Time is critical when a pet is lost

Griffin. Jack. Love. Zig Zag. Loon.

These are just some of the names of lost pets in Maine. Some, like Love and Loon, have been reunited with their owners, but some are still missing.

So what can a pet owner do when their beloved furry family member goes missing? The key is in staying organized, calm, and prepared to enlist your neighbors in the search.

Play hide and seek. As soon as you realize your pet is missing, confer with family members or roommates about where they last saw your pet. Do a thorough check of the home including closets, under beds, in the basement, dark places, and attached buildings. Pour kibble or delicious smelling food into a bowl, or squeak a favorite toy to lure your pet out of hiding.

Once you’re sure that your pet isn’t in or around your home, take a walk or a slow ride around the neighborhood and around your home. Let friends and neighbors know that your pet is missing and find out if they have seen her. Check under porches and shrubs, and ask neighbors to keep an eye on their sheds and garages.

Expand your search. Start calling around to local veterinarians, animal control agencies, public and private animal shelters, and rescue groups. It’s possible your pet is already in custody and is just waiting for someone to pick her up.

Start spreading the word. Still no luck? Now is the time to create a “lost pet” flyer. Be consistent with the layout so that no matter who sees it, the information is the same.

The flyer should include the following:

1. A large, bold headline people can read easily, such as LOST DOG or MISSING CAT

2. Under the headline include a color photo of your pet that shows her, especially if she has distinguishing markings and that reproduces well if photocopied. List age, weight, breed, sex, color, distinguishing markings or features, and where and when she was last seen. Be clear that your pet is described accurately.

3. Include your name and two phone numbers: yours, and a friend or family member

Hit the streets. Take your newly made flyers and a team of helpers to post the flyers. Distribute to dog parks, pet stores, veterinarian’s offices, grooming shops, kennels, commercial businesses including grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats, lampposts, trees, telephone poles, and anywhere else people congregate. Always ask permission before hanging the flyers.

Hit the Internet. Once you’ve hit the streets, send emails about your lost pet to friends, colleagues, and family members, as well as on Facebook. Ask them to pass on the information to those who might be able to help.

Don’t give up hope. Despite what some will tell you, it’s important to not give up hope that your pet will come home. It could take a while, but not giving up hope that your pet will return is important.

If you’re fortunate not to have experienced the torture of a missing pet, there are things you can do to keep your pet safe and be prepared.

Tag or microchip them. ID tags are important for all pets regardless of if they go outside. The ID tag should have the pet’s name, your name, and a current phone number. Add even more safety by microchipping your pet. The microchip is a small chip embedded under the skin and contains your pets information, your information, and even your vet. If you choose to microchip your pet, keep the records up-to-date.

Hate the jingle? Consider purchasing for your dog or cat a collar that has their information sewn right into it. Classic Hound, a Portland-based dog-centric company, offers a product called the “Take Me Home” ID Collar which has an engraved buckle on it that contains the pet’s vital info (pet’s name, owner’s name, phone number and address). Other companies can be found online that offer custom collars that contain the pet’s information on them.

Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations. If your pet does get out, she may be exposed to things that can be dangerous to her health. By keeping her up-to-date with vaccinations, you’ll be protecting her at home and elsewhere.

Keep recent photos of your pet on hand. Whether they are taken by you, or a professional photographer, having recent photos of your pet (full body photos and portraits) in a readily accessible place will help if you ever need to get their image out quickly.

Train them. January is national dog training month and it’s the perfect time to renew your connection with your dog while also training some behaviors that will keep her safe. The most basic commands, coupled with a trusting relationship with your dog, will help her respond readily and prevent accidents. For information on choosing a dog trainer, visit the Association for Professional Dog Trainers at http://apdt.com/petowners.

This story originally appeared in The Weekly on January 19.