HOW TO FIND A LOST SHELTIE
First of all….react QUICKLY. Do not wait, do not hesitate, do NOT go in and get on the computer. Most dogs can be recovered quickly if the owner reacts quickly. If you are in a situation where you are there as the dog escapes:
1. Call to the dog to get his attention. Sometimes, they will return merely because you’ve called to them. But, if they don’t…..
2. Continue calling to him as you stoop down and pretend to offer treats. Stooping down is much less threatening to the dog. He is more likely to come to you if you are not towering over him. You can even quietly lay on the ground. Sometimes, they think you are hurt and will come to investigate. This means you will need to be quick when he is above you. Don’t react too quickly…let him come to you. It seems to work best if you are quiet.
3. If he likes to travel, try opening the car door and telling him it’s time to go bye-bye. Sometimes, a trip in the car is more appealing to him than running off.
4. If that doesn’t work and he is still within sight. Call to him and when he looks to you….turn and run the other way. Yes, this will mean that you will have to lose sight of him momentarily. I used “puppy, puppy, puppy” as I ran the other direction. They will think you are playing and will usually give chase. Hopefully, you have a fenced yard that you can run thru the open gate, then slam quickly shut when he follows.
5. If none of this has worked and he is still running away from you….then you need to follow and keep him within your sights. Either on foot or in a car. Hopefully, you can employ the help of others along the way. Cornering the dog up against a fence, wall, building etc. will only work if you have enough people to help you block all exits. A net would come in handy for this, but most of the time that just isn’t an option on short notice. So, keeping him in your sights is the best option until you can employ more help. Sometimes, they will get themselves distracted by other dogs or people that will give you enough time to catch up to him. If you should lose sight of the dog…… Get out of the vehicle and walk the immediate area that you last saw him. He may be hiding in the bushes, under trees, in a culvert, under high grass, under someone’s porch, etc. Look closely. They can easily hide under brush or high grass. They can be watching you and you not even know it. Talk to everyone you see. This is NOT the time to be shy! The worse they can tell you is “no”.
Once a sheltie gets out on his own, he gets into a “flight” mode where all familiarity is blocked from their minds. They forget everything. They don’t respond to their names, your smell, favorite treats, etc. They are in “survival mode”. Do not give up on a dog because you’ve seen it and called to it and it ran away. It doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t love you, it means he is in “flight” mode. Once you catch one in that mode you’ll understand what we mean. You must make signs and flyers IMMEDIATELY. Use a RECENT (Hopefully, you are reading this without needing to implement it immediately…We cannot stress enough the
importance of RECENT photos. Take them, take many!) photo of the actual dog. Use color when possible. Make the posters as large as you can. We mean large. We used 16 X 22 or larger. Old realtor’s signs work great for the hard to find a pole areas!
*****Remember, you want someone driving in their car to be able to read it clearly.
Use a cell phone number for a contact number. That way it can have 24 hour answering capabilities and quick reaction time. Make the call number as large as you can make it on the sign. The more visible, the better. You want that driver with a cell phone to be able to call you immediately.
Don’t waste time making the best looking posters in town….make them legible (We did ours on the computer) and visible. If you can’t read it from your car….then no one else can either. Use only pertinent information on the flyers and posters. Stick to color, breed, size, etc. Example: Lost Black Sheltie (Mini Collie) This is no time to worry about the politics of whether it’s a mini collie or not. We learned very quickly that the general public has absolutely NO idea what a “sheltie” or “shetland sheepdog” is. Generalize and simplify for quicker responses. We tried using “tri” and got calls on every mahogany sable in
town. Keep in mind that the public that you need so desperately now just isn’t dog knowledgeable. Make as many signs as you can. You can never have enough. That way you have them on hand when you get the next sighting call. If you end up with a long search, then enlist help from others in just making the signs. Darla helped me with this. She sent me the signs priority mail. That way, I was ready and armed when the next sighting call came in.
Using Clear Contact paper over the poster board and even printing on #60 card stock will strengthen the sign and make it weather resistant. The stronger the sign, the longer it will last without curling. Use NAILS whenever possible. Staples will just come out. If it’s a metal pole…duct tape it in place.
Hang at least one poster on your vehicle. It makes a great moving billboard and also lets people know why you are in the area. They may be less likely to call the police because they think you are casing their home or stalking their children.
Hang the signs strategically. Get the most out of your sign. If you place it correctly, you may be able to get cars from two or three directions to read it. Replace them, if they get torn down. We marked our maps where we hung them, so we could check on them to see that they were still there. It’s also a good idea so you can go back and remove them when the dog is found.
You will need to call every agency that you can think of as soon as the dog comes up missing. This includes the animal control, the humane society, the animal shelters (private and public), the police, the street clean up agencies (pick up dead animals), and
all rescues in the area. This means all breed rescues and mixed breed rescues. They not only need to be aware that you are out there looking but, can and will help in most cases.
We were able to gain valuable help from Irish Setter rescue, Collie rescue, German Shepherd rescue, Greyhound rescue and even the mixed breed rescues just to name a few. After all, it could be them out there looking and needing your help. Place an ad in all pertinent newspapers-immediately. Call or visit all the businesses in the area. Ask store managers to hang signs. This includes banks, post offices, schools (lots of kids), all vets offices, pet stores, Laundromats, grocery stores, churches, etc. You
are trying to reach as many people as possible. If you can get it hung up there, then do so. Why not ask? The worse they can do is say no. Play on their sympathies if you have to.
Remember, just because you can’t walk onto a golf course, doesn’t mean the dog can’t. We called all golf courses, public places (like the zoo), park rangers, Dept. of transportation, local food establishments (dog could eat out of the dumpster) on a weekly
basis. We even contacted all the delivery people in the area. This meant newspaper carriers, the delivery driver of the papers, UPS, mail carriers and Fed. Ex. Then we asked the meter readers for the Gas Co, Electric Co. and Division of Water to watch for him as well. Bus Drivers are great too! It never hurts to get as many eyes watching as possible.
We visited all farms in the area. What better place to hide than in a barn? We even went through the abandoned ones. We walked the parks and the railroad tracks. Even though the latter wasn’t a pleasant prospect….it had to be eliminated as a possibility.
The dogs usually stick to one area. Sometimes they may travel many miles to get to that area, but then they stay where it becomes familiar and safe to them.
You need to think like the dog. If he was spotted running into a wooded area…what’s on the other side? Where could he have gone once out of sight? Is there a safe place there for him to hide out? Is it strategically located near food sources and water? Is he following the “path of least resistance”? What would the dog like? Is there another house/yard similar to yours in the neighborhood? Which way would you go if you were the dog? You could even take one of your other dogs on leash to see where they would go.
**As a precaution, do not try searching wooded areas, railroad tracks, etc., alone. Try to do these things in pairs. You never know what you may come up against. Or if you are like me, you may fall and need assistance. Take a cell phone with you at all times.
Once the phone begins to ring…..
Keep the names and numbers of each and every person that calls you. Darla couldn’t stress this to me enough. We found that this can come in handy later. Do not rush that person off the phone…they may have valuable information for you. ALWAYS get their name and number for call back. Once she got that drummed into my head, I took down the name and number of everyone
that called and explained that I needed it just in case we got there and couldn’t find where they were talking about. It worked. Because there were numerous times we’d get there and couldn’t find the spot where they had seen him. I usually tried to get them to wait for one of us to get there to SHOW us where they had seen him.
**Ideally, you want them to have the dog in their sights as they are calling you. This will help you get an accurate description of the dog (you’d be amazed at how soon they forget if Fido had a white chest or not!) and hopefully, keep him in sight until you can get there. You do not want them to chase the dog! Another reason I kept the numbers was because I was at least 45 minutes away from the area that the dog was lost. Those numbers came in handy on those times that I got a call from someone saying that they had him in their back yard right then. I obviously couldn’t get there in a snap. So, I called those people and ask their help. Do you know that not a single one of them told me “no”. Complete strangers that we had never even met came out on short notice to help us search any given area for that dog. It really does restore your faith in mankind.
Be prepared for calls on Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, mix breeds, etc. People want to help, but just don’t know the breeds. So, that means you MUST investigate each and every call. Do NOT jump to judgment that the person on the other end is a quack. What if they are looking at your dog and just can’t describe him? On those occasions that we got there to find that it wasn’t our dog. We didn’t just turn and leave. We did our best to help that little fellow too. That’s where those rescue contacts come in handy. We know of about 29 of those creatures that certainly were glad we came along.
You must also keep in mind the amount of time the dog has been on the run. The longer he is out there…the worse he is going to look. Time is of the utmost importance. The dirt, burrs, and mats can take a beautiful mahogany sable sheltie and make him look like a mangy mixed breed. Also, the black dogs will begin to turn slightly red from the sun if they are out too long. INVESTIGATE ALL CALLS.
Do not rely on someone else to catch the dog for you. That would be nice, but in the real world it just doesn’t always happen.
Once you get a viable sighting there are certain steps that you need to take IMMEDIATELY.
1. If this sighting is where you can set food down for him. Then do so. This will help the dog make the decision to stay in that area. It will build his trust of that spot. He will learn to return there for more food.
2. Search the immediate area. Hopefully, you can spot him too. If you do…do not chase him, repeat the steps you did at the beginning when he was first running from the yard…see if they work. It’s worth a try.
3. If he is skiddish in nature or appears to be now…..DO NOT CALL TO HIM If he is laying down. Turn and walk the other way. Yes, we know that this is the hardest thing to do. You see him and your adrenaline kicks in. But, you HAVE to turn and walk away. That’s when you go get the trap and set it there at that spot. If he is on the move, watch where he is going and stay a safe distance away. Stay far enough away that he doesn’t know he is being followed. By doing so, you just may be able to find out where he is hanging out.
4. Now, you need to set a humane trap. Set it as close to the last spot he was seen. Load it with some of the smelliest food around (KFC works great for this!). Also cover the bottom of the trap with grass and weeds to cover the wires. Leave the bag and wrappings strewn about also. It works best if the food is left strewn about and leading into the trap. You may even want to
hang some from the top grating. Neatness does not matter at this point. You can always go back later and clean up.
Remember, they aren’t dumb. They aren’t just going to walk right in there. They will have to convince themselves that it’s safe and worth their trouble. Leave a few pieces outside leading into the trap with a pile as a grand prize for them. The
smellier the better.
*We also recommend using an old blanket or towel that smells like home to line the trap. You want him to think this is a safe place to be. Your scent may be what it takes to convince him to stay put.
*If it is raining, you may want to use a tarp to cover the trap. This helps keep all those smells inside as well as keeping it dry.
*Use some common sense when setting this trap. Lock it down with chains. These things are not cheap and if you are borrowing one, you certainly do not want it stolen. Also, put out of the way of traffic. You do not want to bring attention to what you are doing. (Camouflage colored tarps work great in the spring and summer without bringing attention to the trap). Bringing attention to it will only cause children to want to investigate it or neighbors to get angry. We do recommend that you contact the immediate property owner so that they are aware of it being there. They may even help you check it.
* Also, put a picture flyer in one of those plastic sleeves that you get at the office supply store and fasten it to the trap. This will enable anyone that comes across it to call you if there should be anything in it. Leave strict instructions to NOT open the trap…call you instead!
*Be prepared to check that trap at least 3 times a day. Do not set more traps than you can check. Do not depend on others to do it for you. It’s heartbreaking enough to be looking for your dog…but, don’t let it cost the wildlife their lives in doing so.
5. When searching the immediate area, get to know the landmarks, the terrain, the streets and the layout. Get a map. The maps you use may not have the detail that you need. Mark the map clearly of these things.
*Mark your sighting calls on it as well. If you don’t catch up to him on that call, you may see a pattern developing. That will help you determine where the best spot will be to place a humane trap, your new signs and flyers.
6. Drive the area and study it. This will also help you see who you can contact to alert them of your search. The schools are great sources for reaching a lot of people in one shot. Call the schools, post signs on bulletin boards, doorways and at all entrances and exits so Mom and Dad will see it too. Sometimes, you can even convince them to announce it on the loud speaker
for you. What better group of people to reach than a bunch of kids. Churches, Grocery stores, gas stations, post offices, etc., you reach a lot of people with one sign.
7. Hang your signs and talk to people. Hand out flyers to everyone you see. We went through so many (quit counting at 2500) that we started receiving them in the mail from helpful followers. You don’t know how much of a help that was!
8. It works great if you have the same info on business cards. People are more likely to hold onto that then they are a big sheet of paper.
Keep in mind that these dogs usually come out in the early morning hours and just before dusk. It is not uncommon for them to stay hidden for weeks, then suddenly surface. At some point, the hunger will overtake their fear. That is when all your hard work will pay off if you did your homework. The phone will begin to ring. If you are unsuccessful in catching your dog at this sighting and he continues to move on you. You will need to repeat all these steps for each and every sighting. Hopefully, with
the help of the public and your maps you will catch up to him or even get a head of him.
If the phone STOPS ringing….
What we have learned in doing this is that when the phone stops ringing it's usually because of one of three things.
1). Your signs, flyers are not in the right area to reach the right people
2) Someone has him, or
3) the dog is dead.
We prefer to dismiss number 3, but can’t. It is very important to call the people that pick up dead animals in the area. The city street cleaners, the county DOT, etc. We always held our breath, but it wass such a relief when they said “no”. We recommend calling them weekly.
Going back to number 1...We’ve learned was that for every day he was missing we needed to move our signs about a mile out from where we had them before. This must be done around all points - the whole radius. Yes, this is a lot of work...but, the phone will begin to ring again. Once the phone rings, it may be old sightings...but, at least you can take a map and mark those sightings. Then you will get an idea of where you need to be. That means that you will have to shift all your focus to the area of the sightings. That means going door to door with flyers, hanging signs, running ads, making calls, etc. We can't count how
many times we did this. The hardest part is trying to get out ahead of him (or her) so that the people know when they see him to call immediately. You must get the word out! You MUST investigate every sighting...even if you don't think it could be him. What if it is and you didn't go? Don't wait on that perfect sighting of a Black and white sheltie with tan on his hind legs and face.
Most of the public doesn’t even know what a sheltie is. You'd be amazed at the number of calls we’ve had for a black sheltie and when we got there found that it was a tan mixed breed. Don’t discount that person that says he found a sheltie mix either…how do you know, unless you go see for yourself? Don't trust the public's eye. Trust only your own. We tried to educate as we went.
If you do this and you still don't get the calls, then you either need to move further out with your signs and flyers or you need to consider someone has him (keeping in mind the dead animal pick up people have said no).
If someone has him then you need to play on their greed (our large reward got Knight back) and / or their conscious. Have the signs read that it is a beloved CHILD’S pet, or needs meds immediately. Play on their sympathies. We found out that if someone takes in a stray...you have no legal recourse. So, if you think someone has him and you know who...check with your local police department to see just what your legal rights are in this case.
The key seems to be quick action. Don't think that just setting a trap will take care of it. He isn't just going to wander into it. It has to be set in the right place, made to look enticing and smell good too. As you can see this is not a single person endeavor. Knight’s recovery started with one person. When the realization came that it wasn’t going to be a quick and easy recovery,
the call for help went out. By the time Knight was recovered (four months to the day) we had a remarkable network of contacts and people established that are now knowledgeable in dog recovery techniques. We hope this helps you. This by no means is a listing of ALL the suggestions or techniques out there. These are just the basics. An all out search and recovery can be a very trying and emotional event. It is very discouraging at times. The emotional roller coaster does take it’s toll on you and your personal lives. You hold your breath every time that phone rings. Hoping against hope that it’s the call you’ve been praying for. Your hopes soar as you talk to the person only to have them plummet when you realize that it’s not your dog. Sometimes, you even make a mad dash to their house or sighting only to leave empty handed…again. I can't tell you the number of times we all broke down and cried...and, he wasn’t even our dog. But, we grew to love him as if he belonged to all of us.
We carried our cell phone with us 24/7. We still have the ads running, which is why we are finding these other shelties. All we can do, is hope that one day that phone will ring with the right call. As Darla keeps reminding me, “It will only take one call…”
Written with love and dedicated to sheltie’s everywhere. Why? Because they are all special.
Penny G. Sanderbeck
With valuable contributions from…..Knight “Hidow’s Fire in the Dark”
FOOTNOTE: After writing this, my phone did ring on Christmas Eve, 2000. After talking to the lady, I sat here and thought, no way. This just couldn’t be happening. This stuff only happens in the movies.
You know what? It was the one call that Darla had told us about. It was the only one we needed. When we got there, we found a scraggly, matted, dirty, dog that was the most beautiful sight to our eyes. We’re convinced. Miracles do happen. We honestly hope you get yours.
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