When your pet gets lost, first and foremost, stay calm
I lost a dog once. Her name was Cocoa. It happened under rather extraordinary circumstances.
When we found out she was lost, we didn't leave the area. After searching for nine hours, we found her several miles from where she started. Losing her was a traumatic experience for everyone, including my dog.
The Humane Society of the United States and PETS911.com suggest a number of tips of what to do when you've lost a pet. Top of the list is to stay calm. From personal experience, this is easier said than done, but it doesn't help to panic.
A study reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association found dogs were recovered primarily through a call or visit to an animal agency, a dog license tag, and posting neighborhood signs.
Contacting local animal shelters and animal control agencies is important. File a lost pet report with a photograph and description with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of your home, and visit each shelter daily.
Posting flyers and neighborhood signs are ways to advertise your lost pet. Create flyers and posters containing the following information: A photo, a phone number that is always available, a brief description of your pet, including age, sex, weight, breed, color and special markings.
When describing your pet, leave out one identifying characteristic and ask the person who finds him or her to describe it. Post these flyers and signs at stores, veterinary clinics, groomers and anywhere else that will let you put them up.
Go door to door, giving the flyers out to your neighbors and asking if they have seen your pet. Also, put an ad in your local newspaper and post your lost pet online at PETS911.com.
Another tip is to search your neighborhood by walking or driving around several times a day. Ask your mail carrier or anyone regularly in your neighborhood if they have seen any wandering animals, especially during early morning or late evening hours.
And before entering another neighborhood to search, thoroughly check your immediate area. A house cat may get scared and hide in your neighbor's bushes.
Additionally, if you have to go to work or sleep, leave your pet's favorite food in a dish or leave a T-shirt or blanket with your scent or your pet's scent on it outside. Since animals have a more sensitive sense of smell, they may detect it from a distance.
PETS911 suggests you be on call. Put a message on your answering machine/voice mail saying, "If you are calling about our lost pet, we are out looking for him, or at work, (or whatever the case may be). Please call us at 555-555-5555."
According to the HSUS, be wary of pet recovery scams. When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask him for a description. If he leaves out the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisement, he may not really have your pet.
The HSUS also suggests being particularly wary of people who insist you give or wire them money for the return of your pet.
As always, if your pet gets lost, his ID tags are his ticket home. A pet has a better chance of being returned home if he is wearing a collar and an ID tag with your name, address, and telephone number.
In addition to ID tags, personalized collars with a pet's name and a phone number are available from several pet catalogs and online. Also, talk with your veterinarian about microchipping your pet. It's a permanent method of identification.
The HSUS stresses not to give up the search. They report that animals who have been lost for months have been reunited with their owners.
It was scary, and took some time, but we were lucky. We found Cocoa and brought her back home. May all the lost animals find their way home.
• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization with all funds directly assisting its animals. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit thebuddyfoundation.org.