Last week was a hell of a week.
On Sunday we had to say goodbye to my beloved Joe. It was sudden, expected, and made my heart hurt. His passing was, however, peaceful and he was surrounded by the people who love him most.
The whole house grieved. Bella and Roo took his passing the hardest, but Sioux was also behaving oddly. We were just starting to pull ourselves together and figure out our new normal when the universe threw us another curve ball.
Part of my daily routine is to go home at lunch and let the dogs out. I was doing exactly that when I tripped over my flip flops and went face first into the grass. It was silly really and I didn’t sustain any injuries other than a strained knee…. But when I got up, Matt was gone.
Maybe Matt thought he’d done something wrong or maybe the sight of me toppling over scared him, but while my other dogs were standing around looking at me like “why did you do that?”, Matt bolted.
I’m used to compartmentalizing in times of crisis. You can’t waste time getting emotional, you have to solve the problem has always been my way, so that’s what I did. I called for him gently. I looked around the neighborhood – in all the best hiding spots and anyplace I thought he might be stuck (after all, he did have a leash). I left smelly food outside the back door. Then I started to think maybe someone may have found him. I turned up the volume on my phone and kept looking.
After a couple hours, real panic started to set in. I called in the cavalry – friends who were willing to help look on foot – and posted everywhere I could on social media. I was in contact with every shelter, animal hospital, animal control, police station, and missing dog group I could find. Someone MUST have seen or captured him.
Day 1, no leads. Day two, no leads. By day 3 I was sure someone had found him and taken him as their own. I was heartbroken the guilt of losing a dog that wasn’t even mine legally was overwhelming. This rescue group had trusted me with their precious bundle and I LOST him. How could I do that?! I’m to worst foster parent on earth. As usual, Nick was stabilizing and brought me back to earth. We both thought he was close, but where was he hiding?
On day 4 we finally had some sightings (YES!!) and he was close. Not a mile from my house is some woods and there were sightings of him entering the woods and crossing a nearby street. Nick and I decided to split up to cover more ground – he took Sioux into the woods where we had looked before and I was to go back through the neighborhood. I didn’t even get to my first street before Nick called. He caught him!
Matt seemed just about as relieved to see us as we were to see him. He was totally unscathed, just hungry and dirty. When he and I were snuggling later that evening, we gazed at each other for awhile. We agreed to not scare the bejesus out of each other again if we could help it.
I try to learn something from every experience, so here’s what I learned from this one:
Put flyers EVERYWHERE – If your dog goes missing, get flyers up IMMEDIATELY. Give them to your neighbors, local businesses, police station, and on every visible telephone pole. The more people that know your dog is missing and what he/she looks like the better. Our most valuable tip came from our local liquor store – a customer came in, saw the poster we had given the owner, and called us from the store! He even drove over to retrace his steps and show me exactly where he saw Matt. This was huge and really helped us narrow down our search area.
Social media is great, but MISSING DOG GROUPS are really who you need to reach – Missing Dogs MA and Helping Lost Pets are valuable resources. Not only do they post your pet on their site and social media accounts, but the team from Missing Dogs MA actually called me several times to help and even offered to help us set large humane traps. They even gave m some tips I would never have thought of, like grilling outside. A missing dog that’s close by may smell the food cooking and come back to his yard. It’s so logical but I wouldn’t have thought of it!
If your missing dog is a foster, CALL YOUR RESCUE – They need to know. In the event that your dog is not found or is injured, you need to be upfront with them about what’s going on. Nobody likes to be blindsided and most coordinators know that accidents happen. They can help spread the world.
Be patient with people who are trying to help – Sometimes people just want to help. It’s super stressful to lose a dog but there’s gracious ways to accept of decline help and most people will do what you ask them to if you ask politely. So many people offered to help look for Matt, people I don’t even know. But I knew that wasn’t a great idea because he’s very shy… so I politely said “thank you for the offer but he’s very shy and I’m afraid an unfamiliar face calling to him may scare him away from the area” and held my breath. To my amazement people got it, said good luck, and went on their way. Never be afraid to accept or decline help, but if you must decline, do it nicely.
I hope I never have another dog go missing, but if (God forbid) it happens again, I’ll know where to start.