what to do when you lose a dog

Inky’s Story: Lost Dog Found

I have fortunately never had a dog go missing, but the thought of it just breaks my heart. That’s why I have joined some local searches for dogs and follow relevant websites so I know of missing dogs. Inky is one of the dogs I searched for in my neighbourhood. She was lost in Ajax in the coldest month of the year, and her posters were everywhere, courtesy of a group called Team Chelsea. Ann Coleman, a Team Chelsea volunteer, shares the story of Inky’s rescue.

On a freezing cold night in February of this year, a scared, timid reddish-toned Lab went missing from her home in Ajax around 7 p.m. As Inky bolted off into the night, she was last seen wearing a choke collar and dragging a green leash behind her.

Inky had only recently been adopted by her new owners when she went missing.

Inky had only recently been adopted by her new owners when she went missing.

Soon after, a call came into Team Chelsea, an organization of volunteers who search for lost dogs in Durham Region and return them to their owners. By 9:30 p.m., Inky’s picture and details were posted on the group’s Facebook page for all volunteers to see, and a mass text message went out for people to make their way to the area to help search for her. Several team members showed up to search the immediate and surrounding areas for Inky.  Parks, ravines, and nearby green spaces are our general looking spots as those are areas where most scared animals tend to head. Since Inky’s owners had had this sweet girl for only about four weeks, we knew she was unfamiliar with the neighbourhood and would continue running scared.

Several hours of searching the area turned up nothing, so the search resumed early the next morning. Many people spent long hours, day and night, searching for the elusive Inky while random calls of sightings came into our gal in charge. One call reported Inky being seen crossing a busy road and losing her collar, which was later found and confirmed to be hers.

With Inky still on the run, Team Chelsea created large posters, which volunteers posted all over the place, and handouts, which were given to people who were out on foot to bring awareness to all that there was a missing pup in the area. The team also notified Animal Control and the humane society. Day after day, many spent hours checking behind plazas and factories, walking through parking lots and green spaces, and the list goes on. The search widened as we looked for this shy, frightened girl. Areas were checked and rechecked.

Inky's "Lost dog" poster

Inky’s “Lost dog” poster

A couple of weeks after Inky went missing, a call came in from a gentleman who had seen an Inky poster and recognized the pup as the one that had made a home for herself at his place of employment. He said the dog in the poster had been coming and going to the yard and living in an overseas trailer (fortunately not destined to go anywhere) for a couple of weeks. Employees had been feeding her, and she came and went at her own pace. This was great news!

After speaking to Inky’s owners, Team Chelsea was given permission to sit quietly in the yard until the business closed for the night (11:30 p.m.). A couple of volunteers sat quietly in their cars at two different angles, watching and waiting anxiously in hopes that Miss Inky would show up, and after a few hours, there she was! She came around the corner looking nervous. She paced back and forth at the opening of the trailer, acting unsure that it was safe to enter. We think she knew we had been on her turf earlier as we had baited her makeshift home with nice smelly enticing food and added extra blankets for her. She continued to pace the area and wouldn’t go inside. It was approaching 11 p.m.—almost time that we would have to leave. After a discussion with Inky’s family, it was decided we would go so as not to spook her and risk scaring her off from her safe spot for good. With heavy hearts and tears, we drove away with Inky watching us leave. What a gut-wrenching feeling it was to have to do that, but we hung on to the hopes that she would go inside and settle for the night. It was freezing outside and snowing. Employees assured us she would likely go inside the trailer after we left and be there in the morning since that seemed to be her routine. They said the early morning staff would check right away and call us if she was there.

Inky captured!

Inky captured!

The call came not long after 6 a.m.: “She is in!” they said. “We have her blocked.” A mass text message went out to volunteers to attend a.s.a.p., and those who slept through it got a phone call! With hearts pounding, volunteers raced to the area and coordinated the next move. Two volunteers went into the trailer, and Miss Inky made a beeline for the door (which we’d blocked off from the outside). Before she got a chance to attempt an escape, a gently noosed leash was slipped over her head, and she was secured! It was over! Inky was going home! She was brought out of her safety zone and placed into a crate full of warm blankets.

Her anxious family was waiting outside for their baby. From the crate in her family’s car, Inky made eye contact with her mom for the first time since they had adopted her. It was a submissive “I love you, Mom” look—a look none of us will soon forget. Inky went to the vet’s shortly after for a checkup. Other than having lost a few pounds and having minor paw irritation from the snow and ice, she was in pretty good shape, all things considered.

We all learned a lot from Inky: the importance of having the right tools in our cars to lure (treats), search (flashlights), and secure (leash/collar) a dog…or any pet for that matter. And getting to the area as soon as possible after a pet goes missing is critical, as is never giving up.

The search for Tanner has been active for a long time. If you live in Durham Region, please keep an eye out for this beautiful boy.

The search for Tanner has been active for a long time. If you live in Durham Region, please keep an eye out for this beautiful boy.

The Team Chelsea Facebook page was originally set up in 2011, when a Bernese mountain dog named Chelsea went missing in Whitby and her owners wanted desperately to find her. Chelsea hasn’t yet been brought home, but volunteers remain hopeful that someday  she will be spotted and returned to her family. In the meantime, the page has attracted nearly 1,450 members, and volunteers have located and rescued more than 400 dogs. Team Chelsea is always in need of more members who can take immediate action to help find dogs as soon as they go missing. Funds are also needed to cover vetting costs including spaying, neutering, vaccinating, and microchipping of pets that are found but unclaimed (details are on the Team Chelsea page). Every little bit helps.

No matter where you live, if you are an animal lover, please keep an eye out for roaming pets. Join Helping Lost Pets and local groups like Durham Region’s Team Chelsea so that you can get updates about local animals missing. Keep a slip leash and treats handy. But even if you can’t catch a lost dog or cat, your reporting a sighting and taking a picture if possible may be the difference between life and death for that pet!