This is the story of my friend's dog, Jackson, and what happens when a dog goes missing.
Jackson is a rescue dog who had a hard time before being adopted by his current mom. He has both confidence and separation anxiety issues. On September 11th, Jackson was left unattended, by himself, in an unsecured area outside at a dog daycare center in Addison, IL. It was approximately 20-minutes before he was checked on, and by then, he was gone.
I don't know about you, but that is my worst nightmare. And my friend had to live it after leaving her dog in what should have been a safe space. A few staff members and my friend searched for several hours to no avail. Flyers were made up and distributed to nearby businesses. We plastered social media with Lost Dog notices in every nearby town's community Facebook groups and every Lost Dog group we came across and we posted it on Nextdoor and Craigslist.
My friend was out there at all hours of the night and day, looking and hoping to find her best friend. She and her family put up flyer after flyer. There were several sightings over a period of 3 1/2 days. Lost Dogs of Illinois volunteers jumped in and directed us on the best practices for reuniting with your pet.
This is what we have learned... and we hope you never have to experience this, but if you do, here are things to take action upon immediately:
Report your dog missing to Lost Dogs of Illinois. It will spread from there and volunteers in the area will know the dog is missing and step in to help.
Post on Social Media everywhere you can but DO NOT give out the exact location your dog went missing from. This keeps your dog from getting spooked by more activity in the area when people are looking for him/her and running further away.
Flyer, flyer, flyer. Big and bold with the dog's photo and your phone number clearly posted. Every intersection. Every business. Every house. Start within half-mile of the area the pet went missing and each day, extend that by a mile.
Put out familiar items to your dog that will have its scent and yours on them. If they have a crate, put that out along with its bed, toys, something that smells like you, and food and water. Go bigger than kibble - - think people food like hotdogs and cheese. Be aware of nearby restaurants and water sources as these resources will be vital to your dog.
Contact police departments and animal control regularly in the nearest locales as that is who people often contact first when they see a loose dog and see if they've had any reports matching your dog.
Only family the dog knows well should be out looking for the dog. It's best to stay in the general area your dog went missing from and "hang out" with food. This means hours of waiting. Strangers will only spook your dog further and send him/her running out of the area.
If your dog appears to be staying in the same area, set up a food and water station for them to regularly go to. They can then be lured in from there with the help of volunteers from Lost Dogs of Illinois.
These are the big ones to get you started. It is important to not approach or call out to the dog or give them direct eye contact. When a dog goes missing, survival instinct kicks in quickly and their "lizard brain" takes over. They may not recognize you and they will definitely not go to a stranger especially if your dog is on the shy side.
It's important to remember that you do not have to go it alone - - social media is a vast resource that will have more eyes than you can imagine out there and volunteers from rescue groups who specialize in lost dog recovery will be there to help and guide you.
The story of Jackson has a happy ending. Flyers had several people calling in with sightings. Social media brought in a sighting to an area we weren't aware Jackson had been navigating. That led to flyers being posted in that area which led to a mailman seeing the flyers being posted and him notifying them that he had just seen the dog on the flyer. Which led to him leading my friend and her sister to the area he spotted the dog. Which led to Jackson stepping out from his hidey-hole and recognizing the car. He approached the car and they slowly, slowly lured him over with food and were able to scoop him up.
Jackson clearly had a rough time out on his own. He was missing for 3 1/2 days and covered over 3 miles of terrain. He was found coated in burrs that went down to the skin but thankfully was in good health overall. He has a road ahead of him to regain confidence but he will get there with time and training and the love of his family.