How to find a lost dog: Finding Lucy

IMG_1455It’s the pet owner’s worst nightmare: My skittish dog Lucy escaped from a boarding facility when I was across the country. I booked a flight home and embarked in a crash course in pet recovery. She was located three days after she was missing due to Missing Pet Partnership, over 20 volunteers recruited from my social networks, and many good Samaritans who called in with sightings.

I’d like to share my story so that it might help others in the same position and satisfy all of my friends and family who keep asking me what happened!  My apologies for the impersonal format of a blog entry but I just found her yesterday as of this write and the story is too complicated and raw to personally tell so many times. Eventually I’ll pull out a quick, actionable list of tips for other searchers but right now I just need to do a brain dump. Ready?

Lucy’s story

IMG_7642sm2My 10 year old American Eskimo mix, Lucy, is the love of my life (look at that face!) but isn’t the most well adjusted dog. She was my first dog and came to me as a one year old already troubled. Had I researched her breed (rookie mistake!) I would never have adopted her – Eskies are not for the weak of heart or will! She’s complicated, I like to say, but most would call her skittish and defensive. I’ve taken her to a half dozen training classes but it hasn’t made a dent in her fearfulness. Most of the time her behavior is within normal parameters, but if pushed, she flips into fight or flight mode. In March, her lifelong companion Desi passed away at the age of 14, and since then I’d been taking her out and about more often so that she can see other dogs. Unfortunately, the last time I went to the dog park she got into three separate skirmishes, and two of them with overly aggressive pit pulls, one of which stalked and pounced on her. Never again.

The trip

I planned a week-long trip to Austin and my old housemate Frank, whom Lucy loves, now works two jobs and wasn’t available. I asked a highly recommended boarding place (they have an open farm-like environment instead of cages) if they thought it was a good idea to let her board there while I was gone. They reassured me that all of the dogs there were well socialized and not aggressive, and that if she were having problems that they could sequester her. If she was having a really bad time they could take her back home and do stop-ins. I knew this would be difficult for her but really wanted to try to get her more social skills and get over some of her fears, and the boarder said without me there she wouldn’t be as defensive since I wouldn’t be there to defend. Reluctantly, I did it. To my friends that supported that decision, hey, it was a good idea on paper but Mistake #1: Don’t put your dog through something potentially traumatic when you are out of state.

I left for Austin on Friday and worried about her but got one report that she was “shy at first but warming up!” Then radio silence until Sunday when I got the worst call a pet owner can imagine: “There’s a situation with Lucy. We can’t find her.”

Mistake #2: I didn’t hop on a plane the moment she was reported missing. Instead, I trusted the boarders to look for her because they said they didn’t know if she’d run away or was still on the property and they didn’t want to ruin my trip. Well, it had already been ruined and I waited 24 heart-wrenching hours until I booked a ticket home. If they’d immediately used the techniques I eventually learned, we might have located her in 24 hours instead of 72.

Note: This is the last time I’ll really talk about the boarders. I don’t want to get into a discussion there until I have time to sort some things out.

The problem with lost skittish dogs

If my lab Desi had gone missing, while tragic, it would not have been nearly as worrisome as losing Lucy. Desi really liked people and would have met up with someone nice who would have read her tags or scanned her microchip and she would likely have been returned quickly. Lucy was wary of strangers and even some of my friends whom she’d met many times. If she was running scared there was no way someone could catch her without a trap. She’s wily. Maybe I could see her getting so hungry that she’d warm up to a stranger, but she would have to abandon all of her instincts which would be in overdrive. Although they are absolutely necessary, no tag or microchip was likely to help her. This situation required a very intense search effort and educating people who might spot her about how to approach skittish dogs.  While well meaning, trying to actively track them down and catch them, or even calling their names, can make the situation worse.

Missing Pet Partnership

logoLuckily, when I was still in Austin, a friend recommended contacting Missing Pet Partnership because they use tracking dogs and wow – they have a great organization. What I found most valuable was their wonderfully detailed 36-page document on pet recovery. As they stated at the beginning, while it seems difficult to imagine spending that much time reading when your beloved companion is missing, you really need to execute a focused, proven plan to successfully find your lost pet. Missing Pet Partnership provided very detailed instructions for making effective posters, which is by far the most valuable thing you can do in your search efforts. I absolutely believe this after having been through it.  I spent hours driving around and looking for her in places she had been spotted in 12-24 hours earlier just because it seemed like the best thing to do. If I’d just done that, I wouldn’t have found her.

Communications plan

I waited to post on my social networks (Facebook and the 800 person Dogs@Microsoft email alias) that Lucy was missing. The post had to be actionable and repostable because I knew it would get a lot of responses, therefore improving its popularity and visibility in people’s news feeds so I didn’t want to waste that attention. I needed to plan before I posted.

First I needed a communication method for people that expressed an active interest in volunteering and it had to be flexible enough to add people from a mobile phone, so a simple Hotmail thread fit the bill.

Then I created the poster designs based on Missing Pet Partnership’s recommendations. I was a designer already but the UX of posters for the road is unique! Then I put my summary/ad text on a webpage and included links to all of the signs in both doc and pdf, as well as good photos.

Then I posted to my social networks. The post was to the point and wasn’t overwhelmingly emotional or personal so people wouldn’t feel weird about sharing it with their friends. I clearly asked for people to repost and if they were in the area and could help, to email me on Hotmail. I opened up my Facebook permissions to “Everyone”. My friends know how funny this was for me, the permissions queen! Then I changed my Facebook profile pic to a good picture of Lucy’s face because a lot of people were going to see it.

After a few hours’ worth of responses rolled in, I started a Hotmail thread with about 30 volunteers and listed specific jobs I needed done (calling shelters and vets, Craig’s List and other web listings, making posters, hanging posters) and then organized events and delegated tasks.

One of the things that didn’t work so well was that I kept receiving offers by email to help when it was too late or the timing was wrong to accept their help. I wish I’d at least gotten to let them know but I was too focused to figure that out and I was just using SMS to communicate with the ground troops who were immediately available. I didn’t make a conscious decision to do that, it just happened. The email thread became secondary, almost just a way for me to give updates and for people to share sighting information.

There were about 20 close friends and family constantly texting, calling, emailing and Facebooking me for updates so I cut off all communication with people not directly involved with the search, telling them, “No time to talk – check Facebook for latest.”  While I valued the concern, I could not have functioned had I not cut off the extraneous communications – it was hard enough to keep my emotions in check while I tried to coordinate this large a project.

Monday night

I got off the plane, got my car, and headed straight to the boarding facility. Frank had been there earlier in the day searching the property and surrounding area and couldn’t find her. I met a friend there, whom I really needed for moral support and to help search. We examined the property’s perimeter and saw only a few very difficult ways out. I really don’t have any idea how she escaped, but knowing she wasn’t there allowed us to confidently start searching outside of the property.

We searched for three hours in the vicinity and there was no sign of her, which was a good thing considering the coyotes and bears in that area. Based on subsequent sightings we were very far off track, but we just needed to do this.

It was extremely hard to give up and go home to sleep.

Tuesday: Volunteer day

Volunteers were crucial in this search. Some were close friends, some were people I knew online and had never met in person. One friend even came straight from an out-of-state flight to hang posters until late in the night before going home to unpack. On Tuesday I was able to leverage 40 hours of volunteer time making and hanging posters and searching. How would I ever have accomplished all of that myself? I also had two point people handling all calls to vets/shelters/rescues and all the online posts (Craig’s List is your friend – we got one sighting reported though there).

We had three volunteer events on Tuesday. The first was a poster making party at my house (we even had pizza – the only “real” food I’d eaten in days) where three volunteers brought materials and poster printouts and we spent two hours making 150 of the most awesomely effective posters ever. It was a strange feeling staying at home when I knew Lucy was out there somewhere but I had to resist losing focus.

IMG_3161The second event was for a second set of volunteers who paired up to hang posters (one driver, one hanger). We set out in three different directions and hung posters for several hours. I fielded and mapped sightings with my sidekick’s help.

The third event was a meet up point for more poster hanging and actual searching at the last known spot. Based on our subsequent sightings we weren’t that far off from where she’d been a few hours earlier. Close, but no cigar.

The run, mapped

I want to provide all of the sightings to demonstrate not only the path she took and distance she travelled, but that in less than 24 hours I received 30 calls and 9 confirmed sightings, all due to the kick ass posters.

I live in Rose Hill right there at the bottom left:

map2

Here is the full map on Bing

The run, timeline

All these sightings came in out of order so while making a valiant attempt at constructing a timeline, I’m sure this isn’t totally accurate.

map with key
Point of Escape/Sighting 1

Sunday 1pmish: Novelty Hill

The start of her journey.

Sighting 2

IMG_3117Sunday 5pm: 166th on Education Hill going south at 92nd

While I was hanging the very first poster (right) someone flagged me down to give me a sighting. Wow. For the first time we knew Lucy had in fact escaped the boarding property, had not gotten eaten by bears or coyotes behind their property (she was going the opposite way – smart girl!), and had navigated over a large highway (Avondale Way) in just a few hours from her escape. Unfortunately, she was seen running in traffic which was worrisome, but at least we had a trail.  And wow – she’d sure gone fast! She’d made it over halfway home in less than a few hours after escaping.

Unfortunately, in my haste I’d written all the details and sighter’s contact information on the back of a poster and mistakenly hung it somewhere. I wish I could contact that family because they were total dog people and had been very concerned. I hope they find out we found her.

Sighting 3

Monday 4pm: turned east into a cul-de-sac on 102nd at 166th

Sighter Todd said an obviously spooked Lucy ran up a cul-de-sac and went behind a house into a wooded area. I searched and postered there but no one had seen her.

Sighting 4

Monday 5pm: hanging out at a greenbelt near 116th and 166th

Sighter Mary Margaret said she seemed to be limping but not dangerously so (unlikely she’d been hit but was just tired).

Sighting 5

Monday 5pm: 172nd Ave NE going north crossing 116th

Sighter Laurie gave us the most detailed lead we received on Tuesday and even took the time to meet with us in person to show us exactly where Lucy had been. Lucy was running north on 172nd down a specific sidewalk and crossed 116th. The specificity and recency meant the search dog could get involved. Laurie knew immediately that she was a runaway dog and searched for her for over an hour but couldn’t find her. More than one sighter told me this which is so amazing.

Sidekick Dottie and I started to see a pattern: for over 24 hours she came up against scary highways and seemed to be trapped in Education Hill. Closing in might be possible!

Sighting 6

Tuesday 6pm: on jogging trail by Sunrise Elementary School

Oh no – she’d crossed busy 124th street. So much for our theory. Looks like she made the crossing at night.

Sighter Laurie said a jogger told her he “might” have seen Lucy just a few hours earlier.  This is where we had a rendezvous point Tuesday night and fanned out to search on foot for several hours.

Sighting 7

Tuesday at 7:30pm: running up 166th and turned onto 128th

Sighter Eric saw Lucy running up the middle of 166th blocking traffic. He was pretty annoyed that someone would let their dog run around loose until he realized she was totally spooked. He said he didn’t see the green tag on her but that she seemed to have a head too tiny for her fluffy body which is not something I’d heard before and made me chuckle.

This was a sighting that was recent enough to get a dog tracker to work it, and I spent hours combing the area Wednesday morning. Again, based on what I know now, she was well out of the area by then.

Sighting 8

Wednesday 1am: A Woodinville Winery

Sighter Chris called to tell me he was patrolling the grounds of a winery in Woodinville and spotted what he thought was a coyote.  Then he noticed Lucy’s green tag and realized it was a lost dog. He tried chasing her down but she ran away. He told his coworkers to keep an eye out for her but she was long gone. He found Lucy’s listing on Craig’s List because we hadn’t postered over there, found my number, and called me. So much for the theory that she was only travelling during the day!

Sighting 9

Wednesday 1pm: 136th NE Pl and NE 132nd

Julie gets the prize for most devotion to the cause. She spotted Lucy running up the middle of the street (and Lucy had almost come to her but turned around, kicked up her feet and jetted) and thought, “That looks like the dog I just saw on posters.” Frustratingly, she didn’t own a cell phone.  She drove to a poster and wrote down my number, actually flagged down a motorist who had a phone and called me. She had to give back the phone but stayed in an easily locatable spot and waited 15 minutes for me to show up (I don’t think I’d ever driven that fast). She waited another 20 minutes for the search dog to show up so she could give a specific details on the sighting. Though all the sightings helped us, this was the most crucial sighting that lead to her capture.

I’m going to buy Julie a cell phone Winking smile

Search dog

IMG_2257Jim from Missing Pet Partnership arrived on the scene with his search dog, Kelsy, who looked so much like Desi it was eerie. Kelsy took the scent from one of Lucy’s stinky dog beds that the boarder had retrieved from my house and rushed over. Kelsy started from the point that Julie specified and then went in the opposite direction that we knew Lucy had been travelling. She took us around about a block radius and wallowed in tall grass where Lucy likely played and then went nuts around a hollowed out space in a bush. Our theory is that she went backwards and the bush was where Lucy had spent the night. We tried putting Kelsy back on the trail and she led us down to a monstrous vacant house (a sign of the times) and ended up very interested in some coyote poop. The conditions were a little too hot and dry for Kelsy to get a good scent on Lucy but since the sighting had been so recent, we wanted to give it a try. Kelsy is usually more successful so I want to encourage others to try her out if appropriate.

I drove around the area in the direction Julie said Lucy had been travelling and I put up some posters but didn’t see her. I decided to leave because based on other sightings and the speed at which she’d been travelling, she could again be anywhere. I went down the hill towards Woodinville and hit some traffic when I received a call.

Sighting 10

Wednesday 4:36pm: 136th NE Pl and NE 132nd

“I have your dog directly in my sight.” Oh my God.

Capture

I was a half mile away, having just left the area she currently was – I had likely been within 100 feet of her. She might have heard me softly calling but didn’t come. Sighter Bethany had seen a sign I’d just posted 5 minutes earlier, saw Lucy and immediately called me. I raced back while staying on the phone with Bethany (setting a personal land speed record), and talked her through exactly what she should (but mostly shouldn’t) do when capturing a skittish dog:

  • Keep your distance but don’t let her out of your sight
  • Don’t look like you are focusing on her, don’t even look at her
  • Don’t get out of the car so she can see you are a person
  • Don’t call her
  • Find a bag or wrapper that sounds like a treat bag to crinkle
  • If you aren’t in a car you can try lying on your back on the ground and they might be curious enough to investigate, especially if you are crinkling something
  • Note the time, her exact location, mood, and health

houseI arrived on the scene and Jim was already there, in fact he called me when I was on the phone with Bethany. I hadn’t gone all the way down this driveway because there were big “No trespassing” signs but now that we knew she was down there we didn’t care. The home owner wasn’t too happy we were there but Bethany and Jim were already telling her the situation. I looked around and Jim was next to the house looking into the backyard. I was talking to Bethany and Jim motioned for us to be quiet.  He silently waved me over and I moved towards his position. There was Lucy in the backyard. She was dirty and wet and spooked. She had just seen Jim and was scurrying away, though not too fast, and she was headed towards the front area where the home owner and Bethany were talking. I pointed to the side of the house where Lucy was coming out and signaled for them to be quiet. Lucy appeared and she looked at them with trepidation and I just said her name in my normal baby voice that you use to talk to dogs and she came right to me. I basically crouched over and held her so tight and started sobbing.  Lucy was doing her earsplitting high pitched whine that she does when she sees me after she’s been stressed out but it was super loud. I could hear the home owner ask Jim and Bethany how long Lucy had been gone and I heard one of them say, “Three days,” and the home owner finally understood what was happening. I kind of came to and apologized for my embarrassing outburst but I know no one minded it – it was pretty honest.

Jim took some photos, including the one that’s been making the rounds.

IMG_2263

He lent me a leash and I loaded stinky Lucy into the car. I talked to Jim for awhile afterwards and he gave me some advice about not letting her gorge herself on food and water. I texted and emailed the volunteers who had been helping and let the news fan out.

I couldn’t stop looking at her the entire way home.

IMG_2280

After care

The first thing Lucy did was drink a ton of water and ate an entire bowl of food (which is unusual for her to do all at once). She was very stinky but not as muddy as you might imagine (her fur seems to repel dirt). I gave her a bath – and me too! We were both pretty gross. I bundled her up in towels and she basically didn’t move for four hours.

IMG_2291Lucy was obviously very sore but didn’t seem to have any serious injuries or broken bones. The pads of her feet, however, had abrasions and ulcers. I called the emergency vet (my regular vet was closed) and they said that if they were particularly deep and in need of cleaning to bring her in but otherwise we should just let her sleep and not traumatize her by heading in there. I took her to my regular vet the next day and they said that she just needed antibiotics, a bit of tramadol, and periodic soaking in warm water with Epsom salt for 5-10 minutes.

She is understandably suffering some post-traumatic stress (so am I!).  She is much more attached to me, was quite wary of the highway at the vet’s office, and was particularly shaky at the vet. I think her behavior will return to normal in the coming week or so. (Postscript: She seems to be almost totally back to normal four days later).

Final theories on her journey

foundIt’s quite possible she knew where home was because after escaping she immediately made a beeline in that direction. This is statistically improbable and knowing Lucy, is pretty amazing. Even though she may be a bundle of neuroses, she is still a dog.

We also think she was travelling along the Olympic oil pipeline that eventually runs by my house and is a place we often go walking. She may have been trying to go home that way, and in fact, was found right on the pipeline. See this photo? The bright white dot in the bottom left quadrant is where she was found and that green strip on the left is the pipeline. She might have made it home in a few more days.  Of course, that’s how the local bears travel too which is scary.

While most of her sightings were her running the the middle of the road, you can’t extrapolate a behavior pattern from that because more people are on roads which lead to them calling in the sightings.  The most interesting sighting was at the winery at 1am – it’s so unlikely that a human would be out there to even see her at that time of night. Frank has given her a new nickname: The White Coyote.

I imagine this may not be true in all cases, but Lucy travelled the most the first day, and less the subsequent days. Her pads were raw and painful and she was sore from running, plus she got trapped in a neighborhood she couldn’t easily escape from so maybe that’s why she was there for over three hours.

Tips for searchers

General tips

  • You need one leader in charge. This is a full-time job. I happen to be skilled at design, marketing, social media, project management (organizing, prioritizing, resourcing, leading), and compartmentalizing emotions to function well in a crisis. For people that don’t have these skills it would be much harder to be successful, but it’s hard to delegate the “top job”. Hopefully you know a trusted friend who has intense passion and the ability to kick major ass at this stuff. I only know one person I’d trust with that (a dog lover and former EMT), and I put her in charge of all my online and phone activities and she enlisted volunteers to help her. I would resist putting all your trust in an organization that helps out people in this situation (there are many out there) because they just don’t have the same incentive you do and it’s hard to know who is reputable.
  • Resist searching all night. The most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever done was lay comfortably in my warm bed while I knew Lucy was likely sleeping under a bush in the cold rain. The fact was, it was very improbable that I going to find her at night and I needed at least enough sleep to function.
  • One way to stop from spiraling into sadness is to imagine what your pet would want you to do. It’s your responsibility to find them and there were a few times I pulled over to cry and then made myself stop and kept driving because Lucy needed me to. While it’s important to release some emotion, you can cry more later.
  • Posters were by far the most effective tool in finding her. She went missing Sunday afternoon, we started hanging posters Tuesday afternoon, and we located her Wednesday afternoon.  So even with a 48 hour head start it only took 24 hours of the posters being up to locate her.
  • I’d recommend doing the poster hanging in response to the sightings once they start coming in because we initially postered quite a bit in the total opposite direction of her first sighting. I wish I’d saved more for the second day of searching so that when I had those fresh leads I could have postered more in those areas. Luckily I had saved a few and those were the ones that did the trick. One tactic you could use is to remove posters from areas you know she isn’t in and reuse them in better areas.
  • Double back the next day to check on old posters, especially in the rain. Many of ours needed retaping or stapling.
  • Write down the name of each sighter and their phone number as well as the sighting information. I didn’t write down some of the phone numbers because I figured I already had them in my phone, but trying to sort that out later is proving to be a mess and I really wanted to tell some of the callers that we found her.
  • Some callers want to talk for 10 minutes on the phone even though the sighting isn’t credible or was a lot older than the leads you are currently following. Once a fresher lead went to voicemail while I tried to get someone who’d sighted her less recently off the phone. Afterwards I tried to be direct (bordering on rudely abrupt) about my priorities and say I was meeting up with a search dog and had to go just so I could keep the line free to talk to sighters in person.
  • Oh, and I got three calls recommending pet psychics. Just sayin.
  • foundAfter you find your pet, make sure you account for calling the vets/shelters and taking the online ads and posters down and save some volunteer resources for that – you will have zero time to do this yourself in  timely manner.  One of my volunteers had a great idea to leave a few of the large posters up at key intersections and add new printouts that say “SHE’S BEEN FOUND! THANK YOU!”  Wouldn’t that make your day to see that on your commute instead of a sad poster that flutters and fades after a month? I even received two calls thanking me for posting the found signs, and three calls from people who were relieved then they’d seen the Craig’s List posting upated with the found photo.

Poster supplies needed

Don’t skimp. The life of your pet is at stake. This totaled $200, not counting printing costs.

  • Poster printouts – I’d recommend 150 the first day, 100 a day subsequent days, though if you are in a dense urban area, you may not need as many
  • Fluorescent poster board – I’d recommend 50 large, 100 for portrait posters (however you want to cut that up – I think it’s 1/4 a large so that’s 75 large sheets total).  I know that seems like a lot and poster board is expensive but DON’T SKIMP HERE.We ran out of poster board on the second day, but that could have been prevented by not wasting so many posters in questionable areas
  • Sheet protectors – these saved our butts because it rained the entire night after we hung the posters
  • Giant fat markers
  • Strong clear packing tape – 8 rolls
  • Duct tape – 8 rolls (at least one per hanging car)
  • Scissors – 8 pair (enough for poster party and at least one per hanging car)
  • Heavy duty staple gun (one per hanging car – wish I’d gotten more of those)
  • Heavy duty staple gun staples!

IMG_2293Things to take in your car

You are office camping! Be prepared!

  • It works well to put things in reusable canvas/vinyl grocery bags
  • One bag of office supplies
  • One bag of posters
  • One bag of food
  • One bag of clothes
  • A folder for map printouts or an actual map (I wished my iPad had 3g! My tiny iPhone screen didn’t cut it)
  • Notebook and paper to take down sighting information
  • PHONE CHARGER (My mistake #3!)
  • Paper towels
  • Food that will keep (PBJ FTW!)
  • Enough water for a full day
  • Shoes, jacket, jeans in case you get too wet
  • Hat in case it rains
  • Light waterproof jacket
  • Gloves in case you go into brambles
  • Flashlights, non-wimpy
  • Crinkly wrappers to entice a dog
  • Leashes

Thanks

I want to specially thank my hard core volunteers: Brandy, Jaree, Debbi, Jacki, Kim, Dottie, Nelly, Khiota, Frank, Penny, and Susan. Let me know if I’ve forgotten someone!

I also want to thank the people that called in sightings, several of whom searched for over an hour and even took time out to meet with me in person.

Chris, Jim, and all the good people at Missing Pet Partnership. Please donate to them – they really need donations to keep going.

And all the people who passed on the information online and showed their concern. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and effort from both my friends and total strangers.


What a happy ending. As one of my friends wrote, “Well goddamn. The world isn’t so bad.”

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100 thoughts on “How to find a lost dog: Finding Lucy

  1. I don’t know you or your dog, but am an old friend of Trayci Jones. When I read the post on her facebook my heart sank. I could only imagine how horrible that would be!!!! I’m so glad that you found Lucy and am grateful for your blog post about what to do if I ever, god forbid, find myself in the same situation! It’s amazing how much you can get wrapped up in someone elses life that you’ve never met. I actually cried when I read about when you and Lucy were reunited! Love to you both and I hope things return back to “normal” for you both soon.

  2. What a great post! Fantastic information. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m attending a training this weekend in Seattle run by the Missing Pet Partnership about finding lost pets.

  3. What a fabulous story!! I, too, have a very skittish dog (Basset Hound) who went missing for 3 months and 23 days. There was no chance she’d go to ANYONE!! Missing Pet Partnership helped me find her with sound advice, surveillance equipment, and a humane dog trap. I am forever indebted to them and Basset Rescue of Puget Sound for their unwavering support. Non-profit rescues do it for the sake of the animals and are in desperate need of funding and volunteers. Help whenever and wherever you can. It won’t go unappreciated.

  4. I am amazed at the intricacy of this process and plan — but so grateful that it resulted in success for you!

    Congrats…I’m sure you’re giving her giant squeezes and smooches.

    🙂

  5. I am *so* happy that your and Lucy’s story had a happy ending. Thanks so much for your post — both as a heartwarming story, and as an actionable “how to” for others who are looking for a lost pet. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Well deserved!

  6. I have tears streaming down my face after reading this…slightly embarrasing as I am at work… my God, what a stressful and heart-breaking experience you’ve had… luckily in the end you had a lot of guardian angels working with you and on your behalf. I am a new dog-mom and he is absolutely EVERYTHING to me… I cannot even imagine what you have gone through. Thank you for sharing your experience and your tips. And regarding the boarders: Sue!

  7. This is a great story!
    I also have a Lucy (bordercollie) Who is 13. She escaped once from my home, and we ended up fnding her 3 days later at the Local Humane Society..but it just goes to show that people DO care about animals, and will do anything to help out in situations like these!

    Glad u found her!! 🙂

  8. I really applaud the effort you went through to get you dog back. These are such great pointers for owners of skittish dogs. Our skittish dog has never escaped, but our older independent one did in his younger days. We had a gate that stuck. He was friendly, so the one time we didn’t grab him he wound up at a neighbors.

  9. I cried for you just reading this. I’ve lost my sweet Charlotte for a matter of minutes and that alone excited a freakish amount of anxiety. I’m so touched to know that such amazing organizations exist, that so many people cared, and that you now have your baby safely back with you. I’m going to relay the tips on finding a lost dog to everyone I know; hopefully we can all save some lives!

  10. That is so amazing and restores one’s faith in the goodness of human kind! I am still crying and so happy for you and Lucy.

    I can only imagine your relief and happiness (and Lucy’s too) when you were finally reunited!

    Thank you for sharing a really emotional story.

  11. As I sit here, tears streaming down my face, I’m so thankful for the happy ending … for we can see the joy on Lucy’s face that she was lost .. but now is found. Bless you for sharing your lessons learned with others; let’s hope they won’t be needed anytime soon. Also loved the idea of “She’s been found – thank you” updates. Nothing sadder than the family pooch’s face fading into oblivion on a power pole poster.

    If he could, my elderly & shaky rescue dog, Frankie, would surely lick your hand in thanks for this magnificent effort … Bravo!

    MJ

  12. Oh, what a trauma for both you and Lucy! I too have a troubled white dog named Lucy, and i can only imagine how I would feel were we to loose her! (Our Lucy is a Maltese.)

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story! Your guide is so, so helpful! Bless both you and your baby!

    (I will come back with the link to a post I did about our Lucy–fortunately not about losing her!)

    And congrats on being Freshly Pressed–but an even bigger congratulations on finding your sweet girl!

    Kathy

  13. Great post! Last year I had to help find my niece and nephew’s lost lab. We used posters, newspaper ads and even got chased by strange dogs through neighbors’ fields. He was finally found a week later three miles and three roads away from home. He was ok after having some deep cuts treated (we think he got into it with a coyote).

    So glad you found your baby too!

  14. Ann, I am so glad the story had a happy ending. My adopted German Shepherd, Shelby, was a runner when I first got her several months ago. She hasn’t gotten away from me lately and I’m not taking any chances. I would absolutely be beside myself – sounds like you kept it together pretty well. So much work involved and I wouldn’t have even known where to start. I am going to put a few phone numbers in my cell so that in the event I need them I won’t spend valuable time searching for them.

    The picture of you with your face buried in Lucy’s neck brought tears to my eyes. Here’s a cyber hug for you and the lovely Lucy.

  15. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! And what an awesomely useful post. So fantastic that your beloved pooch was found…give her an extra hug for me. : )
    My kids are begging for a pet, and recently cared for a cat that followed us home. No one was searching for him that we knew of, and we suspect he returned home on his own as he was a very healthy and personable cat.

  16. I felt like I was reading my own story here. My very skittish 10-month-old puggle puppy ran away from a trusted dogsitter while I was out of town for a wedding. I should have left right then, but I didn’t. My ENTIRE story played out almost EXACTLY like yours. Finally found her on an anonymous tip seventeen days later, and like you, couldn’t stop looking at her the entire way home. This brought all those memories back. So glad you found your doggie!

  17. What a trip for both of you. I’m really and happy glad everything ended so well. May you both have a long time together.

    By the way congrats for being Freshly Pressed.

  18. Amazing post, amazing story! I have a dog myself and he’s my son, he’s the love of my life and I think I would’ve died if something similar to this happened. Thank you for sharing your story, your tips and everything else because I’m sure that this will definitely help someone one day. I’m extremely glad you found Lucy, who I must say looks adorable! Definitely will reblog this so I can share your story.

  19. Glad your story had a happy ending. I have two terrier mixes, and my problem would be finding who they went home with because they lick and jump on everyone they see. I still would have been worried about other animals, though, especially because the smaller one likes to try and take them on. Glad you found Lucy. What a wonderful pet owner you must be.

    1. I’ve gotten that question from several folks. GPS tracking chips don’t actually work like GPS in your phone – they require a scan just like a microchip. An external GPS tracking device is a newer technology and has some disadvantages:
      •GPS tracking devices are relatively more expensive than microchips, and some require monthly subscriptions.
      •Some areas have little or no cell phone coverage or Internet connectivity.
      •GPS units may be too big and heavy for small dogs to wear.
      •Attached to collars, GPS devices can be lost along with them.

      If I had to board Lucy again (and I never will if I can help it!), I might use a GPS tracking device.

  20. Your story made me teary-eyed. It was absolutely adorable and I am so happy that you found Lucy. She is sooo cute and beautiful and is a very smart dog for being able to hang in there for 3 days and feeling so scared. I am absolutely in love with my dog Candy as well and I can’t even imagine losing her. Keep her close 🙂 because there is nothing like the bond between a person and their dog.

  21. Wow! Your story had me on the edge of my seat. I’m so glad you told readers up front that Lucy was found. She’s a lucky girl to have a dedicated, patient caregiver like you as her guardian.

    BTW, I saw the “lost dog” posters in my building at Microsoft. It breaks my heart to see lost animals signs so I am thrilled that Lucy is home safe.

    I Keep a spare a leash in my car because I have found dogs in the past. I’m going to add treats in a crinkly bag to my arsenal. Great shy dog tip!

    1. Hi Jean. I too keep a spare leash and treats in my car and have caught a half-dozen lost dogs in the last few years. I like to think Lucy returned due to my good dog finding Karma 😉

      I found the advice on http://missingpetpartnership.org to be really interesting regarding catching a skittish dog. They say to start digging or foraging in the dirt, not looking at the dog at all. The dog will think you are looking for food. It helps to pretend you are finding things and eating them and surrepticiously throw some treats near the dog so he discovers them and thinks you are finding more. Wild, huh?

      1. I’m going to bookmark that site! It’s so interesting that by learning dog behavior and their language, we can help them better. Makes sense, I guess, but since I don’t speak “dog” it’s not intuitive!

  22. I’m so sorry to hear that the boarders lost your dog. I can’t imagine how you felt when you received such a phone call. I’m so glad you found her and that she is home safely.

  23. I am so happy that you and Lucy were reunited. I am an animal lover and know the heartbreak one can go through when you lose a pet. Thank you for the valuable information as well as for sharing your story..I do so love a happy ending!

  24. Lucy sure is fast!

    Your story touched me. I don’t even want to imagine myself in that situation! (I have a mischievous and very brave 1-year-old schnauzer.)
    I’m glad you found Lucy, almost cry when I read you hugged her and she was whining.

  25. I am so glad that Lucy was found and is back home with you! I have a male Akita, nearly 11 years old, named Chaos – and I’d go to pieces if something happened to him.
    Great advice that will hopefully help others find their furry kids.

    Courtney

  26. My childhood dog ran away often. Sometimes he ran away with a chain dragging behind him, but never was injured. He had incredible survival skills.

    Glad to hear your story has a happy ending.

  27. Thank you very much for posting this–very helpful! And very thoughtful given what you went through. I have 2 dogs and shudder to think what it was like to go through that. Thanks again!

  28. Hi there… Just wanted to say that I’m so glad you found your dog. Many years ago, my family had pretty much the exact same experience, only without all the help. Our dog was extremely skittish of people and shy, and ran away from the kennel we’d housed him at while away in Vermont. He was out and about for a whole week. The kennel didn’t even look for him (WTF), and we miraculously managed to find him by coming home and driving around the kennel and calling to him. But that week was the absolute worst week, especially for my sister, who was really fond of him. Having gone through something similar, I just wanted to say, I know how it feels, and I’m glad that you had so many people come to your aid to help you find your friend.

  29. My favorite dog. Period. And the only dog I ever owned. American Eskimos are very loyal and know a good guy from a bad one. That is what makes them so skittish, they read energy very well and are thus very sensitve to the vibrations of everything. That’s how she knew her way home, she could feel it. So happy for you both! What a lovely post and the best Freshly Pressed I have read yet!

  30. A beautiful dog, and a very thorough report!
    A relative of mine lost two dogs while she was away on her honeymoon –very traumatic for all, but they were found after a few days, as Lucy was.

  31. I started reading this because it reminded me of when our Petey, who is half coyote, broke off his leash and ran off. Sixty-nine hours later he was spotted by a motorist tangled in the median of the Pasadena Freeway by what was left of his leash. They freeway was shut down, so he could be rescued. Thanks for your wonderful writing and thorough step-by-step instructions. As I read the story, I realized it reminded me even more of when our then 15-year-old son decided to “disappear” in San Francisco, but that’s another story (with a happy ending – he’s now 28). I’m going to go hug both of my dogs.

  32. Ann, I am speechless. What an amazing story! I cannot imagine losing one of my furry babies. I’m so happy that you and Lucy were reunited. The photo of her on your passenger seat speaks volumes. 🙂

    Thanks for the wonderful tips, too. Any dog lover will surely appreciate your honesty and the time and thought it took to write your wonderful post.

    Best regards to you both!

  33. Ann, that happiness you feel about your beloved Lucy recovered. I write from the other side of the world, Spain and wish you much happiness for you and for Lucy. Thanks for sharing your tips and everything you happened to find the beautiful Lucy.
    Kisses from Barcelona.

    Gina

  34. I’m so glad you found Lucy and that you shared these important tips!

    My husband and found and adopted our rascal, Appa off the street a few years ago. It didn’t take us long to figure out why he was a stray – he spooked and ran at every opportunity. That laying down on the ground tip was the only way we could get him to come back to us at first. It took a lot of work, but now he’s a happy healthy and SAFE doggie 🙂

  35. What an extraordinary testament to the love you have for your dog. I am overwhelmed at your dedication and want to thank you so much for putting this out there. We found a lost dog the other day and managed to get her safely to a shelter. She’ll be ours if no one claims her because I can’t bear to leave her sweet face there and I have a feeling our Golden will love her too. Thank you for your story. It’s wonderful.

  36. I’m so happy for you! The important point is to not give up and SEARCH SEARCH SEARCH… My dog ran to “freedom” 5 years ago and I found him after 3 days thanks to extensive search and his microchip. I think I cried more after I found him than during the 3 days!!!!!!!

  37. I cried when you wrote that you had found her! Am so glad! 🙂 she must be so clever to survive with bears about! Sounds like she was homesick and missing you to try and make her way back. Glad you are both safe and reunited! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story. Congratulations on being freshly pressed! 🙂

  38. Me and my dogs are so happy that you have found Lucy, she looks like she needs a lot of TLC. I’m sure both of you can recover soon enough. Lucy is lucky that she’s got you as her mommy. And you’re lucky to have such a beautiful and charming dog. 🙂

  39. Congratulations to you, to the good samaritans, to Lucy!

    Another important factor for you finding Lucy is your pet’s breed.
    Spitz-type dogs are known for their keen sense of direction;
    they can find their way home even after a long separation from their master;
    they also have excellent survival instincts in the wild—
    i’d put my money on Lucy, any day, if she gets into a fight with a bear.
    It’s no coincidence that “bear dogs” are of the spitz type;
    the spritely spitz will position itself on the rear of the bear, and give the beast a really good bite putting the latter on retreat mode. (If the trail Lucy took is known for bears, she just may have had this kind of encounter; as the pesky bear will likely track down an “intruder”. )
    Coyotes though can be problem, as they attack in packs; however, your dog should be able to sense them from a distance, and hence stay as far away from them. (Could be the reason why she was sighted on the move in the wee hours.)
    As for Lucy being sighted on the highways: in all likelihood, she was there to circumvent the neighborhood fences, as she makes her way home.

    I wonder if Missing Pet Partnership has any statistics on the types of pets that are likely to be found.
    Ceteris paribus, I’m confident that spitz dogs will land among the top spots.
    Your “rookie mistake” has its upsides after all.
    Kudos!

  40. – I love dogs and I know how it feels to lose one
    Glad that you found her again. I was touched with your will to retrieve her again. she is such a wise dog to0 . nice post =D

  41. Thank you for sharing Lucy’s story. I’m glad that she is savely back home with you. My Eski’s name is Lilly and she looks and acts just like your Lucy, so I know exactly how you feel.

  42. I’m a dog lover too! In fact, my family owns a total of 6 dogs and I cannot imagine losing any of them! Anyway, I am happy for you that you found Lucy!:) Hope she never runs away again 😉

  43. So happy you got your Lucy back. Many years ago our big yellow lab, Abby, who was only a year old at the time, escaped and was gone for two weeks. The kids were particularly devastated. Unbelievably, she found her way back to us, very contrite. I understand the love one can have for a dog.

  44. Oh, my…such an amazing story! Our little, Shih Tzu/Chihuahua, named Mushu, but loving called MooMoo, got lost about a month ago. It was only for a few hours, but it scared us all. She did not appear upset at all when we found her hiking in the woods behind our home.

    I will definitely keep this highly informative post in mind if she ever goes on another adventure. So happy you found Lucy!

  45. I am the mom of a 12 year old Eskie (quinn) and came here from WordPress.com when I saw the adorable obviously-part-Eskie face of your girl. You are right that these dogs arent for the faint of heart, but they do give back as much love as theyre given, and then some.

    I’m glad your story has a happy ending. I am curious to know how things are handled with the boarders.

  46. I wanted to add, as a person who specialises in skittish dogs and dogs with high separation anxiety that it is actually best to board that type of pet in a denned environment with cages/cubicles and runs.

    To humans a cage seems cruel but to a skittish dog they are reassuring and den-like. A dog with Separation Anxiety is often freaked out by open spaces; it’s kind of the dog version of claustrophobia, ironically.

  47. Goodness, she looks like she could be the sister of my dog (some kinda mutt that I suspect is an eskie mix)! I only was able to skim parts of this entry, because I started tearing up at the thought of losing Trixie 😦 I’m so glad you found her, and that she’s healthy, safe, and back home with you. Thanks for all the tips… I’m saving this entry in my bookmarks 🙂

  48. What an amazing story! We’ve lost our dogs a few times…. I have a Bolter on my hands. Anyone that comes into our yard must shut the gate. Or they will be gone in a matter of minutes. But we’ve been lucky that people are kind enough to find our dogs and call and we’ve found them in a matter of hours. But thanks for the info on the volunteer group.

  49. So happy that you found your dog. I couldn’t help but become teary-eyed when I read that part when you and Lucy found each other. Thank you for all these tips, as they are really handy! Unfortunately, the Philippines isn’t as organized as the US. 😦 But thank you for this.. it made my day. 🙂

  50. This is an amazingly helpful post! I’ve been heavily involved in two lost dog searches too, both for very frightened dogs, and both with very happy endings, and echo everything you say. I’m bookmarking this post to make sure I have all the ideas you list next time I need them 🙂

  51. This is an awesome post – I came upon it today because someone I’m associated with had recently lost their dog and this was posted on Facebook as a way to help. I am so happy you and your girl were reunited relatively quickly. I would have been out of my mind, but you kept your head and found your baby.

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