When our blind dog Sage became lost in a Wyoming forest in 2003, my husband and I called on friends and family as well as strangers to help locate her. At that time, even cell phones were fairly new and there wasn’t much cell service in the area where she became lost. We went door-to-door and campground-to-campground throughout the timbered landscape, talking with people and hanging up posters. Although my husband had a cell phone, it did little good camping in the backwoods, so our posters and our face-to-face meetings provided a house phone number of a friend living in town. Because people came to our aid, we were able to bring our lost girl home and, thankfully, safe and sound.
Not everyone who loses a pet, particularly in the woods, is so fortunate. But now, 13 years later, there are many additional avenues by which a lost pet can return home safely, and that includes digital and other electronic means.
Facebook is a great way to enlist the help of a community when a pet goes missing. In my community of Casper, Wyoming, there are at least three Facebook pages for lost and found pets: Casper Pets LostNFound (https://www.facebook.com/groups/417171321683716/), Casper/Wyoming Missing Canines (https://www.facebook.com/wyomissingcanine/?fref=ts) and Wyoming Missing Canines (https://www.facebook.com/groups/wymissingK9s/) Administrators of these pages help spread the word about dogs, cats, even birds that are lost or those strays which have been found, and people who visit these sites are also very good about sharing when an animal has gone missing or one is found by a Good Samaritan. Numerous pets have been reunited with their worried owners because of these digital villages of caring people.
Microchipping a pet also has its positive advantages. HomeAgain is the company we have used (https://public.homeagain.com/) but there are others. At times I receive an email notifying about a lost pet in our community with a HomeAgain chip. Pet owners need to be responsible and keep the chip up-to-date with their latest address and phone number and renew the chip when the time comes. It does the Casper animal sheltering organizations no good to receive a lost pet with a microchip with outdated contact information or a chip that is no longer registered.
A fairly new technology are apps for SmartPhones that can help track pets, including ones made by Garmin and Tractive. Using satellite and GPS, lost pets can be found more readily using such an application. Check out a review of the various products at http://pet-tracking-devices-review.toptenreviews.com to learn more about this technology and see if it might be helpful for you and your pet as well as learn about the various products available.
Because we have property in a forested area with little to no cell phone service, the satellite GPS doesn’t do us much good. But, my husband learned of a product that doesn’t rely on cell phones; instead, the Marco Polo is similar to a tracking device used by wildlife biologists to locate wildlife species being researched. A tracking component attaches to the pet’s collar and a wand device then picks up the signal, letting an owner know if the pet is close by or far away (see http://eurekaproducts.com/). Because Mary, our springer/cocker mix, is like Sage in that she gets on a scent of a squirrel or deer and could disappear in a heartbeat, we keep the device on Mary’s collar when we’re visiting our cabin site and when we travel out of town.
In addition to traditional identification tags, some of these systems can come in handy to help pets and their owners reunite. From Facebook communities and Good Samaritans to tracking devices and microchips, it can take a village to bring a lost pet home. Thankfully, there are still concerned and caring people who help reunite animals with their owners.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.