Who Let the Dogs Out :: How to Get Lost Pets Back Home Quickly


Who let the dogs out? (You sang that, didn’t you?) We are home more than ever. Families are outdoors and spending more time with our pets.

Animal fostering and adoptions have increased. Shelters have emptied. Dogs and cats find themselves in new surroundings.

I’ve always been an animal lover. Somewhere along the way, my love of animals and my mind for marketing combined into . . .

A passion for reuniting lost pets with their families

As a teenager I put up posters when my Cairn Terrier Toto was lost. A kind man saw my signs and brought him home.

Fast forward a few decades to cell phones and social media. Following a tornado, I became entrenched in helping storm victims locate their pets. A huge network formed on Facebook to reunite them.

Every family didn’t get a happy ending, but many got closure. Not every lost animal found its way home. That’s how our dog Brody found his way to ours.

So many pets get lost during storms. Fireworks scare them off too.

In the South those unexpected loud explosions start a few days before and linger a few days after all “fireworks holidays.”

Our dog has another trigger . . . Alabama football. We were cheering loudly for Bama to “Go, Go, Go” against LSU. Startled Brody jumped the fence and went.

After four days I had almost given up. I disregarded a potential sighting, thinking it was too far away. With multiple sightings of a dog meeting his description, I had to go see for myself.

Follow up on sightings meeting the description of yours until you see them.

We found our lost dog twelve miles away.  

He was running in the grass along the interstate towards traffic. I pulled over and he jumped in.

Thanks to the help of others online, our dog is back home.

I created a lost and found group for our community. The goal is to get every lost animal back home before they leave the area. There are several groups. Just search “lost” and they pop up. If there isn’t a group for your community, create one.

With a few fence jumpers, a child with special needs, and teenagers that just can’t seem to remember to close that gate latch, I’ve had practice locating my own lost dogs. We always assume they are going house to house along streets. I found mine running across the road into the woods. There wasn’t even a path. They were following their noses. That changed how I look for lost pets.

Getting Lost Pets Home Quickly

Keep a current photo of your pet. Post it as soon as you discover they aren’t home. Include the street, city, county, and state. Sightings from neighbors are so helpful.

Pets wearing collars with tags and/or microchipped are reunited with owners more quickly.

They make affordable tags with GPS.

Place the pet’s food outside. Fire up the grill. Put items with your scent outside. If not picked up or relocated by well-meaning people, they can follow their nose home.

Use Google map to get an aerial view. Search any wooded areas nearby and the nearest roads on the other side of them. Keep checking online for sightings.

There are many great resources. FindToto will call homes in a radius around the lost pet’s location. Register lost or found pets on PawBoost.

File a lost pet report with local shelters. Check their sites for found pets. Leave a photo with area veterinarians. Put up posters at high-traffic areas, stores, and gas stations.

Trust your gut. I searched for days for a dog named Beefy. Someone posted a photo of him with a plastic jug over his head. I was determined to find him or that plastic jug.

His owner said he loved the sound of crinkling an empty water bottle. As I crinkled an empty bottle other dogs appeared out of nowhere. For days I drove loops and searched the woods on foot. I kept passing this one long driveway. Something kept telling me to drive down it, but I didn’t.

Beefy was found down that driveway the next day in their dog house. Thankfully, minus the plastic jug. I’ve listened to my instincts ever since.

The next time I looked for a lost dog, I Google mapped the area. A cul-de-sac surrounded by woods stood out to me. 

I found her in minutes.

She was a few feet from the streets of her subdivision caught in a coyote trap.

Ask people to check traps they’ve set for wildlife predators. Have neighbors view footage from their game and doorbell cameras.  

When I see a post for a lost pet, if it’s close, with a few recent sightings, I’ll get up and go. My husband is no longer surprised when I bolt off the couch to go search for dogs I don’t know who belong to people I don’t know.  

I’m not always the one who finds the lost dog, and that’s okay. To see dozens of headlights and flashlights of strangers pulled over on the side of the interstate to help find a scared CJ, who jumped her pet sitter’s fence, is so heartwarming.  

So maybe I know the names and homes of more dogs in the area than I do people. It has helped get quite a few back home safely.

Neighbors and strangers working together for something good is so encouraging.

Restores your faith in humanity.

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Cathy Tuggle Maple was born in Birmingham and grew up in Forestdale. After graduating from the University of Alabama her heart told her Mt. Olive is home. There she resides with her husband of 17 years Tony, son Cory Davis 20, a student at UAB , daughters Molly, 15 and Jesilyn, 14 and rescue dogs Brody and Bailey. After a 15 year career in marketing Cathy considers it a blessing to have experienced being a single mom, a working mom and now a stay at home mom ( since Molly, born with Down syndrome is a runner who is inclined to escape, jump out windows etc.) One of her favorite quotes “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Cathy is an 8 year breast cancer survivor. She very recently lost her father unexpectedly and days later moved her Mom, who has Alzheimer’s, into assisted living. Cathy balances it all through her faith, chocolate, yoga, and by sharing her life experiences and hopefully a few laughs