Listening to the voice mail from my brother-in-law, on our cellphone, my stomach dropped, and my mouth was suddenly dry. We had just finished a glorious morning of hiking with some good friends in the California desert. After hiking, we had indulged in some delicious Mexican food, including fresh salsa, real guacamole and some ice-cold beer.
Now, I was listening to a message that our 11-year old black Labrador had been missing for 24-hours!
My heart sank. We were spending Christmas and New Years in California with friends. She was staying in the comfort of her Calgary home with her favourite dog-walker. She is a dog a well-loved dog that enjoys a good life. What inspired her to sneak out of the back gate on a sunny afternoon, the day after Christmas, we will never know. She is a pure bred Labrador, driven by her stomach and her love of people. So it is possible she left in search of Christmas left-overs.
Our story has a happy ending, she arrived home safe and sound. However, it was 72 hours of hell for all those involved. Our fabulous dog-sitter and my brother-in-law were tireless in their efforts to find her. They put many miles on their feet and spent hours driving around. By the time, we received the call they had done almost everything that is suggested when you lose a pet.
Pet lovers understand that dogs and cats are really part of the fabric of a family. The loss of a pet can be just as devastating and disruptive as losing a loved one. We endured a couple of sleepless nights and spent hundreds of dollars in roaming charges on our cellphones.
Now that, our household is back to normal I thought that I would share this checklist, so others may have a guide if they find themselves in a similar situation. The list is not an official City of Calgary list but we hope it helps others find their dogs and other lost animals.
- Do not panic your pet does not actually realize that they are lost.
- ASAP call the City of Calgary Animal Services @ 311. They will ask you to file a report with all of the pertinent details; breed, age, weight, colour, tattoo, microchip etc.
- Follow the checklist that is available on the Calgary Humane Society web site and register on their PetLynx site. You can do this anytime, ideally before your pet is lost.
- Call the vets in your local area, to let them know in case your animal is hurt or someone brings them in.
- Make lots of posters, they do not need to be professionally done. The posters should include all the key information and how to get a hold of you. Print many copies and then give them to neighbours, put them in the dog parks, attach them to posts, trees and anything else where people might see easily spot them.
- Talk to your neighbours and let them know that your pet is missing.
- Place ads in the local papers and media such as The Calgary Herald 403-235-0511, The Calgary Sun 403-250-4222 and Shaw TV 403-716-6010 which, offer free online ads for lost pets.
- Leverage social media, make use of Facebook, Twitter, SMS, blogs and any other sites to get the message out.
- Contact the local dog walkers. These are the people who are out almost everyday walking the neighbourhood parks. Use Google for your local area to get a comprehensive list.
- Reach out to your local community association(s) as they may have a website or email distribution list.
- Do not panic and do not give up!
Please note: this specific list is for Calgary. Your local area will have similar organizations and communication tools.