Loss of a Pet
Discovering that your pet is lost is frightening. There are several things you can do right away to help find your pet.
If your pet is a small animal lost inside your house, he may not be able to find water to drink. Leave his cage open in
case he comes back for water. Be sure he can reach the cage by placing it on the floor or supplying a safe ramp. Check around
sources of water as well as appropriate hiding places. Reptiles will seek out warmth. Rodents will look for a dark hiding
place with soft, chewable nesting material. Birds will be up high unless their wings are clipped and they are not able to
climb. In which case they can become trapped behind furniture by fluttering against a wall and sliding down. Listen for sounds
of your pet moving around at night and in the early morning.
If your pet escaped from the house, try to imagine what may have attracted your pet's attention; children playing, other
animals, a hiding place or source of food. This may give you an idea about where to start looking. If your pet has an ID tag
with your phone number, connect an answering machine to your telephone right away so you won't miss any important messages.
If you are away from home when your pet is lost, leave something that belongs to you or your pet close to where your pet
was last seen. If he comes back and finds a sock or jacket of yours or his cage, he may wait there for you to return. Come
back as often as possible. Ask friends to check for you. Put up signs.
If you do see your pet but he will not come to you, do not chase him. Kneel or sit down and see if he will come closer.
Open some food wrappers and pretend to eat, or lie down and pretend to sleep. Avoid eye contact. Jingle the car keys (IF he
likes the car) or play with a toy that he likes. Try to keep him in view without running after him. If you leave food and
return at the same time each day, you may be able to establish a schedule that will help you catch your pet.
Use other pets to attract your pet. If he has a companion that you can put outside in a cage or take along on a leash,
do so. Leave a route into your house open for your pet, such as a pet door or even an open window, if that is safe, in case
he comes home while you are out. Make sure your other pet cannot escape.
Make flyers or postcards to give to neighbors and post in the area. If you have a photo of your pet, put it on the original
and make copies. The shorter the message, the more likely someone can read it while passing. Many people will not know your
pet by breed or sex so describe your pet by color and size.
"LOST PET. Medium sized brown and white dog. Please call XXX-XXXX".
Be sure to put your phone number on the sign. If you offer a reward do not specify an amount. Post signs in stores and
at traffic intersections. Ask schools to make an announcement to students. Children will be likely to see and remember your
pet if he is in the area. Ask your mail carrier and trash collectors. Tell everyone you can. The more people who hear of your
lost pet, the more likely you are to get him back.
Call pet stores and veterinarians in your yellow pages. If someone finds your pet he may inquire at a pet shop while buying
supplies. If your pet is hurt, someone may take him to the doctor. Go to local animal shelters as often as possible. Some
pets will be mistaken for other breeds so a telephone description is not enough to know that your pet is not in the shelter.
Check with the office staff about pets that were found but not brought in to the facility. Be sure to leave a flyer or photo
at the shelter.
Check with local animal rescue leagues to see if they think your pet could have been stolen. Sometimes several pets in
one neighborhood disappear at the same time. If you believe your pet has been stolen, make a police report. If the animals
are found, the police will need to know how to find you. Pet thieves may remove identification from the animal.
You may want to call road services to find out if any pets hit by cars were picked up on the road. This is an unpleasant
thought but you may feel better knowing what happened even if it is bad news.
Place an ad in local papers in the classified "LOST" section. Check the classified "FOUND" column. Local radio stations
or even TV stations may carry lost pet announcements. There is variation in what people describe as Calico or Tabby, Hound
dog or parakeet. Respond to any ad that could be your pet but expect some false alarms. Don't be discouraged if someone who
found a pet says he doesn't respond to your pet's name. Your pet may not answer if called by a stranger.
Some dishonest people will call to say they have found your pet and ask for money for expenses. If you can not get your
pet first, you should not give anyone money. Offer to pay shipping companies or phone bills directly if necessary. Anyone
who really has your pet will be happy to make these arrangements.
Losing a pet is sometimes more difficult than accepting the death of a pet. It is hard to wait to find out what has happened
to your pet and difficult to accept that you may never know. Try to remember that there are a lot of caring organizations
and people that assist stray animals. The more of these you come in contact with, the sooner you will find your pet. Don't
give up. I know of pets found after 10 months away from home.
Pets become members of the family very quickly. We can't stop every accident from occurring, but some of the things we take
the time to do now, will help when accidents do happen.
Temporary ID collars can be made from waist band elastic and a laundry pen for animals that can safely wear collars. Elastic
is safer to wear all the time than a solid collar and will not damage a pet's fur. Tie the elastic with a knot that will not
slip so that your hand can just fit between it and your dog or cat's neck. Do not connect a leash to an elastic. You may also
write your phone number directly on your pet's collar.
Keep tags up to date and keep more than one in case a collar is lost. If you have a vacation home, have your pet wear a
tag for each address. Have your pet licensed with the local animal control agency at both addresses. Choose a phone number
for the tags that alerts a pager or answering machine when you are not available. You may tattoo your pet or a have a vet
place a computer chip under your pet's skin. If you use a microchip you have to notify the microchip company of your address
and any change in phone number. Make note of any pet tattoo or a bird's leg band and keep the notes in a safe place.
Keep a recent picture of your pet. Keep screens, gates, and doors closed and in good repair. Keep your pets indoors when
you expect service people or storms. Know where your pet carriers and leashes are in case of emergency, such as fire or flood.
Don't feed your cats until they come in for the night. Better yet, build a cat enclosure so they can enjoy the out of doors
safely or keep them indoors permanently.
Teach your pet to come when called. All dogs, cats, birds, and even most small mammals can be taught to associate a word
or whistle with a favorite treat or game. Most cats reliably respond to the can opener. Use a flashlight or a hand signal
if your pet cannot hear. If you always come through with the reward, your pet will be likely to come to you when you give
this signal, even if he is frightened.
Keep bird wings clipped and remember to take a bird off your shoulder when you answer the door. Teach talking birds to
say your name. Some people teach their birds a phone number.
Keep pets in carriers while they are in the car. Even if your pet is normally obedient, a car accident may cause him to
run away. Emergency personnel will often transport your pet if he is in a carrier. Put emergency phone numbers on the outside
When your pet travels by air, follow all regulations. Be sure the carrier is in good repair. If you have a physically strong
pet, try out the carrier at home first. Many dogs and parrots can open any latch that a person can open.
The Death of a Pet
When a pet dies you lose a member of the family. When you suffer such a loss you may feel a range of emotions from anger
and guilt to numbness and sorrow. The feelings get easier to handle with time. You may decide not to have another pet or you
may want to share your life with a new pet right away. You may want a pet as much like your old pet as possible or you may
consider a pet of a completely different kind. All of these decisions are up to you and time is on your side.
It is very important to remember that no matter how your pet died, whether he was lost, had an accident, or became ill,
you would never intentionally harm your pet. It may help if you talk about your feelings with someone else who has pets. Sadness
at losing a pet is so common that there are bereavement counselors that specialize in helping people cope with loss at veterinary
teaching hospitals and at the Animal Medical Center in New York.
Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as we would like. The time we can spend with them is a gift that does not last
long, but the memories of that special gift last a lifetime.
Pet Loss Hotlines