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Norwich Bulletin - 11/21/2004

Lost

An important lesson that animal rescue people need to learn is that it is not always the fault of the owner when an animal becomes lost. It can happen to anyone and it is a traumatic and stressful time when it does occur. I know, because it happened to my husband and I.

Two of our friendly outside boys; Baker who is fourteen, and Brutus, who is around twelve, have an insatiable curiosity about cars and trucks. Little did we know a few years ago when we had some emergency electric work done in the house, that the electrician had left his truck door open in our driveway.

That night neither Brutus nor Baker came for dinner which was highly unusual, and when they did not show up for breakfast the following morning, we were sure something very bad had befallen them.

That evening we received a call from our electrician that asked us if we were missing a big black cat and perhaps one other. It seems when he went on a call that evening about six miles from our house, and opened the door to the back of the truck, something went flying past him and at the same time he saw two big eyes on one of the shelves of the truck.

The two big eyes did not move and he was able to ascertain that it was a large black cat. Remembering the cats at our house, he put two and two together and called us. We were reunited with Brutus that night, but realized with a sinking heart that our oldest cat Baker was all alone in a strange area.

How scared Baker must have been when he jumped out of that truck to all of a sudden realize he was not home - he was not in the yard that he knew so well and nothing was vaguely familiar! Clind and I had never been in this position before - how do you find a lost pet?

The first thing we did, of course is find out who the person was that had gotten the electrical work done and started with him. Had he seen a stray cat that day and which of his neighbors had outside cats (Baker would be looking for food).

We took a picture of Baker and photocopied it with his description and our information and made 500 copies - we then put this flyer in every mailbox within a mile radius from the house we knew he started his journey from.

We immediately got calls from people who had seen glimpses of him and finally one person had seen him eating with her outside cats. Within three days we had the entire neighborhood looking for our old cat and someone lured him into their garage with food and called us. It was a happy trip we made to pick up Baker and bring him home.

Clint and I are not negligent pet owners and yet we lost two of our oldest and most beloved pets. This taught me that it can happen to anyone and I must be careful not to judge the people calling us, desperately seeking help in finding their pet. So here are some tips for anyone who finds themselves in the position of having a lost cat or dog:

Contact local animal shelters, vets and animal control agencies. Definitely file a lost pet report with every shelter within a sixty mile radius of your home. Visit the shelters daily and call your vet more than once. Large veterinary practices have a lot of people working for them and your call could get "lost in the crowd" so be persistent in checking every few days. Provide a detailed description of your pet and if possible, get a picture/flyer done up and get them to the shelters and vet offices.

Search the neighborhood. Clint and I drove through the neighborhood were Baker was lost at least twice a day while he was gone, calling his name, hoping he would hear us. While dogs respond better to this, we were hoping he would hear us and know we were looking for him. Early morning and evening are the best times to look for your pet because they will be searching for food before everyone starts coming out of their homes for the day - I recommend the flyer in the mailbox as it worked very well for us and it is worth a try.

Advertise. Take out ads in all the local free and city papers - post your flyers in grocery stores, veterinary clinics and Laundromats. Call your local radio station. Describe your pet specifically but leave out one identifying characteristic so that if someone calls you, you can ask that person to describe it. This protects you from pet recovery scams. Although it is the last thing we are thinking of when trying to find our pet, these scams do exist and sometimes we will do just about anything to get our pet back.

Don't give up your search as there are cases where animals that have been lost for months do end up being reunited with their person. I really did not expect to ever find Baker but perseverance did pay off in the end.

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