255 — Lost Dog Found: Tips for Success in Emergency

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Lost dog found

Today host Laura Reeves visits with Allison Foley of Leading Edge Dog Show Academy about some of the important steps to quickly and successfully find a lost dog.

The following is a partial reprint of Laura’s As the Wheels Turn column originally published in September 2015 for the online magazine Best in Show Daily. Many of us have lived this nightmare. Here are tips on how you can be prepared in case of emergency.

Lost Dog Story

Ours is a story to which every single dog lover can relate. Either you have lost a dog or you live in perpetual fear of the day it happens to you.

TiMI, the light of my life and last year’s #1 GWP, had gone to visit my friend and Spinone client in Carson City, NV in early August to get ready for the fall hunt tests. Since her husband had run TiMI for the first two legs of his JH this spring, it made perfect sense for him to go back there to finish up his title while I was busy running around the country showing dogs.

Stacey took TiMI out every weekend to refresh his training and ran him off the quad four miles a day to get him in condition for the hunt tests and the coming GWP national. I talked to Stacey Friday night and she was pumped. They were ready for the big double-double hunt test the next morning (two tests a day for two days).

Saturday morning, before the crack of dawn, in the excitement and confusion of getting ready for a weeklong elk hunting trip, Stacy’s husband let their young Spinone, Adele, and TiMI out and forgot to put on their invisible fence collars.

What WERE they thinking?

We can only guess from there, but I would assume the doggie conversation went something like this:

Adele: Hey, TiMI, guess what, the Mister spaced our zippy collars..

TiMI: Dude, how bout we go check out that bad rabbit down at the end of the driveway. I bet we can catch him today

Adele: Right on big guy Lets hustle before they holler at us

(Trot, trot, trot. ZING off goes the bunny, but today, instead of jigging right, he jigs left Two hunting dogs in hot pursuit in the wee dark hours of the pre-dawn, skirting yards and sleeping barns, off to the northeast)

Pant, pant, pant.

Adele: Whoa, that bunny was sure fast this morning.

TiMI: Wait, whats that? Hmmm. <Sniff, sniff> Something smells good up here Lets go check it out for a minute.

Adele: Well OK, but were going to get in trouble

TiMI: Yeah, yeah, this smells like a foxy lady just waiting for some company

Adele: You are such a BOY. (doggie sigh)

(Trot, trot, trot OOOOOOPS! Out of the gloom rise a half-dozen scraggly, doggy looking animals. Coyotes, including a female ready to breed, and her mate)

TiMI: Adele, we are in big trouble. You stay behind me and Ill try to scare them away

Adele: whimper.

TiMI: (Standing as big and tough as he can) RAWR

(Coyotes charge.)

TiMI: Discretion is the better part of valor, girl! RUN!!!

(Dogs run, coyotes chase into the mists)

That sinking feeling

Meanwhile, Stacy steps outside to load the dogs at 5:30 a.m. and finds nothing. She calls and calls. Then comes that sinking feeling in your stomach that leaves your ears ringing and bile at the back of your throat.

Stacey searched for several hours Saturday morning by herself, driving and calling and whistling. She contacted me in Oregon once it became obvious that the dogs were not going to reappear.

Critical first steps

From that point forward, the machine went into overdrive. Since I was a six hour drive away, I was the communication center, media center and public information center. I threw together a lost dog flyer from an existing template in my word processing program and emailed it to Stacey, who had it printed and posted around the neighborhood within an hour. As the deputy emergency manager of her county, Stacey has better than average resources. All of which were put to use with contacts and flyer distribution to all relevant authorities, animal shelters, vet clinics and more.

I shared the flyer on social media, Craigslist, lost dog sites, local television and radio sites and more. I know for a fact a half-dozen other people across the country with no actual connection to the dogs other than seeing the original post on Facebook were also sharing the information everywhere they could.

By Saturday afternoon, a dozen people were searching, in jeeps, on quads, in trucks and on foot in all of the expected places the dogs would normally have gone. Unfortunately, they had gone totally the opposite direction.

Home Again flyers with microchip information were faxed, animal communicators were contacted, tracking dog groups specializing in lost pets were called.

Late Saturday night with zero sightings, zero notifications, the dogs appeared to have disappeared into thin air. I made the decision to drive down to Carson City the next day.

Dog gone…

I didn’t sleep much that night, just kept muttering to myself, checking Craigslist, hunkered down in my chair on the deck.

I left Sunday morning planning to borrow a horse to search areas the vehicles couldn’t go. Within an hour of my asking on Facebook for a horse, I had a friend, who was visiting England, able to use her connections to have a woman call me on my cel offering to drive her horse three hours to give me a mount for the search. I had a text from another friend with the names of every field trial person in town and their phone numbers. I heard later another friend had a horse lined up and ready to go.

Good news?

About three hours into my drive, I received a text that they had a sighting.

“Matt” was a young man out skeet shooting in a deserted area northeast of town. He’d driven past two “good looking” dogs just lying under a big shade tree and wondered where their owners were. When he came back the same way, in search of more fuel and water, he noticed one of the dogs (TiMI) had moved and was lying in the middle of the road, causing him to have to go around off-road.

It is one of mankind’s great endeavors, to anthropomorphize our animals sufficiently to understand their thinking. Did they go toward the sounds of shotguns, and skeet shooting, as safe and familiar and hopeful? Did TiMI watch that truck drive by and intentionally try to “flag down” the human? We can’t know, but I am willing to believe both to be true.

When “Matt” got to town, he happened to glance at the huge poster plastered on a pole at the corner of 5th and Carson River Road. Something must have caught his eye, because he stopped, saw the pictures, remembered the dogs lying in the middle of the road, and called the contact number.

Stacey, frantically trying to understand his information and directions on a bad cel connection, finally arranged that searchers would meet him and follow him back to where he’d seen the dogs.

When she told him the reward noted on the poster was his if the dogs were there, his comment was, I dont need a reward for doing the right thing. Needless to say, he got the reward anyway.

The first searchers to arrive at the site were known to Adele, but not TiMI. She was slowly going toward them when TiMI came up and put his head over her shoulders in a clearly protective stance. Fortunately, the rescuers were calm and quiet and gentle and were able to leash both dogs until Stacey could arrive for a joyous reunion.

By the time I arrived in Carson City Sunday afternoon, the dogs were home safe and remarkably unharmed.

The power of social media is such that we had hundreds, and I mean close to 1,000, shares from people, friends and strangers, all over the country.

What we learned

From Stacey:

  • I would call for help earlier. I was by myself so I couldn’t stay at home and be out looking for the dogs.
  • I would have moved faster and started searching earlier. I kept thinking they’d walk up, so I wasted 15 minutes.
  • I would go in a complete circle, ranging out. I didn’t search the direction they went initially.

From a communications standpoint, my first flyer did not have a good enough picture of TiMI. I wanted non-show photos which still showed face and body markings. Having candid file photos of all dogs is something I’m adding to my list of musts. I learned that Home Again will not fax a flyer which offers a reward, so had to remake the flyer for them. TiMI is microchipped, but in my disjointed thinking, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where the number was. I wound up calling to get it from my vet. Making sure microchip information is centrally located with each dog’s registration and other data is another “must” adjustment.

There are great websites available with outstanding “lost dog” protocols. What we learned is that even experienced, comparatively tough cookies such as ourselves can be reduced to the barest of coherence when a dearly loved companion goes walkabout. Being prepared and organized *before* the dreaded event happens will reduce confusion and response time, increasing the chances for a happy ending to the “adventure.”


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