What to Do When Your Dog is Lost Scholarship Finalist Essay

Finalist: E. Salz

University of Missouri


As a veterinary student, and the proud mother of my own pup, I understand how easy it is to become attached to these furry four-legged friends of ours. It’s also easy to understand how traumatic it can be to lose the canine you care so much about. Sad as it is, it’s a subject you ought to give some thought to once in a while – not because you expect it to happen, but as a preventative measure in case you find yourself in such a situation in the future. Luckily for you, I have endured the trauma of losing my own dog (and also finding her again, quite thankfully), and have a few tips and pointers to share from my own experiences.

When you realize your dog is missing, the most natural instinct for a loving owner is to panic – but don’t. If you actually do lose your dog, these words that you are reading right now are probably the last words that will come to your mind in the heat of the moment, but try to remember, above everything else, not to panic. Your dog is lost and lonely out in the world, and you are his lifeline; what he needs most is for you to remain calm, cool, collected, and to act as reasonably as possible to get him back to you safely.

The first step in retrieving a lost dog is to scan the immediate area. The more quickly you can do this, the better chances you have of finding him right away. Your dog will probably be scared, and will act differently depending on his personality. He may decide to hide anywhere that makes him feel safe – and hopefully that place is close by! If he decides to run, however, it will be crucial for you to get to him before he gets too far away from you. If you are not able to find him, do not worry; there are still many other ways to get him back. Above all, it is still important not to panic!

Next, you need to spread the word and get his name (and your name) out there. Call the animal control offices in your area, the next town over, 30 miles away; it doesn’t hurt to cover a large distance. You may be surprised at how far your little guy can get in just a short amount of time! Let them know about your dog, see if they’ve seen/heard/brought in anything, leave your contact information with them. It is animal control’s job to deal with lost pups like yours, and you can bet that if they find him or hear about him he will be back in your arms in no time! Don’t leave your search solely in the hands of the animal control officer, however; there are many, many other people who may find your dog and take him in without bringing him to the authorities. The classic “lost dog” sign actually works! Find a picture that gives sufficient detail for passersby to be able to identify him, and hang it up everywhere – telephone poles, parks, post offices, shops, anywhere that people may walk past and see it.

One of the arguably best – or worst, depending on how you’d like to look at it – aspects of today’s society is our addiction to the online realm. In the click of a mouse or tap of a finger you can become virtually connected to anything in the world; use this to your advantage! Post on social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – and ask for the help of others to spread the word around and locate your dog. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get others to lend a helping hand, especially when man’s best friend is part of the equation!

If you have followed all these tips, yet still have not found your pup, do not just give up hope; the world works in mysterious ways, and there is still that chance that he may find his way back to you. If it does, in fact, turn out that he doesn’t come back to you, it is a heartbreaking, yet inevitable, fact to have to face. If this is the case though, don’t let this bad experience deter you from getting another dog in the future. Learn from your mistakes; put a tag on your dog’s collar with your phone number on it, microchip him, install a dog fence, whatever you can think of that may prevent this situation in the future, but do not give up hope in yourself as a dog owner. You can rest assured that your pup who got away loved you very, very much, regardless of the reason he ran away, and if you are willing to give that sort of unconditional love and care to another dog, then you were meant to be a dog owner!

Although not completely infallible, I believe these are the most reasonable steps you can take to retrieve your lost dog. It is important to take the proper preventative measures, but also important to act rationally if by chance your dog does end up lost. Above all, don’t give up hope, and don’t panic!

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