THIS is how to recover a lost dog. We call it an “Intersection Alert” or a “Lost Dog Protest” and it grabs the attention of people. Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) has had great success with this recovery technique, including the rapid (15 minute) recovery of a lost Chihuahua named Sukhi at the 4th of July (see The Seattle Times story). We use giant, florescent LOST DOG posters and volunteers wearing bright green LOST PET RESCUE vests who “market” a lost dog at a major intersection in the immediate area where the dog vanished.
Intersection alerts are most effective when conducted at major intersections with 6 to 8 volunteers during commute hours. They are highly successful on cases of lost purebred dogs that are easy to describe in a few words like “YELLOW LAB” or “WHITE POODLE, BLUE COLLAR.” If a passersby can read a few words and visualize what the missing dog looks like, then we can get our message out to hundreds of people in a matter of hours. Well, we had none of those factors working in our favor last week when we tried to recover a mixed breed dog on the run for 9 days in her Seattle neighborhood.
“Tabu” was a 14-year-old hard-to-describe brown mixed breed dog with ears that were sometimes pointy, sometimes floppy. How do you put THAT description into five words? And we only had three volunteers: myself, Jim Branson, and Sam Franklin. Sam was there because she knew exactly what it was like to have lost a dog. Sam’s Bassett Hound, Daisy, was lost for 3 months until MPP was able to help her humanely trap the skittish dog (see Sam’s testimonial here). So it was three MPP volunteers plus Mike, Tabu’s owner. And it was noon on Saturday, not exactly rush hour traffic. We each set up at a corner and started twirling our signs.
Actually, we didn’t move the signs around like real sign twirlers do. We made it easy for drivers to read our message as they pulled up to the 4-way stop sign. We held a stack of fliers with a color photo of Tabu that included Mike and Rohini’s cell phone numbers. I found that if I held the flyer out and waved it as driver’s pulled up to the stop sign, many would roll down their passenger window so I could quickly hand it to them.
We probably handed out 500 fliers during the next few hours. At one point, I was the only one left on the corner because Sam had left for work, Mike had headed off to check on what turned out to be a false sighting, and Jim had headed off in another direction on another false sighting. I had a line of drivers who seemed pissed that I was distracting or maybe delaying them from their last minute Christmas shopping. My feet were killing me. Then it started to rain. It was at that point that discouragement hit. I began to question just why I was standing alone in the rain on a street corner. Thankfully, minutes later everything changed. A man who had one of the flyers with him called Mike. Tabu was in his front yard, laying by his porch. Mike rushed off and returned to our intersection just fifteen minutes later – with Tabu in his car!
We were all elated! After high-fiving Jim, we both followed Mike back to his house. I was there when he let Tabu inside where she drank water and ate some food. I snapped a picture as she dropped to the ground, grunted, and rolled back and forth with pleasure on a small rug on the wooden floor. Mike said Tabu rolled like that with anything that had their scent on it. I waited until Rohini got home because I wanted to see her joy. She had been torn apart with Tabu’s disappearance. Tabu had been a part of her life since she was a puppy. As Rohini gave me a big hug and thanked me, it reminded me of my signature verse. Back in 1997 when I first made the decision to help people search for their lost pets, I came across a Bible verse that confirmed that pet detective work was my calling. The verse is Romans 12:15 which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
After things settled down, I asked Mike and Rohini to let me take a reunion picture of them with Tabu. The smile on Rohini’s face says it all – this family was, once again, complete. It was a good day to rejoice!
BTW, I would not be doing my job as the founder of a struggling start-up nonprofit if I did not ask you to make a donation to Missing Pet Partnership! We take PayPal on our web site homepage or you can send a tax deductible donation to: Missing Pet Partnership, P.O. Box 3085, Federal Way, WA 98063. Our dream is that one day, the lost pet services we’re pioneering here in Seattle will be available in communities nationwide. But we can only reach that dream with your support!