When considering how to write about this subject, I thought about NOT telling you how it came to my attention, and focusing on the importance of knowing what to do if your dog goes missing. As a dog professional that is also human, two things have come to my attention:
1. This can happen to anyone.
2. When it happens to you, you might not be calm, cool and collected.
It was one of our eerily, warm January days, I had slept very little due to a 4 month old baby who has no respect for Mommy’s nigh-nigh time, and I was downing coffee, waiting for my sitter to arrive, when, as my regular schedule goes, it was time to let my dog Finlay, out. The day was as normal as can be, except that when I called Finlay to go out, there was no response. None. I checked his bed, every closet and room, including the basement. He was not in the house. It’s then that what happened starts to unravel in my brain. The last time I really saw him was before my husband let him out the night before. I began to, in two very descriptive words, FREAK OUT. In the insanity of our lives of two kids, no sleep, both of us working… we left our beloved dog outside OVERNIGHT!
The guilt that wrapped itself around me was so tight that I could barely breathe. How could we do this? How could I not notice until now?!? My handling this situation with grace and calm went out the window about 30 seconds before I really understood what happened. It didn’t help when I went to grab the leash and attached to it was his collar, so nicely holding all of his tags.
This was a nightmare that had a great outcome. He apparently went for an early shopping trip to Sam’s Club and one of the employees took him to the local shelter, which we had already called and alerted that he was missing. However, as you know, this could have had an entirely different and tragic ending. To get to said Sam’s Club, he had to cross a four lane, very bust street. I still don’t know how he made it. I’m just thankful he did.
My point in writing about this is that I didn’t know where to begin. I enlisted friends and family because, quite honestly, I was a hot mess. You’d think that being in the business of dogs, I’d know exactly what to do, but I was lost in guilt and panic. So, I’d like to leave you with a to-do list that should be inside a closet or drawer for such an occasion:
1. Call the police. They are out there on the streets and can keep an eye out.
2. Call Animal Control for your city and maybe a neighboring one.
3. Call the local Emergency Vets.
4. Call the local Animal Shelter
5. Have an electronic picture of your dog that’s easy to get to.
6. Call a friend who can post the picture to Facebook immediately.
7. Let all the people above know the following about your dog: breed, sex, size, if he is microchipped, any discerning marks, when he went missing and your cell phone number.
8. Make a flyer with the picture and all of the above information. Make lots of copies to post to poles and trees in parks, near schools, if there is a dog park nearby, etc.
9. I recommend offering a reward.
10. Keep your cell phone with you at all times.
I hope this helps. I also hope you never have to use the list you make!
On a side note, I’m really glad Finlay wrote a blog post last month because his version of this story may have been a total exposé of living in the Stewart household entitled: “Forgotten: a look into the Stewart household”.