General Interest

Pet Prevention: Saving Homeless Pets

posted May 15th, 2016 by
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Pet Prevention: Saving Homeless Pets

By Kiley Roberson

IN every community throughout the country, there are homeless animals. In the U.S., there are an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year. According to the Humane Society of the United States, barely half of these animals are adopted. Tragically, the rest are euthanized. These were healthy, sweet pets that could have made great companions.
We have thousands of homeless animals in our shelters right here in Oklahoma. These are not the offspring of homeless “street” animals—these are the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds. Oklahoma, like most states, has several animal rescue groups, adoptions centers and more, but one local organization says it’s not enough.
Anita Stepp is the president of NeuterSooner, an organization that provides low-cost options for people to have their pets spayed or neutered. She says rehoming the animals isn’t solving the initial problem.
“We have rescued and sheltered far more pets than we can count, and the problem was still staring back at us,” Anita says. “So we decided to change our focus and solve the problem by prevention.”
NeuterSooner was founded in Bartlesville in 2009 as a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals by offering low-cost spay/neuter programs to those who can’t afford the cost. Neuter-Sooner sells spay/neuter vouchers available to families with incomes less than $40,000 annually. Cost for the vouchers is based on family income.
“We were concerned about the number of pets ending up in the Tulsa City Shelter and having to be killed,” Anita says. “There was a need for more spay and neuter services that were easily accessible and affordable. NeuterSooner decided to help fill that need by providing mobile spay neuter clinics in the Tulsa area.”
Oklahoma Alliance for Animals agreed to help fund the clinics, and NeuterSooner has partnered with five regional veterinary clinics to provide the spay/neuter surgeries.
Today, NeuterSooner has spayed or neutered more than 2,200 pets at clinics in Bartlesville, Tulsa, Dewey, Ochelata, Ramona, Skiatook, Nowata, Cleveland, Jennings and Broken Arrow. Even with this success, Anita says there is still a lot to do.
“The need is so great, and we need help, too,” she says. “We can always use more volunteers at the clinics. We especially need people who can answer phone calls, do the scheduling, help with set up and clean up afterward. Donations are also needed to help make spay/neuter services affordable.”
The decision to spay or neuter your pet can be the single best decision you make for his or her long-term welfare. Not only does spaying or neutering help control the pet population, but it also has positive health and behavioral benefits for pets. According to the Humane Society of the United States, neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than unneutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than unspayed female dogs.
Part of the reduced lifespan of unaltered pets can be attributed to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars and other mishaps.
Another contributor to the increased longevity of altered pets involves the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a far greater chance of developing pyometra (a fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer and other cancers of the reproductive system.
Medical evidence indicates that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. Many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as 8 weeks old.
Male pets that are neutered eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer, and it is thought that they have lowered rates of prostate cancer as well.
Veterinarians also suggest that spaying and neutering pets can help curb bad behavior. Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking (lifting of leg) than neutered dogs. Although it is most often associated with male dogs, females may do it, too. Spaying or neutering your dog should reduce urine-marking and may stop it altogether.
For felines, the urge to spray is extremely strong in an intact cat, and the simplest solution is to get yours neutered or spayed by 4 months of age before there’s even a problem. Neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues, even in cats that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam and fighting with other males.
In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater the risk you run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.
When you factor in the long-term costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet, the savings afforded by spay/neuter are clear, especially with the help of low-cost spay/neuter clinics like NeuterSooner.
Caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily run into the thousands of dollars—five to 10 times as much as a routine spay surgery. Additionally, unaltered pets can be more destructive or high-strung, destroying furniture, household items and fighting with other unaltered pets.
With all this in mind, NeuterSooner says the answer is clear. If we want empty shelters and healthy pets, prevention is key. And the “Sooner,” the better!
You can find out more about Neuter- Sooner on their website (neutersooner.org) or give them a call at (918) 332-6341.

A Fancy Fish Tale

posted April 30th, 2016 by
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Nicole Castillo

A Fancy Fish Tale

FishHello, sweet pet lovers. This is the blog of a fish named Smaug. He is my new male double tale betta and a total delight. I named him Smaug after JRR Tolkien’s dragon from the Hobbit series. He is blood red and extremely grumpy looking. I knew by his sullen expression that he was going to be picky about his habitat. This was a fish that was not going to be satisfied by just a few pretty plants. I researched tank décor and was amused to see a product called a Betta Hammock by Zoo Med Laboratories. It’s basically a silk leaf attached to a suction cup. The thought of a fish needing or even wanting a hammock was comical to me, like a gag gift for your pet. I then looked at the reviews and beheld multiple pictures of happy bettas lounging on the leaves. I could not believe it. Those visuals sold me, and I ordered one at once. When it arrived, I followed the directions and installed in it Smaug’s tank. For the first few hours he relaxed under it, like a big umbrella on a bright sunny day. Then, quicker than I expected, I saw him resting over the leaf, his bottom fins laying on the hammock. So there you have it. Bettas enjoy a good hammock just like the rest of us. Probably more, because the experiences I’ve had with hammocks have not been pretty.

 

FishSmaug also has a floating jellyfish and two moss balls in his tank. The jellyfish is anchored to the bottom with a suction cup. It’s a fun decoration, unique and colorful. He loves to swim through the jellyfish tentacles and hide under it. The moss balls are good for the tank and Smaug likes to pick at them. Finding accessories for this little guy has been fun. Do you have a betta that likes his accoutrements? Is Smaug missing out on a vital betta luxury? We can’t have that! Let me know in the comments or email me at [email protected].

 

You can also contact me about any upcoming pet events. This weekend is the Thunderkatz Cat Show, Meowy May Day at the State Fairgrounds, Centennial building, April 30-May 1st, 9a to 4pm. There will be a variety of cats to see, vendors and hairballs. The Iron Thistle Scottish Festival is on Saturday, April 29th at Kirkpatrick Family Farm, 10am-5pm. This event is pet friendly and will have dog rescues, bagpipes, Scottish dancing, games, vendors and our friends at The Pet Food Pantry will be there.

Pet Overpopulation

posted April 30th, 2016 by
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Pet Overpopulation – What is the Answer?

By Kim Schlittler

Each week we hear about cats and dogs needing homes. Every cage and kennel in the animal shelters has a pet or two (or more) in it. Rescue groups and foster homes are full, so it’s difficult for them to take in another pet until one is adopted.
Pets are adopted every day. Some shelters and groups are very creative with their promotions seeking adopters. Mega adoption events are held several times a year with rescue groups and shelters coming together to find homes for hundreds of pets in a few days.
Yet the pet overpopulation problem continues. Last year, the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter alone took in 25,000 cats and dogs. More than 14,000 pets were adopted, reclaimed by their owners or transferred to rescue groups. Sadly, 10,300 pets were euthanized for various reasons. Pet owners failed to look in the shelter for their lost pets or, tragically, waited too long to look. Pet owners surrendered their pets, thinking a behavior problem was a lost cause. Not enough potential adopters thought of the shelter as a place to adopt a pet. And some pets were too ill or too aggressive to be adopted.
Of the 10,300 pets euthanized, 3,800—more than one-third—were puppies and kittens whose only crime was being born into a community where not enough people wanted to adopt young pets. These numbers are repeated on a lesser scale at animal shelters throughout the state.
With so many companion animals and too few adopting homes, what is the answer? The best answer is spaying and neutering.
Every pet lover likes to know someone is helping homeless pets. Best Friends of Pets seeks to prevent pets from becoming homeless and part of these statistics. Its spay/neuter program, which offers two low-cost, high-quality opportunities for pet owners to have their pets spayed or neutered, helps keep pets in their homes and prevents unplanned births of puppies and kittens. More than 6,000 cats and dogs were spayed or neutered in 2014 through the program.
SpayWay of Oklahoma City offers spay/ neuter, vaccinations, canine and feline tests, and microchipping. Spay/neuter fees are $30 for cats and $40 for dogs. Rescue groups and pet owners with a gross household income of $50,000 or less can call SpayWay at (405) 414-8142 for an appointment. SpayWay also goes mobile during the year and spays or neuters pets in towns throughout the state.
Cost is often the biggest reason why pets are not spayed or neutered. “We find people are tired of their pet having litter after litter of puppies or kittens, and they are excited when they can afford our services. One dog had eight litters of puppies—all accidents—in four years. Even the neighbor was excited when they found out about our low-cost spaying and neutering.”
Low-income pet owners receiving Medicaid, OKDHS or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, or meeting Best Friends of Pets’ income guidelines, can have cats spayed or neutered for $10 and dogs for $20 through its Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP).
General public assistance is also available based on income. Rabies vaccinations are $5 and are only offered when the pet is spayed or neutered. SNAP works with veterinary and nonprofit spay/neuter clinics throughout the Oklahoma City metro area. For more information about SNAP or to request a SNAP application, call (405) 418-8511 or visit www.bestfriendsofpets.org.
Puppies and kittens as young as 8 weeks or weighing at least 2 pounds can be spayed or neutered. In addition to preventing un-planned litters of puppies and kittens, spaying and neutering makes dogs less likely to roam or bite, ends yowling by cats in heat, and makes cats less likely to spray and mark their territory. Pet owners often find their pets are more calm and affectionate after being spayed or neutered.
Schlittler says now is a great time to have a pet spayed or neutered. Spring is just around the corner. With the flowers blooming, windy days and people enjoying outdoor activities also comes the arrival of stray and abandoned puppies and kittens.
Animal shelters and animal welfare groups refer to this as ‘puppy and kitten season,’ a heartbreaking time of year. Now is a great time to have a pet spayed or neutered to ensure that unplanned litter is avoided.
Best Friends of Pets is a local nonprofit organization that began in 1994 under a similar name to help increase pet adoptions and improve conditions for pets at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter. In 2005, Best Friends of Pets started its Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP), the first year-round community spay/neuter program of its kind in the Oklahoma City area.
In 2006, Best Friends changed its adoption program to work with small groups and individuals who rescue and foster pets until they are adopted. Best Friends of Pets strives to reduce the pet overpopulation problem of too many homeless pets by helping pets, their owners and our community.

Ozzy’s Tale

posted April 15th, 2016 by
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Ozzy’s Tale

By Holly Brady Clay

How One Dog’s Story Became A Book And Is Still Teaching Lessons Along The Way

It has been said, “Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” I believe this is true more than ever. Let me introduce Ozzy to you (also known as Scooburt), my lovable 8-year-old mutt I adopted when he was 18 months old. The decision to adopt Ozzy was the absolute best “worst” decision I ever made. 

Ozzy was very “special” from the beginning. It was not until I stood at the desk of the shelter to adopt Ozzy that I heard his very fascinating backstory.  Ozzy had previously been adopted—twice—before being returned to the shelter both times by his previous owners. It seems his former owners, who shamed Ozzy by changing his name to Winston, owned a delicate set of china dolls.  Maybe he was speaking out in angst against his newfound dog name, but, whatever his motive, he did not waste any time shredding the dolls to pieces, leaving his new owners a little more than frustrated. While for some this should have been a warning sign, I ignored all indications that he might be trouble. If I had only known what I was getting myself into! 

The day I drove Ozzy home from the shelter I experienced what I refer to as the “bad side of Ozzy.” While in line at Petsmart—my cart full of overpriced toys and dog food, all of which I really couldn’t afford—Ozzy chewed through his leash and broke free. If that wasn’t warning enough, the next indication he was special was the countless undergarments Ozzy stealthily stole and tore up, which belonged to my wonderful and ever-so patient roommate. Another indication he was “special” was the fact that he ran away from me every single chance he could as I embarrassingly chased him for miles down the road.

Call it blind love, but from the day I brought him home it truly was love at first sight. I always compare it to what my mother would tell me as a child: “It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, I could never stop loving you.” Well, I didn’t have a biological human child that I carried in my womb for 9 months and then miraculously gave birth to, but I finally got what she meant after all those years. No matter what he did, I still loved him. He followed me everywhere. I couldn’t be out of his sight. 

I never even knew I needed a companion in the bathroom with me! Because of this “needy” bond, we had some issues when I would leave the house. It was nothing major; a few loaves of bread would go missing, and a package of potato chips here and there disappeared mysteriously. There was also the time he stole an entire birthday cake.  Oh, and the entire plate of hamburgers that vanished. There was the dozen or so bagels incident, a tub of cream cheese, a whole pineapple, (yes, whole with the prickly covering) bananas, avocados, and potatoes… Suffice it to say, Ozzy had some learning to do. 

Through the years and with much patience, Ozzy has matured into a very well-behaved dog. We moved to Colorado together as I finished up my undergraduate degree in film, video and media. I have always been drawn to a creative lifestyle and often find myself documenting stories, whether through writing, photography or film. So one cold, wintery day in the small, mountain valley where I resided, I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing. I looked at Ozzy, and endless stories popped into my head. How could they not? I wish I could say all this just happened overnight, and then “poof!” I had a book. Quite honestly, it took me several years to find the motivation to complete my story, but once I did, the book title seemed obvious: “Scooburt Steals a Meatball.” 

What better story to write about than a dog that steals food! I submitted it to Tate Publishing out of Mustang, Okla., and together we collaborated to bring Ozzy’s story to life. This could not have been done without the help from one truly amazing friend, Zay Shaeffer. Zay, an Oklahoma native, is responsible for all of the artwork in the book, and he is truly a present day Dr. Seuss. He invokes passion and humor into every single one of his art pieces, and because of this, I knew he had to do the artwork for the book. 

The premise behind the book is about Scooburt stealing a meatball from a Great Meatball Clerk, but then understanding what he did was wrong. The lesson goes much deeper than that, delving into what it means to have a conscience and how we determine right from wrong. It is a humorous tale of a tail but with a great message for kids. The book was finalized and released in the summer of 2012. Since then, we have had many great opportunities to share Ozzy’s story, as well as the importance of adopting shelter pets. Ozzy and I have traveled throughout Oklahoma, visiting numerous elementary schools. Our main goal behind visiting schools is not only the one-on-one interaction that students are given with having a dog visit their school, but also to teach them kindness to animals.

It is also important to help them understand if they have a dream, nothing can stop them from pursuing it. I explain that I wanted to write children’s books from an early age and made it happen with perseverance. When you are 8 years old and a dog visits your school, it is safe to assume the dog must be famous. We hear kids screaming from the hall-ways about the famous Scooburt! Kids line up for hugs, and Ozzy adores them. Sometimes a good hug from a dog is all you need to turn your day around. 

As far as continuing the Scooburt series, I do have plans    for more books in the near future. You can stay up-to-date on “The Adventures of Scooburt Humperdink” by visiting    our Facebook page at facebook.com/scooburthumperdink or visiting our website (hollybrady.tatepublishing.com). For signed copies, send us a Facebook message.

Seven years later, Ozzy and I have been through some rough patches, but I wouldn’t trade him (or the experiences together) for the world. Just like so many things in life, with patience and willpower we can make anything happen. I believe the same was true for my book, as well as Ozzy. He needed someone to believe in him, and I knew I could be that person. Adopting a dog isn’t easy, but it is so rewarding. Everyone can do his or her part.

As for Ozzy, he thinks I changed his world forever, but he has no idea how much he has changed mine. 

Saving Nadia

posted April 7th, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Saving Nadia

NadiaBy Nancy Gallimore

I woke up this morning with a little black nose pressed into my neck. Nadia, my new foster puppy, apparently decided it would be a great idea to sleep in the human bed last night. I hug the puppy to my chest, and she sighs in contentment. With her sigh, the sweet, distinctive aroma of puppy breath fills the air around us, and I breathe it in, cherishing the scent that will turn into dog breath all too quickly.

Itwas only about a month ago that this happy, cuddly pup was just a small, dark shadow, standing lost in the middle of the road. The moment my Jeep made the turn toward home, the shadow darted away to hide in the bordering brush and trees. I barely saw the movement, but I knew—it was a dog.

I’ve seen it too many times—a dog or cat blindly bolting for cover because this unfamiliar situation into which it has been plunged seems to be filled with nothing but danger and fear. This road, the peaceful country road that takes me home, is apparently a favorite spot for people who want to abandon unwanted animals. It’s a quiet, somewhat hidden side road, but it has just enough homes along the way to pacify a guilty mind—to allow the “I found him a home in the country” lie to have a hope of validity.

I kept my eyes focused on the point where I had seen the little ghost dog leave the road. I slowed as I reached the right spot, and I scanned the brush for any sign of my new friend. The late afternoon sun slanted bright beams into the camouflage of tall grass, weeds and trees, and as I searched, I finally caught a glint of wide, terrified eyes.

She was crouched tensely against a tree trunk beneath some fallen branches, her little face and body tight with stress and panic. Her eyes were round with fear, and every muscle in her body was ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Her soft brindle-hued coat allowed her to easily melt into the wooded background and growing shadows. If she decided to move farther into the brush, I would quickly lose sight of her. Though I wanted to rush in to whisk her away to safety, any sudden movement would have closed the door of opportunity.

There is an art to helping frightened stray animals. A panicked dog or puppy seems to revert to a primal state where raw survival instinct replaces any previously known domestic inclinations and responses. This is the moment when the human has to abandon the notion of how to respond to a pet animal. All of the baby talk and promises of cookies bounce off of terrified ears and a numb heart.

So I parked my Jeep and walked a bit down the road from the puppy, keeping myself at an angle to her but always    keeping her in my peripheral vision. She,  still crouched and tense, did not take her eyes off of me, the potential predator.

I reached a spot about 5 feet down-road from the pup. Her hiding place was about 8 feet off the road, so I was far enough away that I wasn’t putting pressure on her. I sat down in the weeds and gravel because dog rescue never manages to take place in a comfortable location.  Again I kept my body at an angle to the puppy instead of facing toward her.

Well-meaning humans really tend to get it wrong when trying to approach a scared dog. We usually go straight at them, looking directly into their eyes. We immediately thrust a hand toward its face. We lean in and push our faces toward them, all the while babbling in a high-pitched, loud voice. Imagine yourself in a position that is about a foot or so off the ground and how that feels—not pleasant.

Then, we tend to ignore all of their “please don’t pressure me” signals. They glance away. They lick their lips. Their ears will be tense and generally pressed back. The whites of their eyes show. These are all signals that say, please, please back away, but most humans don’t know how to read them. This is how rescue opportunities are lost—or worse, how humans end up with a nasty bite.

So there I sat, glancing sideways at the puppy, talking to her in a low, soft voice, tossing bits of beef jerky near her hiding spot (well, sure, I always keep something enticing in the car!). After about five minutes, the grass rustled, and the young dog cautiously reached out to hungrily snap up a bite of jerky.

Ah, progress. Very, very slowly, I scooted a little bit closer to where the pup sat, watching. Then I just held steady again. I kept my body loose and relaxed. I stayed at an angle to the puppy. I did everything I could to communicate a message that said, “I mean no harm.”

I tossed more jerky, this time not quite so close to where she hid. She crept out to gobble a few bites and then watched me warily, very ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Cars passed behind me. Most ignored me completely; some slowed to see what I was up to. I just sat and prayed they would not stop to help. Any added pressure from the human world would send this puppy racing into the brush. I needed a “please ignore the crazy lady playing in the weeds” sign.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress toward the puppy with a non-stop shower of yummy jerky (I can’t lie… I had a few bites myself), I decided to take the pressure completely off. I scooted slowly away from her and then got up, still in slow-motion and walked back toward my car.

What I hoped would happen, did.

Trailing about 4 feet behind me, a young, thin, frightened puppy followed. She still wasn’t sure about me, but I was the best thing she had found in this big, scary world, and while she wasn’t ready to run into my arms, she sure wasn’t ready to let me go either.

As long as I stayed steady and didn’t move too quickly, I was about to see a puppy make a very difficult choice—the choice to trust this human.

I looked sideways at my little shadow and asked if she might like to come home with me. Her reply was to crawl underneath my Jeep and plop down. Oh, great. First, I got to scoot around in gravel and itchy weeds, now I would know the joy of lying on my belly on the asphalt and gravel under my car. No matter. She was well worth it.

So I stretched out on the road and scootched my way under the Jeep. I would like to say a public thank you to my very significant other, Jim, at this moment for putting a little lift kit on the Jeep. It sure made the scootching much easier. Scootch, by the way, is a technical term that anyone who rescues animals in the field knows all too well.

Now I’m lying on my belly, under my Jeep on a thankfully not busy stretch of road. I extended my fingertips to offer another little bit of jerky. She gently took it from me and swallowed it without even chewing. This was one hungry puppy.

Then I reached out to lightly tickle the side of her neck with my fingers. At this point, I would like to issue another public thank you for the combination of my mom and dad that gave me freakishly long arms. They come in darn handy.

While lightly petting her with my fingertips, I finally saw a change in the puppy’s posture. Her eyes softened. Her ears lowered and relaxed. She exhaled with a distinct, little sigh. This puppy was making a choice to trust me.

I will tell you that when I catch frightened little dogs like this, I do initially take hold of them by the scruff of their necks. That may sound rough to some, but I have one chance to get it right, and I can’t risk a struggle or a fear-inspired bite. It’s important to be very careful when approaching a stressed animal that may feel cornered or threatened. I have found that most small dogs, especially young puppies, will go very still when you take hold of the loose skin on the backs of their neck. Their own mothers know this. It is not painful, and I don’t use this little handle for long, but it can be effective for safely scooping up a scared puppy.

I rubbed the puppy’s neck, and then I gently took hold of her scruff. Together, we scootched out from under the Jeep, and I quickly hugged her close, promising her softly that everything was going to be OK now. The pup quickly decided that I was her port in the storm. She pressed into me without a struggle, completely surrendering her fate into my hands.

The once scared, starving, lost puppy quickly became happy, secure and very friendly. She now has dog friends that play with her. She has soft beds for snuggling. She has many arms that love to hug her. She has all of the food and treats she could ever hope for even though she still inhales every meal as if it might be her last. She has a name, Nadia, earned because she is very agile and loves to tumble.

Most importantly, she has a future.

Nadia is learning skills every day that will ensure she can be successfully placed with a loving family. She is a dear, gentle, smart little girl. Someone will be lucky to love her. I can’t wait to see that match happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to teach her where she should potty and where she shouldn’t. We’ll talk about Jim’s house shoes and why they really aren’t a chew toy. We’ll go for car rides and walks. We’ll approach new things and new situations together as she learns to be confident. We’ll have great fun together.

I will enjoy our snuggle time and her sweet puppy breath. And when she places in a new home? Well, I have whispered in her ear every single day since she arrived that even after she finds her perfect family, I will always, always be right here if she ever needs me.

And I will.

 

Author’s note: The methods I outline here work for me, but I have a great deal of experience handing animals and have been involved in animal rescue for decades. I encourage anyone approaching a frightened or injured animal to exercise great caution. If you are unsure, call the animal shelter or a rescue group for assistance.  No one needs a bite from a stray animal.

I am pleased to report that Nadia’s story does have a “happily ever after.” She has been welcomed into a wonderful home where her life lessons continue. She is safe; she is loved, and she loves her new human. Here’s hoping the same for all of the Nadias out there.

Lost Pet Found

posted March 30th, 2016 by
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Lost Pet Found

By LaWanna Smith

An action plan for dealing with every pet owner’s worst nightmare

It was a warm afternoon when the faint sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. I had just arrived home after running a quick errand, and my dogs greeted me at the back gate as I pulled in the driveway. Well, all but one furry face; Baxter, my 10-year-old Shepherd mix, was missing.
An unsettling feeling passed through my stomach as I recalled hearing the thunder. Baxter had always been afraid of storms and other loud noises, but the approaching storm was still too far away for my husband to hear it from inside the house. I did a quick search of the property and found no sign of Baxter. Previously, when a storm had panicked him, he jumped the fence, but he was still nearby and came running right back when I called. But not this time.
Trying to stay calm, I got into my car and began driving our walking path in the neighborhood with no luck. After about 30 minutes of searching, I was officially scared.
This lost dog story does have a happy ending. After 48 hours of canvassing the area, posting 100-plus signs, listing Baxter on numerous websites, placing an ad in the paper and putting more than 250 miles on each of our two cars, we brought Baxter home—tired, full of fleas and pretty scared, but otherwise fine.
Over the course of two days, he had traveled about 10 miles that we could track, though likely more. We were able to follow his route by the calls we received in response to our signs. Ultimately, a very kind person responding to one 8” x 10” sign led us straight to our boy for a happy reunion.
Unfortunately, not all lost pet stories have a happy ending. Statistics show that one in every three dogs will become lost in its lifetime with only a small percentage recovered.
Your immediate actions upon discovering your pet is missing can be the difference between success and heartbreak. Following is a list of helpful tips for recovering a lost pet:
Act fast.
It is a fallacy that pets will find their way home on their own. By immediately beginning your recovery process, your odds of finding your pet increase greatly. Get out on foot; walk your neighborhood and knock on doors. Dogs tend to travel while cats tend to hide out, generally fairly close to home. The more people know to keep an eye out for your pet, the better.
Check the likely spots. Do you and your dog have a normal walk you take in the area? Is there a park or a house with other dogs your dog likes to visit? Are there neighborhood kids your dog enjoys? Check all the likely “fun spots” first. For lost cats, search the area around your home carefully and then expand your search to likely hiding places around neighboring homes (with permission, of course). Sometimes use of a humane cat trap with a little yummy food in it will do the trick. Check with your animal shelter to see if you can borrow or rent a trap.
Enlist help and post signs!
Have someone start making fliers and signs featuring a current photo of your pet while you do your initial search. Make sure your cell phone number is included on your signs, so you can be reached immediately at any time of the day or night. Keep your cell phone battery charged!
Keep your signs simple and the text large. Your signs must be very legible. Passing motorists must be able to read them quickly and easily. A good tip for keeping your signs fresh and waterproof is to put each flier in a clear, gallon-sized zip closure baggie.
Give fliers to all of your neighbors and post signs at all entrances/exits to your neighborhood. Ask permission to post signs in yards near intersections. Give fliers to your mail carrier and any delivery people who happen to frequent your neighborhood. Also, post signs at all major intersections in your search area.
Start working in a circle from the point where your pet was lost. With each 24-hour period that passes without recovery, expand your sign placement another mile in each direction. Never think your pet “won’t go that way” or “won’t go that far,” especially with dogs. You might be amazed how quickly four legs can travel.
Post notices at all local veterinary clinics, grocery stores, community centers and any other public business that will accept a flier. Be sure to hit all animal-based business such as pet supply stores, training schools, dog daycares, boarding kennels, etc. People who love their own pets are more likely to notice and offer assistance to a stray animal. Place an ad in the lost and found section of the newspaper immediately. People who find a stray pet often look there first.
Take your search online.
Modern technology is a great thing, and now your computer or smart phone can provide the key to locating your lost pet. A quick post to Facebook, on your general feed and on specific lost and found pages, can yield great results or leads. Twitter can work similarly. Websites such as findtoto.com offer phone services (fees specified on the site) to contact people in your area to notify them of your missing pet. This can be a fast, effective way to spread the word. Local rescue groups also offer pet lost and found listings.
Check with local shelters and organizations.
Visit local animal shelters and notify all animal rescue organizations. File a lost pet report with every shelter in your vicinity and visit the nearest shelters daily if possible. Many shelters are only required to hold animals for a 72-hour period before they can put them up for adoption or authorize euthanasia. You cannot rely on calling to ask if your pet is at the shelter. The OKC Animal Shelter alone houses hundreds of animals, and it is virtually impossible for the person answering the phone to know for sure whether your pet has been checked in that day or not. Plus, only you can truly identify your pet.
Do provide all animal control agencies and rescue groups with an accurate description and a clear photo of your pet, along with all of your contact information. To locate contact information for other area shelters and rescue groups, refer to the Directory portion of www.okcpetsmagazine.com.
Use Caution.
If someone claims to have your pet, meet in a public place. Do not give out your home address and do not agree to go to the home of an unknown person. Ask them to meet you at a local veterinarian office, pet supply or other public place to return your pet. Be wary of pet recovery scams. When talking with someone who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly. If the caller does not include specific identifying marks or characteristics, he may not actually have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who ask you to give or wire them money for the return of your pet. It’s OK to offer a reward, but it can attract people with less than honest intentions.
Don’t give up your search! Animals that have been lost for weeks and even months have been reunited with their owners. Keep the word out there.
And once you find your pet, collect all of the signs you have posted. Leaving up signs once a pet has been found is not only pollution but also unfair clutter for those people who still have missing pets.
Proper ID
Of course, keeping proper identification on your pet at all times is pertinent to a speedy reunion in a lost and found situation. A collar with vet tags, city license and a personalized tag will help keep your pet safe. However, collars can be lost, so it is recommended to talk to your veterinarian about permanent identification such as a microchip. A chip about the size of a piece of rice is injected under your pet’s skin in the shoulder region. When a scanner is passed over the site of the chip, it pulls up an identification number that leads to all necessary information for locating that animal’s rightful owners.
Even under the most protected circumstances, pets can slip through open doors, sturdy fences can be jumped or crawled under, and gates can be left open by workmen or kids. If the unthinkable does happen to you, remember that a good plan and quick action can lead to a safe and happy recovery.