Checklist for Missing Pets

Posted on by Roz Gorski

My heart goes out to everyone affected by hurricane Sandy recently, especially those with lost pets, because I know what they’re going through. The stories of people trying to find lost pets reminded me of the ordeal I went through over the summer when my 2-year-old miniature Poodle mix, Leo, went missing for three days. Leo is charming and extremely smart, but he’s skittish and determined to escape at any opportunity.

But first things first—the story of how I met the little shelter dog then-named Fozzie. Last spring, Fozzie was hit by a car on a major highway in Portland, Ore., where I live and work as a marketing specialist at Banfield’s headquarters. After getting hit, Fozzie amazingly evaded the police and animal control for several days despite a shattered left foreleg, before being brought to the Bonnie L. Hays Animal Shelter and then to Banfield’s new West Hills hospital where his leg was amputated. In my role with Banfield, I was helping to coordinate the veterinary service that our new hospital was performing for the shelter. And that’s how I came to meet Fozzie and learn about his ordeal.

The animal shelter wanted to find the right home for Fozzie. I had grown very fond of the sweet, three-legged dog, and after some reflection decided I wanted to adopt him. The shelter had already micro-chipped him and registered him with Washington County Animal Services where the shelter is located. But I live one county over and once you read the rest of the story, you’ll see why I’ll always make sure his registration and microchip details are up to date!

After bringing Fozzie home, I decided to change his name to Leo to reflect his bravery through his ordeal. Not only was he brave, but I also learned that he was very determined … to escape again! Within the first month at home, he made numerous attempts to flee through any door he could. When I had to travel to Chicago, I arranged for him to stay with friends for three days. I thought everything would be fine, since they had a small Chihuahua/Min Pin and I knew their gate had no holes or escape options. I had warned them about his skittish nature and told them to take their time approaching him so he didn’t run. It only took Leo two times to figure out that when my friend opened the gate to get firewood, it was the perfect opportunity to escape. Before Heath knew it, Leo was on the outside, just blocks from a major four-lane avenue in Portland. Unfortunately, when Heath went to coax him back in, Leo took off down the street.

By the time my friends contacted me, they had already called the local animal shelter and begun creating flyers to put up in the local area. In a panic, I immediately called the West Hills hospital to report Leo missing and called the microchip manufacturer to update the information on file so that if he was found and his chip scanned, he would come back to me and not the animal shelter.

The next few days were a blur of worry as I flew back to Portland and searched for Leo. Luckily I have some fantastic friends and they helped with a huge, coordinated search effort. In the panic of the moment it can be hard to think of everything that can and should be done so I wrote down the steps we took. Hopefully you’ll never need this list, but keep it handy just in case you do.

  • Posted an ad on craigslist in the “Community Lost & Found” section
  • Drove around the area time and time again following leads from people who’d called and said they had seen him
  • Made new flyers that could be read by someone driving past at 50 mph (in other words, big text that’s easy to read and digest in a split second)
  • Started a grid search within the 2-mile area around where he went missing. We split up into small groups, divided the area into quadrants and started systematically searching and handing out flyers. All the businesses in the area were told about Leo and shared this information with their employees so that they could keep an eye out for him.
  • A friend contacted the news, since a 3-legged poodle wandering near a busy highway could be newsworthy.
  • Leo’s information was posted on local websites like the humane society, county animal control and nearby shelters, as well as national websites like petfinder.com, missingpet.net, fidofinder.com and lostfoundpets.us.  

On the third day, I received a call from a woman while I was putting up flyers. She asked me if I was missing a dog named Leo, to which I said “yes,” hoping this wasn’t just a sighting. Then she said, “Well, I think he’s following me right now.” I asked what he looked like and she said “I don’t know, I’m blind.” It turns out Leo had been following the woman and her seeing-eye dog down the street, when she heard the jingling of his collar. Someone nearby told her it was a little dog. They managed to get a hold of Leo and read his name and my phone number off the tag. I asked if she had Leo in her hands, and when she said “no” my relief turned to panic for a moment. I told her how long he’d been missing and after what seemed like an eternity, she was able to place her hand through his collar and hold on to him. Luckily, he was absolutely fine when I collected him—exhausted and thirsty, but unhurt.

After the searching, the flyers, and the website posts—which were all important—it  was his collar with my information on it that brought him back to me in the end. If he ever goes missing again, I’ll do the same things again, posting flyers and advertisements wherever I can. Before any of that, though, I’ll always make sure that the information on his microchip and collar is current.



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