to the ground, almost crawling? Was his tail up or down or waggin?
Record all of these details in your journal and then post the sightings to a map. You can use an old-fashioned paper map or you can use an interactive google or Mapquest map that you can share with your volunteers. We recommend that you NEVER share this or any sighting information with the public.
The number one cause of death of lost dogs is that they panic and run into traffic and are killed by a car. When you post sighting locations – you are encouraging reward seekers, wanna be heroes, and overzealous people from rushing to the location and frightening the dog.
Remember, the whole goal now is to let the scared lost dog settle in the area. Then you can implement a plan to catch him (trapping, luring, etc.). But if you are constantly pressuring the dog, he will keep moving, and you will always be behind him. You will have to keep flyering more and more areas and this will be draining on your volunteers. Remember that most of your volunteers have full time jobs, and their own families and dogs to look after. You will need to respect their time and maximize their efforts.
Make sure that your volunteers understand that the goal is to allow the dog to settle in an area. They must change their mindset from “searching” to “luring”. You wouldn’t try to chase and catch a feral cat. You start feeding a cat in one location and then you trap them. You will use this same approach for a scared, missing dog.
After you get off the phone with the caller, immediately gather the necessary supplies and head to the location. The person most bonded to the dog (if it isn’t you) should also go. But you do not want a large group. You will need:
When you arrive at the sighting location:
If you do not see the dog:
Don’t waste time driving around.
Immediately go door to door and flyer – speaking with everyone. Call in more volunteers to help with this.
If no one is home – leave a flyer that you have handwritten on: SEEN! 4 p.m. May 31 at the edge of your property or corner of this block or across from the Walgreens. Be specific so the home owner knows to keep a look out. Make sure your flyers clearly state the nobody should call or chase the dog. Just call with sightings.
Before leaving the sighting area:
Leave food and water! Anything except dry kibble (which doesn’t have an odor). Again, think smelly, scrumptious food. If you have a trail camera set it up facing the food so that you can see if the dog is approaching and eating when you aren’t there. . If you don’t have a trail camera, sprinkle fireplace ashes or cornstarch around the bowls so that you can examine the area for tracks when you return.
Remember, when the lost dog’s needs are being met:
He will start to let down his guard.
He will start to trust people and return to a domesticated state of mind.
Your chances of safely capturing him are greatly increased.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss a sighting. Most sightings are legitimate. People describe dogs differently so don’t dismiss a sighting because the description does not match exactly. Remember, that the public may not know dog breeds or sizes like you do. They may call an American Eskimo Dog a Samoyed. Or a shepherd mix a husky. Assume that every sighting is legitimate, unless absolutely proven otherwise, and mark it on the map. Dogs can travel great distances very fast, especially if they have been pursued. They may be using shortcuts that you aren’t aware of. Don’t assume that a sighting is too far away to be your dog. You will be able to use your map to give you clues to your dog’s paths and patterns.
Next, we will discuss common pitfalls and mistakes that are often made when a rescue is searching for one of their foster or newly adopted dogs. We will try to give you some advice to avoid these pitfalls.
Previous article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-3/
This is often the scenario played out by the friendly, opportunistic large dog, or a friendly small dog in an unpopulated area. They took the opportunity to go for a wander, smelling new smells, maybe chasing chipmunks and rabbits; but they never gave a moment’s notice that they forgot to bring the map.
As we discussed in Part 2, the chance that the small friendly dog got picked up quite early in his adventure is very high.
But today, we are going to talk about the larger friendly dog that was having a good time but ended up a long ways from home. (In particular, think hounds, labs, huskies, spaniels, setters, pointers, German shepherds and other working and sporting breeds). Whereas, shy lost dogs will often stay within a five mile radius of where they went missing, friendly lost dogs may travel in a linear fashion, zig zagging across the countryside.
These dogs may find their way back home IF you give them a helping hand by leaving food, their bed, and familiar scented articles out for them at the place they went missing from. Do this the entire time they are gone. Refresh the food daily with new smelly canned dog or cat food or some leftovers you are having. Dogs return by scent, not by sight or sound. So that same nose that led him away, may lead him back.
But you don’t want to rely on that, because there are far too many other scenarios that could have occurred.
If they decide to proactively look for an owner or take him to the correct stray holding facility for the area, great! Except that by this time, the owner may have given up or they may not be looking in the right spot. Compound that with the problem that many of these larger friendly breeds look alike (think black lab or yellow lab) and it becomes even tougher to find your dog.
What can you do?
We can tell you numerous stories of dogs that have gone hundreds of miles and been recovered. Don’t give up! Your dog is out there relying on you to find him and bring him home.