It was a year ago today, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was pouring rain, I had planned to just take the dogs for a quick pee, but despite what I planned, Dahlia (who was my foster at the time) and Flipflop wanted to go for a walk.
You all know by now I’m a hardcore dog owner, rain, shine, snow, sleet I exercise my dogs as much as is safe for them and they are up for it. So, off we went to our local park. I let Flipflop off his leash, but kept Dahlia on, as I knew Flipflop had a pretty good track record on his recalls. Flipflop ran around happily, enjoying his freedom in the rainy field. And then he got spooked. What happened next changed my view on off leash dogs forever.
Flipflop took off (something he had never done before), in my haste to follow him and get him to come to me, Dahlia slipped out of her collar and tore off after him. I panicked and went running in the direction they took off in.
As I trudged through the pouring rain calling Flipflop and Dahlia’s name, there was no sight of them. I was starting to panic, they had run toward the wooded area of the park, they could be anywhere. After twenty minutes I called my neighbour, who I was supposed to be volunteering with that day, assisting a local rescue. “Flipflop and Dahlia are missing” I cried into the phone. “Calm down,” she told me, “they’ll come back.” And as I explained what was going on to her, Flipflop came out to me from under a bridge where he must have been hiding. Relieved to see him I put his leash back on and gave him a much needed hug (needed by me, not so much him). I figured Dahlia was not too far from him, so I searched the area where Flipflop had come from. There was no sign of Dahlia.
Eventually my neighbour came out to join me, and as the rain continued, I stopped anyone and everyone we ran into, showing Dahlia’s photo. Someone had to have seen her, I prayed. But no one had.
As the hours went by my search party dwindled, it was just me left out there still searching for Dahlia. My amazing friend and fellow foster parent, Sarah, contacted her network of dog trackers, in hopes they could assist me.
Sarah also tried to convince me to get out of the rain, go home and have a cup of tea, being out there wouldn’t bring Dahlia back to me any sooner, but the thought of leaving her outside on her own was too much for me. It was then I received a call from Maureen, Maureen is a professional dog tracker.
Maureen suggested I also go home, and grab some food and treats to try and lure Dahlia out to me. So, Flipflop (who stayed out with me the whole time) and I returned home and I pulled all the best smelling food I had in my fridge.
As I saw Flipflop curled up asleep in the living room, I walked over to him as I asked Maureen if he should come back out with me. It was then I glanced out the window to see Dahlia, standing in front of my building entrance wagging her tail and looking as if to say “isn’t anyone going to let me in.”
I ran out of my apartment, down the hall and flew down the stairs, Maureen scolded me to stay calm, not to run toward Dahlia and scare her. I calmed myself down, and walked casually outside (in my sock feet, in the pouring rain). “She’s not here anymore!” I exclaimed.
“That’s ok,” Maureen calmed me, “find a dry place to sit and just wait for her, we know she’s nearby.”
It was then I realized I was in sock feet, so I told Maureen I was going to run upstairs and get my shoes, as I turned around to go inside, I saw Dahlia, standing 50 feet away looking at me.
“I see her,” I choked into the phone. Maureen instructed me to crouch down and not look directly at Dahlia, as I followed her instructions I saw Dahlia start running toward me. Before I could exhale Dahlia was sitting in front of me, I threw a collar on her, “I got her!” I cried and we made our way upstairs.
Later that day Maureen came by to meet Dahlia and Flipflop, she also taught me how to properly fit the martingale collar I was using on Dahlia so she could no longer get out of it. Flipflop now only goes off leash in very controlled safe areas.
Four days later I signed the adoption papers for Dahlia, vowing to never let her out of my sight again!
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your dog there’s a few tips I learned from this experience that may help:
- STAY CALM! Dogs pick up on energy, when they are lost, they are already in a panicked worried state, if they sense you’re upset and/or scared, it my actually drive them further away from you.
- Put a piece of clothing of yours in the area that you last saw the dog, there is a good chance they may return to that area as they smell your scent.
- Limit the number of people looking for the dog. You may feel the more people around the better, but it could in fact scare the dog even more.
- Do NOT chase the dog, if you spot it, let the dog come to you, chasing it may make it run even further.
- Try and stay in the spot you last saw the dog and have yummy smelling things like hotdogs to try and lure the dog to you.
- Put up posters with a number to call for sightings, do NOT post on social media, this may cause more people, who are well intention to go out looking and confuse or scare the dog more.
- Call a professional, dog trackers have tools that can help.