Last Friday morning I was outside my house, saying good-bye to a friend who had visited, when a small white dog ran by on the sidewalk across the street, without an owner following or even a leash trailing behind. The little dog was trotting at a good clip and heading right for busy Fresh Pond Parkway, a perilous four-lane artery less than a hundred yards away.
Apologizing to my friend, I took off in hot pursuit but, clearly frightened, the poor dog sped up when it saw me. To my immense relief, it did not try to cross the parkway to escape to Fresh Pond Reservation, a dog’s paradise. Instead it darted into the weedy parking lots adjacent to a row of gas stations along the parkway, and I lost sight of it. (I wasn’t wearing my glasses!) Since I didn’t have a leash or any food to use as a lure, I felt a little foolish continuing my myopic chase. Besides, what if the dog’s flight-or-fight response made it aggressive? It might not take kindly to being cornered.
Flummoxed, I went home and called the Cambridge Animal Commission’s hotline (617-349-3300), while I grabbed a leash, some dog treats, and my glasses. My own dog looked crestfallen when I left the house again a few minutes later with his leash in hand — but without him attached. I walked back in the direction where I had last seen the dog, and circled the block and nearby school park and playing fields, but there was no sign of it. Surveying the area, I realized there are an awful lot of places for a frightened dog to hide, so I went home again. My dog looked miffed when I returned with his leash and without any apology for forgetting to take him along on my adventure.
An officer from Animal Control called back a few minutes later and said their crew was on the way over to the neighborhood to look for the dog. I learned there had been several other sightings of a small white dog recently; someone had seen a this dog crossing the bridge from Charlestown, and it had passed through Central Square and later turned up on Mount Auburn Street. That’s a distance of five or six miles through heavily trafficked urban areas; I was amazed the dog hadn’t been hit by a car.
I called Fresh Pond Animal Hospital and asked if anyone was looking for a little white dog. Nope. I checked online (Craigslist and FidoFinder.com) to see if anyone had posted about a missing dog. No, none of the lost dogs fit the description. After posting a “lost dog” alert on Twitter and Facebook, I figured I’d done what I could, and left the search to the professionals.
But for the rest of the day and all weekend long, I worried about the little dog and wondered if it was still on the run, dodging traffic. It was rainy and windy on Friday night, horrible weather to be outside. Walking my own dog, who’s about the same size and color, I kept my eye peeled and shuddered at the thought of ever losing him. I sorely regretted that I’d been too cheap to have a microchip implanted when he was a puppy.
Then, on Sunday night after dinner, I checked my Cambridge Canine email and discovered a message from a woman named Kerry who had found the dog! (Her attached photos left no doubt it was the same dog I’d seen.) Even more surprising, she’d found the dog on Friday night behind the Mobil gas station near the Concord Avenue rotary, exactly where I’d last seen it. The dog hadn’t kept running, after all. Her email said the dog, a female miniature Poodle, had a pink collar but no tags. Elated that the dog was safe, I phoned Kerry right away and told her what little I knew: that the dog may have come all the way from Charlestown, which didn’t surprise Kerry since its paws were cut and sore. I told Kerry I’d help get word out that the dog was safe and that she was trying to locate the owners.
About half an hour later, Kerry called back and said she’d gone on FidoFinder and that a couple from Charlestown had, in fact, lost a small white poodle. The owners must have posted their notice after I’d originally searched the site on Friday morning; I kicked myself for not thinking to check the site again over the weekend. Kerry said the owners were overjoyed to know their beloved dog (“Silvie”) was safe, and that they were on their way over to Kerry’s house to pick her up that night. A bona fide happy ending!
The Most Important Thing to Do
Silvie was one of the lucky ones; according to FidoFinder, fewer than 16% of lost dogs are ever reunited with their owners. FidoFinder, which says it maintains “the largest public database of lost dogs” (over 235,700), does not charge a fee to list or search for a lost dog. Owners can offer rewards (“awards” in FF’s lingo), if they choose, but FidoFinder does not facilitate in the collection.
I highly recommend that everyone take a few minutes to read FidoFinder’s very helpful tips on How to Find a Lost Dog. Don’t wait until you lose your dog (hopefully an eternal wait!), because by that point you’ll be far too distraught to follow such a clear-headed instructions.
One of the best suggestions is to keep any “lost dog” poster you distribute as simple as possible for maximum visibility and impact. LOST DOG, a photo and your contact number is all the information needed. Don’t clutter it up with details about your dog’s age, gender, identifying marks, or where the dog was last seen. Make the font as large as possible, so that even someone driving a car can read the flyer. People don’t encounter stray dogs every day — if they do see happen to one, and they’ve also seen your flyer, they’ll contact you. Then, you can ask all the questions you want to verify it’s actually your dog.
By the way, if you lose your cat, there’s a sister site called TabbyTracker.com.