Thursday, December 2, 2010

Retrieving a Lost Dog -- MINE!

Well, November was a month of wild adventure. I dislike adventure intensely. I am a stolid, boring homebody, a blue jeans and yoga pants wearing stick-in-the-mud, and I eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich every single day without getting tired of them.
On the day of my brother’s wedding, when both my husband and I were members of the wedding party, one of our Schipperkes became startled, slipped her collar, and ran away from our friend. She was lost for thirteen days. We were able to get her back only through the enormously stubborn efforts of everyone involved, and the kindness of total strangers.I just wanted to write a quick note about what we did during our search and which strategies worked the best.
We searched, and searched. We went into backyards, under decks, behind sheds, in open garages and under cars. We braved swamps, parks and ravines. We went out at dusk, full night, noon, and at 4 a.m. We shone flashlights, rattled food dishes, crinkled potato chip bags, called, whistled, and squeaked toys. We walked our other two dogs all over the area until their feet were sore. We drove, in case we were scaring her on foot. We had friends and family, kind strangers, clients who went out with their dogs to attract her, people I haven’t talked to in years out driving around trying to find Cleo.
Try finding a small, black, lightning-fast dog in an area with huge properties, no fencing, hydro fields, ravines, increasing cold, and rain, rain, rain.
We put food out on the property that she ran away from, to the delight of a neighbourhood cat.
We tried hiring a search dog on the third day. This would have been a great idea except that we have three dogs and all of their stuff is stored together. We attempted it anyway. The dog tracked beautifully; sadly, it was one of our other dogs. We simply could not provide a good enough scent article for the search dog to use. I recommend the service. If it had worked it would have saved us a lot of grief.
Inform the Internet and the World
I emailed my entire Contact List, everyone we knew on Facebook, placed ads on Kijiji, Craigslist, and any other classified website we could find. We notified the Schipperke club, and the Canadian Kennel Club. We posted on many lost pet sites including: (seems to be hard to get working for some people, but they try to help you) (for Toronto Animal Services updates)
Many of the people I know are also dog people, and they told all the dog people they knew, and so on and so on. We also emailed all of the humane societies in southern Ontario, and all of the dog walkers in York Region. We telephoned all of the pet stores and veterinarians in the area. We bothered Animal Control repeatedly.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Our friends made perhaps one million flyers and wallpapered the area with them. Their energy was unreal. We received a call from the Milton Humane Society with an excellent idea. They recommended making signs from foam-core boards, using large black lettering and a simple message (LOST: SMALL BLACK DOG, PH#), and posting them at the major intersections around the area. It was these signs that got us our first phone calls of sightings. Cleo had already left the area we had been searching so intensely.
Cleo was running from everyone she saw, even at a distance. Very few people were close to her. She was staying near houses though. Once we started to get sightings, it was clear that while she was staying in the area, it was hard to predict where she would be. Since she wouldn’t respond to people, we had to resort to traps. We rented raccoon live traps and placed them on some properties where she had been seen a few times. As far as we can tell, she never went there again. We were stumped.
After a dry spell, we started to get more calls, this time from across the road. Cleo had entered a ravine and went up and down, covering a great deal of distance in a short time. She even entered yards that were fenced, finding tiny rabbit holes to move in and out. We moved the traps, but missed her again.
Finally we got several consistent calls that she was in a neighbourhood only a couple of streets away. One of my clients was even out searching for her and saw her, only to have Cleo run again. She seemed to be staying in a particular circle this time. The next day we had calls that Cleo was on a particular property within the circle that she had visited before. I saw her myself for the first time on that property, from a distance, but she ran. Dad and I set up the raccoon traps and a coyote trap that our friend had been able to borrow. We baited them with Pizza Nova Meat-lovers pizza.
The next morning she was there. My hysteria wasn’t pretty. Cleo was fine, foot pads a bit sore and a spot on her nose where she must have tried to get out of the cage. She didn’t even lose weight.

What We Learned
  • Make sure your dog can’t get out of her collar or harness.
  • Microchips are only helpful if your dog is caught.
  • Cleo is a gentle, friendly, affectionate, cuddly dog who likes regular meals and sleeping under the covers. We would never have predicted that she would be a runner and a hider. You can’t tell what your dog is thinking.
  • When you are searching for a lost dog, bring a cell phone and change of clothes, especially shoes and socks.
  • The Dollar Store sells great rain ponchos.
  • Mud smells funny in swamps.
  • Traps work. Dogs like pizza.
  • Hope your friends are as determined and resourceful as ours.
  • People are, with very few exceptions, very kind and amazing and willing to help.
  • Those very few exceptions can help to stiffen your resolve with outrage, just when exhaustion is kicking in.
  • Never give up, even though you feel like it’s impossible. Never give up.
Thank you to everyone who helped us or offered to help, whether it was through searching, advice, website help, encouragement, spreading the word, positive thinking and prayers. We are very, very grateful.