During our trip to the Rocky Mountains over New Year’s, our sweet dog Lola ran away from her pet sitters. It was an experience I am not eager to ever repeat (nor are our friends, the sitters, who may have been even more sick and worried than we were).
Lola with the boys on the first night after we adopted her from the shelter.
If you have lost your pet and are looking for ways to help reunite, I have compiled a list of useful tips, ideas and actions you can take to help find your missing family member. I received a great deal of support when Lola was missing; most of these ideas came from people who helped us.
Lola was four when she came to live with us, and Shooter was seven.
* Create a flyer with your pet’s information on it. Have a clear photo, LOST in bold letters, along with a short description of your pet, microchip information, area last seen, and how to contact you. My dear friend did this for me, and after having hundreds of them made she realized she wanted to include more contact information. So she wrote additional numbers on every single copy. That, I tell you, is a VERY GOOD FREIND (with a very sore hand).
From the very beginning, Lola fit right in with these rough-and-tumble farm kids.
* Notify all area shelters, the animal control, veterinarians, police and fire stations. Hand-delivering flyers is the best way to be sure your pet is reported missing, that these facilities have the correct contact information, and that they will be able to recognize your pet when he/she is found.
Her nighttime routine involves waiting patiently for Farmer Boy to fall asleep. Then she will move to a more comfortable spot at the foot of his bed.
She has been a nighttime caretaker for any child who is sick or scared. Waking from fever or bad dreams always led to a quiet, furry friend appearing beside Mommy to see what was wrong.
* Canvas the area your pet was last seen. Post your flyer anywhere you can. Give copies of your flyer to people in the area. Everyone was very helpful and willing to listen when we were looking for Lola. In fact, a jogger in the area was the person who connected us with the woman who found our dog.
Sometimes I forget how little the children were when she came to be a part of our family…
* Utilize social media in any way that you can. I posted a photo and information about my dog on Facebook. Many of my friends shared the status update and soon Lola was making her way around the internet. I also found a great deal of emotional support and many new ideas for finding our dog from contacts on Facebook once they saw the update.
My Little Cowgirl doesn’t even remember a time before Lola.
* Keep going back to the last place your pet was seen. Eventually, that is where Lola was found. If your dog has a bed or blanket, leave it in the area with a laminated flyer attached to it. If you don’t have any bedding, leave an old shirt or other piece of clothing that you have worn so that it carries your scent. If your pet finds the item, it is likely that your pet will keep coming back to it.
Farmer Boy is visibly upset when we even mention that she isn’t as young as she used to be.
* Sign up with pet finding networks. Lola appeared on PetHarbor, Lost a Dog, Stray Pet Alert, and a Facebook page dedicated to missing pets in Colorado. These services provided some piece of mind for me, and they reduced a great deal of leg work someone would have spent delivering flyers to places that could receive all the same information in electronic form.
She loves being outside as much as the children do.
* Place an advertisement in local newspapers. Several papers in the area we were vacationing printed lost pet ads free-of-charge.
Lola loves a good hike, a new adventure.
* Don’t give up hope. I gave up hope every time we failed to find her in another search location. Each new place we searched left me feeling completely desolate when we turned up empty-handed. Each time we began again in a new area, I was certain we would find her. It was a ridiculous emotional roller coaster. But I kept hearing stories of pets that were found days, weeks, even months after they had gone missing.
Lola is always a willing participant in the life of our family.
* Keep perspective. As much as I love my dog, and as heartbroken as we all would have been if we hadn’t found her, she is still a dog and not a person. I wasn’t missing one of my children. I cannot count how many times My Farmer and I said to each other “imagine if this were our child…how do parents survive when their child is missing?”
As hard as it was to face the idea of never seeing her again, it was much harder to face the idea of breaking that news to my children.
* Lean on others. We were fortunate to have My Farmer’s brother and his family with us. They went far above the call of duty to keep our children happy, distracted and safe while we searched for Lola. My sister trolled the web and made phone calls from hundreds of miles away. Some of my closest girlfriends tore up the internet finding and signing Lola up on the lost pet sites. Our friends who were pet sitting when Lola ran away probably got less sleep then the dog did during the three nights she was gone; they spent every possible second looking for her. And My Farmer and I also had each other. In crisis, I am always reminded what a great team we are, and how very blessed I am that God made us for each other.
Furry family members give us so much love.
I hope you have a happy ending like we did; don’t give up!
We are so grateful to have her back with us, and for all she has contributed to our family in the past five years.
A new friend on Facebook (who sent us loads of great advice and encouragement after seeing out story on a mutual friend’s page) also shared an idea she puts into practice since going through losing her own dog on vacation (who was found after nine days!). Keep a “lost pet” kit in your vehicle with an extra collar and leash, some treats, and the phone number and hours of your local shelter. You can be the hero to a family waiting, hoping and praying to find their missing friend!
Everything is back to normal around here now, thank you everyone for all your help, advice, thoughts and prayers.