A few years back I had an awful experience I thought would “never happen” to us. Joe and I were on vacation in Colorado. We left our elderly dog, Bibi, who hates to travel, with a highly-recommended petsitter. We were having a wonderful time on our trip when Joe got a phone call from some stranger in Dallas. “I’ve got your dog, Bibi,” he said. This man had found Bibi walking down the street by herself and called the number on her tag. As you can only imagine, we were frantic. In the end, everything turned out just fine. Because of that good Samaritan, Bibi was picked up only a few blocks from the petsitter’s house, unharmed, and back in her care within minutes. I’ve never forgotten the kindness of that man, and to pay it forward, here are some basic tips on what to do to help reunite a dog and its owners.
Safety first. Whether you’re driving or on foot, proceed with caution. You don’t want to cause an accident (by slamming on your brakes) or approach a dog that may be scared or injured. If the animal appears to pose any threat of biting or attacking, do not approach it. Note its location and get in touch with animal control. If possible, stay at the scene until help arrives. Today’s animal control officers tend to be serious animal lovers and very knowledgeable in their field.
Securing the Dog If the dog is friendly, you can coax him to you with the promise of a treat and put a leash on him. (I always carry an extra slip leash and usually have treats on me for my own dogs.) Once you’ve secured the pup, and if he has no identifiable tags, the best place to take him is to your vet and/or local animal shelter. They will scan for a microchip.
Find the owner Don’t assume that just because you found the dog wandering the streets that she was abandoned or unwanted. Think Bibi. If there is no microchip, be sure to take a photo of the dog. We may be biased, but a good photo of the dog is extremely important! “I just found this dog” on Facebook could be all you need to do to reunite the dog with its owners. It may seem old fashioned, but you will want to post flyers, with your contact information, in the area where you found the dog and at nearby vet’s offices and shelters. These are the first places someone, who is frantically looking for their dog, will visit. You can also ask if anyone has reported a lost dog. Posting a photo of the dog in the shelter’s computer data base is also a good idea.
Waiting Period If enough time has passed, (different states have different laws on how long you have to wait for the owner to come forward) you might consider adopting the dog temporarily and asking your local no-kill shelter or rescue organizations for help. I’m always amazed at how many dogs and cats find absolutely wonderful homes through these groups. We would never have adopted our two mutts (who, by the way, were both strays) unless someone had reached out in their time of need and saved them.
Karma works. Rescue a stray pup, and maybe if your pet ever needs help, someone will be there for him.