One thing I like to do, however, in addition to trying to contact the animal for clues to its whereabouts, is make sure the owners have done all they can on their end, both physically and psychically, to help get their pet home safely. I thought I'd share a little check list of suggestions and "things to do" here in case someone happening across this blog might find it useful.
- Printed posters, flyers, cards with your pet's photo, contact numbers, date and time missing, area last seen, and offering a reward? Often small printouts, like business cards, are easier to carry around and hand to people as you go door to door, and more likely to be kept, while of course the larger items are better for "distance viewing" (bulletin boards, etc).
- Places to put flyers: indoor community bulletin boards such as in grocery and convenience stores and post offices and banks, lobbies of apartment buildings, the side rear windows of your car (ask friends to do the same), windows of stores and other places of business where the managers give you permission (placed on the inside so the weather doesn't matter). Look for other sheltered places where the weather can't get to your flyer, as well as the more common spots like sign posts, etc. Find out if it's legal in your neighborhood to put posters on telephone poles, though. Not all places allow it.
- Canvassed your neighborhood putting up flyers and handing cards or flyers to all your neighbors? This means actually knocking on doors and speaking to the neighbors. If you have to leave a card in a door, try to go back to that house later and actually speak to someone. People are much more likely to take interest if they can attach the situation to a face.
- Talked and handed photos and contact information to everyone you can, especially delivery men, mailmen, anyone who makes a regular route through your area, and *children*? Kids almost always notice new dogs or cats wandering a neighborhood.
- Visited the local schools and asked to put up flyers there?
- Called the local police, veterinarians and shelters, and *visited* the vets and shelters? It often helps to go to the shelter personally, and often, as very busy shelter workers don't always "recognize" the identity of a dog or cat from a description they've received over the phone. Don't just visit your shelter once ... go back at least twice a week in case the animal has been picked up and the shelter workers failed to recognize it. This is not a slight on shelter workers in any way, they are very busy people in a high stress job and are trying their best, but they don't know your animal the way you do.
- Searched the immediate area, in and under any form of shelter, checked nearby woods and brush, talked to neighbors, in case the pet has been taken in or closed up somewhere or has holed up for shelter and warmth?
- If the pet is missing for more than a day: called the newspapers and placed Lost Pet ads? Likewise local radio stations, some of them will have a public service "bulletin board" type program.
- Have you remembered to try and see the situation from your animal's viewpoint? Think like a cat or dog ... try to put yourself on their level, see what they would see, find spaces they would fit in, examine motivation that might have led them astray such as smells or survival fears, etc.
- In addition, here is a method that has helped a number of animals get back home: Become quiet and focus your mind, try to calm yourself (not easy when you're so worried, I know). If you have children, instruct them to do this as well, kids are very good at painting clear mental images. Make a picture in your mind, make it as clear and "real" as you can, of a search light going out from your house. Now, imagine the animal seeing that light, understanding that it is coming from home, and following it home. Take time out every so often to repeat and strenghten this image, and send it to the animal. This little trick has helped several animals I know get home safely.
- If you have friends and/or animals in spirit with whom you still feel close, and "sense them around you", ask them to assist you in bringing your pet back home.
There are also professional pet detectives out there, such as the Sherlock Bones organization, whose services you may be able to enlist.