Amazing Stories of Lost and Found Dogs
By Elizabeth Wasserman
In February, Alfredo Fulleda's mother let his dog, Pepito, outside in the yard along with the family's three other miniature dachshunds. The other three came back inside; Pepito did not. An 18-month-old dog, Pepito was lost for two days -- until a friend discovered an Internet posting about a dachshund found in their city.
"He was scared when I finally got to him," says Fulleda. "He had lost some weight, and the bottoms of his paws were chapped. He had walked over a mile and had crossed major intersections."
Pepito's saga of how a lost dog was found is repeated around the country each year. Consider, for example, JoJo of San Francisco.
JoJo’s Lost and Found Story
JoJo's return to the Gaffney family in San Francisco underscores the need to make sure a dog has identification in case it gets lost -- or in JoJo's case, stolen. His family tied up the 5-year-old mixed breed dog in front of a supermarket, but when they came back, someone had taken JoJo, with the abduction caught on the store's security cameras.
Owner Nick Gaffney says the family plastered the neighborhood with "lost dog" posters, contacted dog walkers, hired a dog tracker and even a pet psychic, and had their story picked up by the local news. More than $800 and a week later, JoJo's implanted microchip saved the day. The dog was turned in to a nearby veterinarian who scanned the chip.
"If he wasn’t chipped, we never would have gotten him home," says Gaffney.
In addition to microchipping, other forms of pet identification are collars, tags and tattoos. "We think external collars and tags save more lives and prompt more returns than anything else," says John Snyder, vice president of the companion animal section of the Humane Society of the United States.
Preventive Lost Dog Measures
The best insurance policy against losing your dog is to make sure the dog doesn't get loose. Here are steps the HSUS recommends:
- Keep dogs indoors, especially when you're not home
- Teach your dog to walk on a leash
- Fence your yard and padlock gates
- Don't let your pet roam free or be visible from the street
- Never leave pets in a car or outside a store to wait for you
- Train your dogs to come when called
Network and Use the Internet
As the stories of Pepito and JoJo demonstrate, alerting a network of people in the community can help in the immediate aftermath of a disappearance. Here’s what you can do if your dog goes missing:
- Put up fliers in your neighborhood with a recent photo of your dog
- Use neighborhood email distribution lists to alert neighbors
- Contact local animal shelters and dog rescue organizations
- Tap into networks of dog walkers to spread the word
- Use Craigslist.org and FidoFinder.com to post information about lost or found dogs
"The sooner you can get the information out to animal welfare, the humane society and neighbors, the better your changes are at finding your dog," says Snyder.
The Internet helped lead Fulleda to Pepito. Fulleda had posted pictures of Pepito on his Facebook page along with a caption: "We need you to come home." High school friend Erin Mallon saw the posting and wanted to help. "It popped into my head to do an Internet search," she says. "I typed into a search engine 'found dachshund' and the name of their city." A link to the FidoFinder.com came up, where someone had already posted a note about a black dachshund seen in the area.
Fulleda believes that Pepito, who was unneutered, had wandered off in search of a female dog. He's now going to neuter Pepito and train him to stay in the yard.
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.