It’s one of the most alarming phone calls a pet owner can receive: “Hello? I’ve found a dog. His tag says ‘Thornton’ on it, and it has this phone number.” That was the call I received last month while I was in Oklahoma, visiting my parents.
My husband was recovering from surgery and had a cold, so we had placed the dogs with a pet sitter who had kept them many times previously. I was stunned and frightened. Had all the dogs escaped the sitter’s home, or just this one? Were the other two still running loose somewhere?
I called my husband to alert him that he needed to call the person and arrange to get our dog. I wasn’t sure which one it was, since Keeper and Harper both have brown-and-white coloring. Then I called the pet sitter. “Do you have my dogs?” He admitted that Keeper was missing – he had somehow slipped out of the house unseen. They were searching for him.
Happily, Harper and Gemma were still there. I let him know that Keeper had been found – turns out he was just next door – and that my husband would be by soon to pick them all up.
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You might say that I’m a little obsessive when it comes to the amount of information I put on my pets’ ID tags. They are engraved with our last name, our home phone number, two cell numbers and our veterinarian’s phone number. Of course, my dogs are also microchipped, but an ID tag is the first and easiest option for recovery.
All the finder has to do is read the tag and call the phone number on it. In our case, the man called our house phone first but didn’t leave a message. My husband didn’t recognize the number, so he didn’t pick up the call. I had my phone on silent because my parents and I had just gotten out of the movies, but luckily I felt it vibrate. I didn’t recognize the number either, but it was an Orange County area code, so I answered.
In addition to their ID tags, my dogs wear tags from HomeAgain and the American Kennel Club’s Reunite service. The microchips are registered with those organizations, so if the man had called either of those numbers, we would have been notified. And of course they all have their license tags from the county. Those tags don’t have phone numbers, but if the finder had called Orange County Animal Control, they would have been able to identify Keeper and get in touch with me.
Accidents like Keeper’s escape can happen to anyone. He’s very good at home about not running out the door, and I would not have expected him to escape in such a manner, but you never know what a dog is going to do. You can never prevent your dog from becoming lost, but you can take easy, inexpensive steps to increase the likelihood that he’ll come home safely:
▪ Keep a collar with an up-to-date ID tag on him.
▪ Put multiple phone numbers on the tag.
▪ Check the tag regularly to make sure the engraving hasn’t faded.
▪ Microchip him.
▪ License him.
▪ Register his identification with an organization such as the American Kennel Club’s Reunite service. And remember: If you find a lost dog, be sure to leave a message at all the phone numbers.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books.