I lost my dog, Bogie, on Sunday night while taking her for a walk in a residential neighborhood about a mile from our home—shortly after sunset, with temperatures in the 20s and falling fast.
It was trash day the next day on the street where we were walking. When she brushed up against a trash bag filled with empty glass bottles, it tipped over, spooked her, and she bolted.
The retractable leash that flew out of my hand went bump-bump-bumping against the pavement behind her, making our 10-month old German Short-haired Pointer think somebody was chasing her. To make matters worse, the metal hook at the end of the leash was hitting the pavement and creating huge sparks as she bolted down the street.
My commands to “heel” were useless. She just kept running.
Frantic, I called Bill. He called the police department, and then drove to the neighborhood to help find her. In separate cars, we drove up and down all the streets for more than two hours.
That got me thinking. How the heck do you find a lost dog at night?
Plan A: Ditch the car and hoof it through the neighborhood all night, calling her name and whistling twice through my fingers, the code she knows means “get back here right now.” That’s what I do when I walk her off leash at the park in a safe rural area. She always comes back to me when she hears me whistle.
Plan B: Call the vet. I called our vet’s emergency phone number and asked her how to find a lost dog at night. She told me to call the police and to notify people in the neighborhood the next day. She reassured me that dogs have a surprising ability to stay warm even in cold wather. Her own dog disappeared for three weeks in January in Wisconsin’s sub-zero temperatures and somehow managed to find its way home unharmed.
About an hour after I called the vet, as we were searching, I devised Plan C:
Canvass the neighborhood the next day with bright yellow “Lost Dog” flyers. Include her photo. Post the flyers all over town. Then place a classified ad in the local weekly newspaper and on Craigslist. (See my article “Craigslist: A valuable publicity tool.”)
I don’t ever remember seeing a list of tips anywhere on how to find a lost dog, or how to walk a dog so it doesn’t run away while I’m walking it. Vets, humane societies, pet supply stores and anybody whose business or organization deals with pets should be offering these kinds of tips to the media, in articles and in blog posts.
Other Publicity Hounds can generate coverage by piggybacking onto the “how to find a lost (fill in the blank)” theme.
—Telecommunications companies: What should people do if they lose their cell phones?
—Accountants: What if people lose the file where they’ve been stashing papers to hand over to you at tax time?
—Police departments and mall management companies, how can people find lost cars at the mall? What about lost children?
Most of you can think of an idea along these lines. When you do, consider writing a tip sheet on “9 ways to find a lost (fill in the blank).” See “Special Report #16: How to Write Tip sheets That Catch the Media’s Attention.”)
So here I am on a cold Sunday night, trying to devise Plan D when the cell phone rings. It’s the sheriff’s department, telling us that a pastor at a nearby church found Bogie “chained” to his garbage dumpster. But he didn’t know if she’d bite, and he wouldn’t get close enough to her to see that she wasn’t chained. Rather, her leash got caught on the bottom of the dumpster. All she could do was jump up and down and bark.
On the two-minute drive to the church, I was sobbing, promising myself to never be so stupid again.
We brought her home, put her in the bathtub to wash the blood off her feet and dried her with warm towels. She pranced off to bed, right into her kennel, where she slept the entire night and most of yesterday.
I’m still puzzled. What should I have done differently? How do you walk a dog so it can’t get away from you? The retractable leash doesn’t seem to solve the problem. And how do you find a lost dog or cat in the dark?