Lost, Missing, Stolen, Gone… is a feature from The Vizsla News.
Vizslas are more than dogs, they are family and they share a bond with their humans that is stronger than words could ever describe. Our outings and vacations are planned to include our four-legged companions everywhere we can, or when we must leave those sad red faces behind, it is only with those we’d trust with our own lives. In a fraction instant your world can be turned upside down; a spook, a chase, or an ill-intentioned stranger is all it takes for your dog to be featured on the next missing dog post. Those who have lived through the heart wrenching roller-coaster of a lost dog experience would not wish it on their worst enemies. The honest truth is, no amount of training or caution can completely exclude you or one of your puppy homes from the possibility of someday being lost. You can however, be prepared and understand the best steps to take if your dog ever does go missing.
My name is Lindsay but most people probably know better as Delaney’s owner/mom/human. My Delaney girl joined the missing dog list in 2019. I’d like to share our story, and the things we learned from our experience, in hopes of helping the next person’s Vizsla who goes missing to have that happy ‘Reunited’ ending. Please keep in mind that I write based on our experience and that each missing dog case is unique and not every suggestion offered may be applicable.
It was a chilly February day. February 5, 2019 to be exact, a date that will be forever etched into my memory. A girlfriend of mine and I decided to get outdoors and take our dogs for a hike in the foothills of Colorado. I chose a new hike in a small mountain town called Nederland which is a quick 45 minute drive from my house. After traveling further into the woods along a bumpy dirt road we arrived at the trail head. We realized that on the way that we had lost cell service. We were off the grid and ready to start our adventure. It was around 11 am that we set out on the closed-to-traffic, 4th of July Road jeep trail, with my friend’s boxer and my two Vizslas. The five of us were giddy to be outdoors and enjoy some fresh mountain air. Overall, the hike was relatively uneventful as we trekked off-leash along the ice and snow-packed dirt road further and further into the Roosevelt National Forest. We stopped a few times to snap some photos of both ourselves and our dogs in the picturesque snow-capped Rocky Mountains and never once crossed paths with another soul; neither person or animal. We had the trail to ourselves and it was amazing. After a couple hours of steady incline my friend and I were both starting to tire, the chill was starting to take hold, and the dogs were starting to lift feet out of the snow so we turned back and started the journey back to the car. Chatting about this and that, time flew by and before we knew it we were less than 5 minutes away from my seat heaters and the promise of a warm lunch in town. That’s when that life changing instant occurred. All I heard was a shout from behind us yelling, “Coming through!” Two blurred figures whipped between my friend on skis and narrowly avoided collision with us. We were all caught off guard and thrown into a complete frenzy. The dogs were all spooked, barking wildly, and running away from this new threat.
My husband and I had spent a lot of time training and reinforcing a solid recall. Both Delaney and my male were trained to an e-collar. Delaney’s recall was something I was proud of, she rarely needed any- thing more than a verbal command before she would come running to my side. I was yelling and calling for both my dogs to which neither responded. After a low grade stem, I was able to bring my male back
in, but Delaney was unresponsive and continued running out ahead of the trail skiers on the trail. I was not overly concerned about her running ahead, which later, I realized was a mistake. Delaney didn’t typically range out and the car was so close, I assumed she would be waiting by the car when we got there, like she typically did after an off-leash adventure. I walked down that trail, and to this day I regret not realizing the gravity of the situation. The trees cleared and the line of parked cars came into sight. The skiers were in the closest car to the trail head. Their doors were open and they were sitting in the driver’s and front passenger seats,tak- ing off their ski boots. I vividly remember the moment I asked, ”Where did the dog wearing the pink scarf go?” The skier responded, “She was right there. She stayed out ahead of us and stopped a few cars down.” My SUV was a few cars down and there was no Delaney in sight.
My friend and I spent the next 30 minutes walking up and down the dirt road back into town calling for Delaney over and over again. We asked every stranger coming off the adjacent Lost Lake trail head if they had seen a dog running around in a bright pink collar – no one had. Being in an area with no cell phone service forced my decision to leave the site to make the 15 minute drive into town and cell reception in order to 1) make sure no one had already called about finding Delaney and 2) to give my husband the bad news and to request his backup. Coming from work, my husband arrived a little over an hour after we ended our call. The trail got surprisingly busy with folks heading out for a post work hike. I stayed near the trail head describing the situation to people heading out and asking them to please look out for Delaney. The reports from folks returning were bleak. As the sun began to set behind the mountain peaks, there was no sign of Delaney. We knew we needed to figure out a game plan, and fast, because Delaney was either lost, or she had been picked up and possibly stolen.
Given the possibility that Delaney may still be out in the woods, out in an area she was completely unfamiliar with, we had the sense to pull a crate out of the car and set it out near where she had last been seen. I also knew that getting the word out was going to be very important and we were going to need supplies, we also knew that one of us had to stay out there in case Delaney returned. My husband insisted on staying (camping in his SUV) and I was sent home to figure out how best to get the word out.
One thing I learned from my experience is understanding what happens to the K-9 psyche when they go missing. This is something I wish I had a better understanding of from the get-go, because it would have completely changed our search approach. To make sure everyone reading this has a general understanding of this instinct, I provide a basic description below.
When a dog gets separated from their owner and/or the environment they are familiar with they go through a mental regression back to their primal instincts which is most commonly referred to as survival mode. A switch goes off in a dog’s brain, essentially turning them feral, and leading them to believe they are no longer a domesticated pet. Noises and humans become a fearful threat. Their quest reverts back to the basic necessities of food, water, shelter and safety from potential threats. Often- times, a dog in survival mode and on the run will not even recognize their owner and will likely run away from them.
Depending on the situation, some dogs will switch to survival mode almost immediately after becoming lost. For others, I understand, the survival mode switch will be delayed up to a week or two. The timing for survival mode to take hold depends on several factors including: the dog’s personality, the dog’s past experiences, their breed characteristics, and the circumstances of how the dog went missing. As I was quickly reminded, even well trained dogs in survival mode will not come when called, the noise of their favorite toy will not lure them out, and the sound of their name will not shake them out of it. If you discover your dog is missing, you need to start searching immediately. The chance of luring your dog back to you by voice is much greater before survival mode takes hold.
If the initial reconnaissance efforts are unsuccessful and a dog is con- sidered officially missing, the search efforts more-or-less branch off into what I would consider the “field efforts” and the “online efforts.” These two search branches will be discussed in the Part II of this article. First through, I’d like provide a list of preemptive efforts you can and should do today, to be ready in case you ever need to be.
Be Prepared Checklist:
• Microchip dog
• Make sure microchip contact information is up to date (Everytime you move and/or go on a trip with or without your dog).
• Save microchip numbers somewhere readily available (Photos on your phone and saved to a specific photo album, email to yourself, save on Google Drive, etc.)
• Verify your microchip registry. Aaha.org -> Your Pet -> Microchip Look-up tool
• Cross register microchip on free registries
• Purchase a collar and/or harness with your contact information
• Research/purchase a gps or tracking collar (Understand the limitations for you and your dog’s life – i.e. a collar that operates off cell service will not be helpful for off grid travel)
• Take updated photos of your dog (take several photos at different angles – remember that a show dog will not look like a show dog on the run so have more than stacked/ring images. Capture any unique characteristics that help a non-dog person identify your dog) Note any unique markers that could help you prove that an animal is in fact your dog in case a microchip is faulty (scars, white markings, ear length, tail length/features, etc.)
• Create accounts for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, Instagram, Reddit, TickTok, etc. (You don’t need to actively use these sites, but having accounts set up will save a lot of time when time is of the essence)
• On Facebook, search for and join the lost/missing pet pages for your neighborhood, town, county and state. (In my experience several pages require admin approval so having access immediately will be a tremendous help) Like:
★ The Vizsla Army
★ Pages for your local shelters
★ Pages for your local Vizsla clubs and meet-ups
• Become familiar with helpful and free websites such as:
• Put some good juju out there by helping others share their missing dog posts and/or flyers
One of the most important items for a missing dog search is the Lost Dog flier/poster.
Items you should NOT include on your lost dog poster:
• That the dog is microchipped and/or the microchip number. If your dog is picked up by someone with the mentality that they are rescuing a mistreated animal (it doesn’t take long for a Vizsla to look starved) they may avoid the vet for fear of getting caught by the microchip.
• Every specific identifying detail. Hold back some information in case you need to prove that a found dog is your dog.
• Whether the dog is intact or not. Knowing that a dog could be bred, a malicious person may see dollar signs and may try to keep the dog. For males, intact vs neutered is a very easy identifier to flush out if found dogs or sightings are your dog.
• Any criminalizing language. Even if you know someone maliciously stole your dog you do not want to deter their kind hearted friend or neighbor from coming forward with threats of criminal charges.
Google searching “free missing dog template” will bring up several free options. You can also reach out to your local Vizz Whiz group with help creating a poster/flier. VCA members may also reach out to the author of this article for flier assistance. When creating a poster/flier keep in mind that you are creating a file to be shared online and that can be blown up to poster size (11” x 17”). Use high quality photos. Images from your social media albums are lower quality and will likely result in a grainy poster image, if the dog image isn’t clear there’s a risk they might not be identi- fied as ‘the dog from the poster.’
I hope the information provided helps you understand how critical the first couple hours are after a dog goes missing and provides you with the tools to feel prepared if it happens. As we head back into the wilderness of Nederland for Part II of the Delaney search, please keep in mind that every lost dog situation will be different and not every dog will respond the same when out on their own. This article discusses information learned during our experience. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other viable options out there. The intent of this article is to give you the “starter kit” of information to utilize and expand upon as needed. The services mentioned are for informational purposes and are not endorsed or supported by the VCA. I mention potential shortcomings with shelters and/or rescues because… well things happen and folks need to be aware so they don’t miss an opportunity to be reunited with your missing dog. These warnings are not meant to discredit the honest efforts of most of these facilities and groups out there.
We left off with my husband hunkering down in his vehicle as the sun dipped below the mountain tops and the cold of night crept in with temperatures dropping to a frigid 18 degrees (F). He slept with his window cracked open in case Delaney came back in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, I hightailed it home to scour the internet for guidance on what to do next because I had no idea what to do. I was panicking and my mind was a scrambled mess, but I knew I had to get the word out about Delaney’s disappearance. I found some missing dog groups, I posted to them, I paced, I worried, I posted on a few more pages I found, I paced some more, I cried and I cried. I attempted to sleep but every time I closed my eyes I relived those the scene over and over and over again
– Delaney was lost, I was lost, and I felt hopeless. Then in the darkness my phone *dinged* with a text message from a search volunteer. She got down to business and gave me a long to-do list of things I needed to put in motion… she gave me something to focus on, she gave me a purpose. This article goes over these to-do list items as well as many other tips and services I’ve learned about both during and after our search.
As mentioned in the beginning, the search efforts essentially branch off into the “field search” and the “online search” The Field tasks and the Online tasks should be done concurrently. You will need help from others to accomplish them all in the necessary and critical time frame.
For discussion purposes, I will start with the Online Portion.
Microchip Registry Notification
Once you consider your dog officially missing you should contact your microchip company and inform them of the situation. Depending on the microchip and purchased services, some will send out an email blast to other registered pet owners in the area your dog went missing.
Online Flier Posting
You’ve created your flier, now what? Save your flier as a JPEG or other social media compatible image file (tiff, PNG, etc.) and get to sharing. There is a sharing strategy to make your life easier and help ensure that you see more of the comments and potential leads. The best way to cross-post is to create your master post and upload to your personal or business Facebook page. Make sure the privacy settings are set to public and share to all the pages joined during the preparation phase directly from the master post. Now you have a post that you know can be shared; updates (such as Found or Still Missing).
I was fortunate to have a volunteer jump in mere hours after Delaney went missing, and this gal recommended that I set up a free Facebook business page in which to coordinate and organize my search efforts. She named this page Bring Delaney Home. This page also gave me a place to document our search efforts, a venue to express some of the wild emotions that were felt during this experience, and most importantly helped me bring together a wonderful group of people who wanted Delaney home nearly as bad as I did.
Facebook, while a powerful social media tool, isn’t the only option. It may seem excessive sharing everywhere but keep in mind that you are only one person —the more people who know your dog is missing, the more eyes you have looking for them. It only takes that one person to see the flier and make the connection. Other places the digital flier should be shared or emailed to include:
- Other social media sites: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
- Other classified ad (i.e. ThriftyNickle)
- Community churches
- Your vet and other nearby veterinary offices
- Local news paper
- Local news stations
- Other personal connections
Paid ads are another option that can be explored that comes in many forms such as social media ads, local newspaper ad, mailers, billboards. There are a lot of dog lovers out there that were extremely gracious when I reached to advertise Delaney’s flier and offered free ad space.
The town of Nederland is small and an isolated area with one main zip code; we decided to send out a mail circular to all the residences, businesses and P.O. boxes within this zip code. This wasn’t a cheap venture but we thought it was worth it. If Delaney made her way into town the locals would have seen her flier and have a higher chance of recognizing her. The flyers were double sided, we just duplicated the missing flier on both sides. In hindsight, we could have reached out to some of the local businesses to help split the expense. Coordination time needed to work with another entity is likely to delay mailer production a bit but this could be considered to make a mailer economically feasible. We used Taradel (https://dm.taradel.com/) who is affiliated with USPS but there are several companies out there who offer direct mailing services.
While I was writing this article, a stolen Vizsla flier came to my attention.
A male Vizsla named Tarzan was picked up from an apartment complex parking lot in Phoenix, AZ. The woman who took him was driving a large, black SUV. Nearby spectators, who I assume were also trying to catch the loose dog, asked the woman if it was her dog. Apparently she said it wasn’t but that she was going to take him to a vet to be scanned for a microchip. Tarzan’s owner, frantic to find him, asked people in the complex if they had seen his dog. They told him about the lady and her intentions. Three days passed with no notification from the microchip company. Based on other cases I’ve seen, the woman’s actions line up with that of a dog flipper. I suspect that this woman saw a purebred dog, thought dollar signs.
Tarzan’s owner was proactive and got his flier circulating online. Before long, news of Tarzan spread like wildfire (thanks to many of you). I, and others who helped on the case, believe the thief noticed publicity on Tarzan was gaining and realized that the dog would likely be recognized if they tried to sell him. The woman notified Tarzan’s owner that he was being dropped off at a vet hospital. Tarzan was dropped off and the woman was not interested in sticking around to collect the reward money, possibly for fear of police involvement? We’ll never know for sure. The important thing is that Tarzan is now safe at home thanks to his quick acting owner and the amazing volunteers who shared his flier. Thank you.
CLASSIFIED AD MONITORING
The other important aspects of the online search are casing sites for found dogs or dogs for sale matching the description of a missing dog. Unfortunately, dog flippers are a prevalent issue everywhere. Dog/pet flipping is the practice of stealing a pet from its owner and then selling/ rehoming/adopting it via a classifieds service. Flippers will come across a pet (either stolen or found) and they see an opportunity for a quick sale to make a profit. It seems flippers typically use sites like Craigslist and Facebook to reach their unsuspecting victims. They often post ads with fabricated, but very believable, sob stories resulting in an urgent need to rehome “their dog.” To help ensure a quick transaction, flippers often set the price/rehoming fee much lower than the going rate of a purebred dog. The folks purchasing or adopting the dog are hoodwinked into thinking the purchase/adoption is legitimate or choose to ignore their suspicions in order to get a dog their family may not have been able to otherwise afford. During a missing dog search classified ads need to be checked every single day, if not multiple times a day.
Volunteers that come across a potential classified ad lead should share the link directly and only with the missing dog’s owner(s). It is best not to post the ad link online. Too many people answering the ad or any mention of the dog being offered as stolen can spook the flippers and result in them taking down the ad and the dog vanishing.
A gentleman who reached out and donated vinyl fliers to the Delaney search shared his experience after his dog was stolen. His small adopted mix named Pookie, was his buddy who accompanied him to his print shop job everyday. He went outside to walk a client to their car and Pookie followed which wasn’t uncommon. After a few minute conversation the client pulled out of the parking lot. Pookie’s owner noticed his dog wasn’t in sight and wasn’t responding to his calls. He immediately checked the parking lot security footage and saw that someone had picked up Pookie, they got in their car and drove away with his dog. The car was too far away to make out the license plate. A few days after the theft of Pookie, a volunteer saw a Craigslist ad with Pookie’s picture and shared it online. Several other volunteers, all with good intentions, called out the flippers and told them this was the stolen dog named Pookie the dog needed to be returned to his rightful owner. Of course the flippers got spooked and took down the ad before Pookie’s owner had a chance to find out where his dog was. The lead was gone and Pookie’s owner feared for what the flipper’s may do to his dog now that they knew the dog was identified as stolen. Pookie’s owner watched Craigslist like a hawk hoping that the flip- per would attempt to sell his dog again but they never did. By sheer luck, a couple weeks after the flippers had vanished, a coworker of Pookie’s owner just happened to drive down a street and saw Pookie out in a yard enclosed in a short chain link fence. Not wanting to risk losing Pookie again, the co-worker pulled over, approached the fence, verified it was Pookie, reached over the fence, grabbed him and got out the heck out of there with Pookie in tow. Pookie and his owner were reunited but rarely do situations of spooked flippers turn result in a happy ending.
Had the Craigslist ad been directly shared with Pookie’s owner, he could have called pretending to be someone interested in purchasing the dog, set up a meeting time and place, and could have involved the police. As a volunteer, if you can’t get ahold of the missing dog owner, you could assume the role of the party interested in purchasing the dog. You should sound excited about adopting the dog and push for a same day exchange and get the meet-up address. From this point on the information should be provided to the dog’s owner and it should be their decision whether or not to involve the police.
ONLINE SHELTER MONITORING
In addition to monitoring classified ads, online shelter listings (https:// 24petconnect.com/) should be checked often. As further discussed in the Field Search section, in-person shelter visits need to be performed but online monitoring can help locate the dog sooner and know exactly which shelter they may be located at. Several stories were shared with us regarding people in transit finding dogs and transporting them to the shelter near their final destination which can be several cities and sometimes states away from where the dog went missing. Local shel- ters are sometimes at capacity animals get transported to other shelters located outside of your initial search radius. A few rescues and shelters are just plain shady and run networks of dog transports without upholding the required stray hold. Checking shelters online allows for monitoring of facilities that otherwise might be missed. While searching online, keep in mind that breeds are typically mis-identified. Vizslas have gained popularity but there are still people who have never heard of our breed. It is
better to scroll through all the images rather than performing a limiting keyword search. Not all dog listings have pictures and you have to rely
on the description to make a judgment call. Sometimes descriptions are incorrectly typed up but if a non-image listing describes a white, black, grey, longhair, and/or pointed ear dog it is likely not going to be a Vizsla. A non-image listing describing a brown pointer mix, a red Rhodiasian mix, or anything that sounds remotely like it could be a Vizsla should be further investigated in-person.
Potential leads found by volunteers unable to follow-up with an in-per- son shelter visit should share the listing link with owner(s) – texting the link directly to the phone number(s) listed on the missing dog flier ensures they will see it. If the link is only posted as a comment online, there’s a chance that it could be overlooked.
When your dog goes missing, there are so many things that need to be done in a very short timeframe; it is impossible to accomplish everything on your own and you have to ask for help. Usually people want to help but don’t know how. Several of the online search items are great thingsfor volunteers to help with. Request that your volunteers verify site checks are being completed. As a volunteer, if you want to help contribute to a search, checking Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and/or lost area specific Buy/ Sell/Trade Facebook groups is something you can do from anywhere and offers tremendous help – you can prevent a crime, reunite the dog with their devastated owners, and stop the heartbreak of an oblivious family thinking they are legally adopting a new family member.
During the first week following Delaney’s disappearance, my husband and I were spending very long days focusing on the field efforts. We had very limited cell service and little to no internet connectivity which prevented us from doing much in terms of the online search efforts. The long, grueling, unsuccessful days in the field were very disheartening; day after day of having to drive home without our girl felt like we were failing her, felt like we weren’t doing enough. Knowing we weren’t looking for Delaney online during this time also created the fear that she was being sold/rehomed right under our noses. Needless to say, these emotions took a toll on us both mentally and physically. Coming back into cell range and receiving posts, messages, and texts from volunteers (oftentimes complete strangers) saying they checked Craigslist, shelter listings, or other classi- fieds that day with no signs of Delaney was a tremendous relief, filled our hearts, and gave us hope to keep going the following day.
The online portion of a search is just as important as the field needs and should receive equal focus as field efforts.
As we head into the field portion of a search it is necessary to revisit one of the points discussed in Part I of this article… survival mode. Lost dogs will all eventually revert back their feral instincts, survival becomes paramount with their needs boiling down to the basics of food, water, shelter, and avoidance of apparent threats and predators. When in survival mode, dogs consider humans and the noises we make as threats. It is human nature to want to look for something when it is lost. We are vocal creatures and when one of our people or pets are missing we almost automatically start to call out to them. Several of the suggestions in this section may seem counterintuitive when every bone in your body wants to be out searching. These tips can make all the difference. We tried our best to follow the advice provided by others with missing dog experience but at times emotional decisions were made, emotional decisions that may have jeopardized our chances of finding our girl. Learning from the mistakes that were made, these suggestions stressed to other owners of missing dogs and their stories resulted in happy reunions.
Back to survival mode, a dog in survival mode will rely heavily on their senses – particularly their sense of smell. You can use a dog’s sense of smell to help lure them out of hiding. When a dog goes missing from an area whether it be from your back yard or the unfamiliar wilderness, one of the first things that should be done is setting out a crate with items that smell like home (i.e. stinky crate pads, blankets, your used bed sheets, dirty shirts, socks, etc.). Make sure the crate is placed somewhere accessible that isn’t blocked by fencing. I’ve been told that this technique can work well for dogs that bolt from yards during fireworks with owners waking up the next morning to find their dogs in the placed crate.
LURING WITH SCENT
Another way to lure a dog out of hiding is with food. Once a dog has been on the run or holed up for a while they will get hungry. This hunger will eventually bring them out of hiding. If they are going to come out for food, why not try to draw them back to where you want them with the use of very appealing food smells? Ideas given to us included cans of tuna, rotisserie chicken, and bacon. It was even suggested to bring out a camping stove and cook bacon right out in your bait area.
If your missing dog happens to be a male, a female in season could be used to bait them out of hiding.
Later on in this article both calming signals and trappers will be discussed as options for a dog that has come out of hiding. After getting the dog’s crate/bait area set up the next most critical action is to flier and poster.
FLIER AND POSTERS
Just as with the online sharing of the missing dog flier, physically post- ing fliers and posters can spread the word of your dog’s disappearance and give you the advantage of more eyes looking for them. The two main local searches we became involved with after Delaney both were able
to attribute their physical flier efforts to the recovery of their dogs. When printing flyers and posters, it is recommended to use a printing service to ensure high quality printing and clear representation of your dog. We used Office Depot and were happy with their same day printing services, they also offer laminating services which can be used for poster production. For fliers you will want two sizes:
• Full Sheet 8.5”x11”
• Quarter Sheet x4
The full sheet fliers should be posted in businesses or public buildings with high foot traffic such as veterinary offices, animal shelters, coffee shops, gas stations, truck stops, restaurants, post offices, libraries, churches, grocery stores, gyms, community rec centers, college campuses, pre-schools through high schools, pet supply stores, groomers, dog train- ing facilities, dog events,trail heads, parks, bus stops, homeless shelters, fairs, concerts, sporting events, etc. Always, always, always ask before posting and know that a majority of people will have no problem posting fliers but there will be a few that will say no. For the no’s, don’t take it personally and just move on to the next stop. To talk people who seemed to be on the fence about allowing a flier posting I would mention that the number on the flier could be called when it was time to remove and one of us would come take it down. The smaller, quarter sheet fliers are a good option when passing out in a crowd, going door-to-door, putting on car windshields, or leaving stacks at check out counters or announcement boards. Everywhere we went I had fliers, tape and push pins on my per- son. We posted Delaney everywhere we could. I also had amazing friends, family and search volunteers with hearts of gold who offered to post and get fliers out there.
If you have access to a printer and want to help a local search, ask the missing dog owner to email you their missing dog flier file. Then carry the printed flies with you and try to post where your daily life takes you… share with co-workers, friends in the area, and post at as many as the facilities mentioned above as you can. Another way to be an amazing volunteer is to determine say a 10 to 15 miles radius from your home or work then locate and post fliers at all the veterinary offices and dog relat- ed businesses (pet stores, groomers, training, etc.) is that radius.
For posters, we found the advice for poster creation from the Missing Animal Response Network (MAR) to be helpful (https://www.missingani-malresponse.com/neon-posters/ ). MAR’s poster rules includes:
• Make them GIANT so that people driving by cannot miss them.
• Make them FLUORESCENT so that the color attracts the attention of everyone.
• Put them at major intersections near where you lost your pet ( and in areas of sightings).
• Keep them BRIEF and to the point.
• Let them convey a VISUAL IMAGE of what you have lost.
When creating posters you will also need to consider the elements your posters will need to withstand. Delaney went missing in February in the mountains. Our posters needed to stand up against extreme winds and wet spring snow. We used neon foam poster board material and found metal grommets at the top and bottom of the board to do the trick against average wind speeds averaging 10 mph with gusts over 50 mph. Initially for precipitation protection we tried sheet protectors, they allow moisture to slowly penetrate which eventually ruins the sheet within, they are fine for short term but not long term. Sheet protectors are not recommended in areas where precipitation is anticipated, instead laminate the sheet you need protected.
MAR’s website is also a good resource for additional information. You will notice some differing opinions from the suggestions made in these articles and I’m sure there are several other additional options and opinions out there. You know your dog and the situation of their disappearance better than anyone so, go with the suggestions that feel right for you and your dog. Now for a couple of the happy ending stories.
Nadia the Borzoi and Nala the Vizsla are the two local missing dog cases that spoke to me after we lost Delaney. Nadia escaped from her suburban backyard after the wind had blown the gate open. She was picked up by a man of questionable character the day she went missing. The man took her to his residence which was over 30-miles away from Nadia’s home. Another gentleman who owned greyhounds was called out to provide some repair service at the man’s house. That evening, the repair man mentioned to his wife about the odd situation about the questionable man having a well groomed Borzoi. His wife had seen Nadia’s flier/ poster and knew it had to be her. The wife contacted Nadia’s owner to let her know Nadia’s location, the lady also conveyed her husband’s strong recommendation to not go alone to the man’s property. This information was provided on Friday and Nadia’s owner had to call several police departments and wait until Monday to get a civil standby (police escort). The man gave Nadia up easily and claimed that he had tried to look for her owner. Nadia’s owner got the impression that the man liked Nadia and had wanted to keep her and didn’t think he made much of an effort, if any, to get Nadia home. Massive search efforts were made that didn’t matter because Nadia was 30 miles away. Nadia came home because of her flier.
Nala the Vizsla bolted from her vehicle after a tire blowout. She was picked up by a man a few blocks away from where she escaped. He then drove her, again, approximately 30 miles southeast to his home. He cared for Nala for the next week. A friend of the man’s lived in the city Nala went missing, he had seen Nala’s flier/poster. Knowing that his friend had recently come into possession of a dog that looked like Nala, he sent him the flier. The man with Nala did the right thing and reached out to Nala’s owners and she was safely returned.
I’ve come across and have been told several more similar stories where the fliers/posters made all the difference during the search efforts.
As a volunteer please not only offer to post fliers and posters during the search but also be there for the owner to take them down in the event that the dog is found deceased.
SECURITY VIDEO FOOTAGE
Security footage could be extremely helpful for a search in suburban or urban areas. These days a lot of people have video doorbells. Asking your neighbors to check their cameras could help you figure out which direction the dog is moving. Commercial or private videos are only stored for a limited amount of time before they’re deleted. While passing out fliers, prioritize locations/businesses with security cameras that may have captured your dog. Know the date and an approximate time window to ask to be reviewed. You may only have a few days so be persistent and follow-up to get the video.
TRACKING, DRONES, CALMING SIGNALS, AND TRAPPERS
When spooked, dogs will run. Eventually, they will stop running and settle into an area that provides the main necessities of food, water, and shelter. Tracking dogs are an option to help determine the direction of travel. From what I understand, tracking teams rarely find a missing dog that is alive. The presence of a search team can help encourage dishonest individuals into doing the correct thing. As a con, the search dogs can scare the missing dog and cause them to go even deeper into hiding or go back on the run. We had reached out to one of the well known K-9 search teams to help us find Delaney. Back in 2019 we are quoted $7-$10k for a one day search. Then when we tried to proceed, we were told that due to the terrain and weather conditions, the company was no longer not be willing to take on our case. Coming to terms with the fact that search teams would struggle in waist deep snow, we made the decision not to pursue any additional tracking teams.
If you are in need of finding a K-9 tracking team, for a small fee you can download a list of trackers from Lost Pet Research & Recovery (LPRR) (https://lostpetresearch.com/store/guide-to-finding-a-pet-detective-or- search-dog/ ).
Depending on the terrain where a dog is missing, drones may be used to help tool to determine direction of travel or locate their hiding area(s). The con is the noise of drone could spook a dog into running again so it will be important to work with a drone pilot with missing dog search and rescue experience. SWARM is a worldwide organization headquartered in the USA that offers NO-FEE aerial search services to SAR organizations that established SWARMCritters to assist with missing pet cases. Their missing animal search request form is located here: (http://sardrones.org/).
During our search for Delaney I was unaware of SWARMCritters. We had a volunteer offer to come out with their high end drone to help search. Unfortunately, the tree cover made it nearly impossible to see anything be- low the pines. With the thermal imaging technology available at the time, the heavy tree cover would have rendered any thermal imaging efforts useless. We crossed drones off the list of potential options and moved on. The good news is that there have been major technological advances using AI and thermal imaging to predict heat signatures in dense tree canopies. Hopefully within the next 5-years drones and thermal imaging will not be as limited by tree cover but in the meantime, terrain should be considered before exploring drones as an option.
If your dog is missing in a wooded area you could try to set your lure/ bait spot within a meadow or deforested/open area.
By means of tracking, drones, or dumb luck you’ve located your dog – Now what do you do??? Every fiber in your being is going to want to start running and yelling their name with your arms extended ready to scoop them up. DON’T DO IT! You have to keep your emotions in check and remember that your dog is in survival mode. Chances are, your dog isn’t going to see their loving owner but instead they will see a big, scary, loud threat. You could trigger a flight response. I’m aware that hollering and calling to their missing dog response has worked for some but this is not the majority outcome. One of Delaney’s volunteers was helping with trapping efforts on a case where the owners located their dog’s whereabouts after months on the run – they tried calling and approaching the dog and he ran away from them. The owners were so upset that the dog didn’t recognize them that they left and never came back. They gave up on their dog even though it was their actions that triggered the dog’s fear response.
Using calming signals is a technique to try to draw your dog in close enough to get a big whiff of your scent and snap out of survival mode or close enough to slip a lead on them. There is an excellent video on on YouTube called Unit#4 Calming Signals (https://youtu.be/cmiZzB643is).
At times dogs can be so far deep deep into survival mode that calming signals won’t work, this is when humane trappers are needed. Trappers won’t employ based on a possible sighting, you will need to confirm that your dog has established a shelter and created a pattern in their comings and goings in the area. WIldlife or game cameras could be set up in areas where the dog has been sighted. The Lost Dog Trapping Facebook Group is a resource to locate a trapper in your area. This is a private group and joining now could prevent delays in getting your dog home.
We had three game camera set up in and around our bait area for 6 weeks. We captured images of lots of critters be never saw Delaney.
IN-PERSON SHELTER VISITS
One of the more critical field search items are the in-person shelter visits. You cannot depend on a microchip alone – non-detected migration, dead chips, mis-input of the chip number, someone forgot or purposefully didn’t scan, the microchip company call gets screened as spam, chip company only emails and the email goes to your junk mail folder, etc. I won’t go into the nitty gritty chip details in this article but several people have shared stories about shelters or rescues that would make you cringe. It just needs to be understood that microchips and the shelter/rescue stray process aren’t always perfect. In-person shelter visits need to be performed to prevent a missed reunion opportunity.
Most states hold stray dogs for 5 days, but some are as little as 2 days,(https://www.animallaw.info/topic/state-holding-period-laws-impounded-animals) before they can legally be adopted to someone else. This time goes by extremely fast when you are trying to accomplish the substantial list of items above. After 5 days your dog could have a new owner. The shelter won’t care that you spent those 5 days passing out fliers or if you were hiking through waist deep snow searching – they fulfilled their obligation of the minimum stray hold and adopted out the dog – end of story.
Visits can be performed by anyone who could identify a Vizsla and should be done every 3 to 4 days. Offering to do a walk through of your nearby shelter is a way to make a huge contribution to a local search.
When performing a visit, I will typically film as I walk down the stay hold aisles. Then will post the video to the county missing dog page where the shelter is located. That way even if I didn’t find the dog I was looking for, my efforts can hopefully help someone else find their dog.
After 530 days of searching (July 2020) a hiker found Delaney’s rusted pink collar. It was found less than half a mile from where she went missing. No remains were found near the collar but I know that she most likely didn’t make it. The elements were just too harsh. Of course my heart yearns for my logic to be wrong, I hope that someone picked her up and is loving her like she deserves to be loved. There is not a day that we don’t think about her and wish she was home. There are still days I question our efforts — if we could have done more or if we had done things differently would she be home? The past cannot be changed so instead these old wounds have been reopened in hopes of changing the future. Hopefully, this information will be a resource and help reunite you or a friend with your/their dog.
Volunteers are the backbone of any search. Delaney going missing absolutely crushed us but she also was able to bring so many incredible people into our lives that we will forever be grateful for. To all the wonderful souls who gave up their time to freeze in waist deep snow, drive across the state to put up fliers, find and bring us game cameras, go door-to-door with us to pass out fliers, who passed out fliers to the homeless, who performed in person shelter visits, who helped us try to get trackers out there, who shared her post, who sent us prayers and words of encouragement – please know that each and everyone of you are appreciated. I wish we had a different ending but this experience humbled us and showed what an amazing support system we have in our breed. I challenge each and every one of you to continue that support system by becoming a search volunteer and helping a fellow Vizsla owner in their greatest time of need. Your share or flier post could be ‘the one,’ you could be the reason a dog makes it home safe, or the reason behind an article that is written to help other lost dogs and their people.
Thank you for reading. Give your dogs extra love today and feel free to reach out if you need help with your lost dog search.
By: Lindsay Tita Adams
Lindsay lives in Arvada, CO with her husband Austin, and their three red heads: Archer, Marmalade, and Collins. She has helped with VCA National Events and serves on The Vizsla News Committee.