In the couple of weeks on either side of the Fourth of July, I lost one pet and found another. Both stories had happy endings because both the owners and the finders knew what to do. One pet made it home because of a high-tech strategy, the other because of a low-tech one.
First, the pet I found, a healthy young yellow Labrador. I worried that I'd have to find him a home, since he didn't have a collar or tag. I live in an area more rural than suburban, and I feared he might have been dumped by owners hoping a farmer had room for a nice dog they couldn't keep. (We rarely do out here because we all have pets already, but that doesn't stop people from hoping ... and dumping.)
I took the dog to our neighborhood veterinary hospital to be checked for a microchip. I was delighted to be wrong about my guess that the dog had been dumped in the neighborhood. Score one for high-tech: The Labrador was not only chipped and registered, but the owner was a neighbor who was actively looking for his dog.
The lost pet was my own – one of my two indoor cats. Ilario slipped out unnoticed and had been gone several hours before I realized he was missing. He was microchipped and wearing a collar ID tag, and I reported him missing to the neighbors, the microchip registry and the county. As the days, then weeks, passed with no sign of him dead or alive, I sadly figured that he had been grabbed by one of the neighborhood coyotes.
But then, a lucky break: One neighbor mentioned to another that she'd seen a new cat wandering not far from my house, and that he seemed to be spending his days near yet another neighbor's outdoor aviary. That neighbor confirmed my cat was trying to eat his birds, and after two tries, I caught Ilario in a live-release trap. He was thin, dirty and scared, but he was alive after a month on the lam.
Score that one for low-tech: Even though Ilario had a microchip and ID tag, he was too frightened to be approached, even by me. But with the help of my neighbors and a Havahart trap, I have my cat back.
The lessons? Cover your bases with collar, tag and microchip, and don't give up when your pet goes astray. And if you find someone's pet, don't assume he's been dumped because he isn't wearing a collar. Start looking for an owner by taking the animal to a nearby veterinarian or shelter to be checked for a microchip.
And don't give up on the possibility of a reunion. Although the Labrador had escaped from his family less than 24 hours before I found him, my own cat was missing for almost a month before he was noticed by the neighbors.
Finally, be a good neighbor. Many pets, especially cats, don't roam far from home. If we all work together, we can get more pets reunited with the families who are missing them. If you see a pet who seems to be lost, help that animal and its owner. We can all use more happy endings – don't you think?
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.petconnection.com. Back columns: www.sacbee.com/spadafori.