The Search for Quiz, the Lost Dog (Plus, 16 Tips for Finding Lost Pets)
Nobody plans to lose a dog. Maybe that's why nobody plans ahead how to find a dog (although, if you haven't microchipped your pup yet, here's a reminder as to why you should!). But acting fast and having a plan are two key ingredients to finding a dog once lost.
When your dog is first lost, your instinct is to search high and low. Check the worst places — like roadways — first, the most likely places second, and, eventually, every other place.
It won't take you long to realize you can't do it alone. You need helpers in the form of both friends and strangers — you can find the latter with posters and several contact services now available (and listed at the end of this article).
You need to alert anyone who might notice a strange dog; People like postal workers, sanitation workers, school bus drivers, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, delivery people and neighborhood kids are fantastic allies. After the first day it's easy to be overwhelmed by what appears to be the enormity and hopelessness of the situation. But hope is sometimes your best weapon.
The date was November 23, the day before Thanksgiving, and that seemed like an ideal time for a group of friends to drive a couple of hours to let their dogs run in the Mojave desert near Edwards Air Force base. The dogs, all Salukis, relished the open areas — plus the occasional jackrabbit chase. It was after such a chase that one dog didn't return.
The missing dog, Quiz, belonged to Terry Saunders, of San Pedro, California. "After about 20 minutes of calling him, we jumped into a car to search," she recalls. "I thought he'd probably injured himself and couldn’t return."
Saunders and her friends searched by car and on foot throughout the day; Saunders also called Quiz's breeder, who made up flyers and traveled there to post them and join the search.
Night fell. Saunders slept (sort of) in her van where Quiz had last seen it, hoping he'd return. He did not.
November 24: Saunders resumed searching, aided by flyers and friends. No sign. She camped again.
November 25: More friends came to search. None of them lived nearby; it was an hour's drive for the closest. Then news: Quiz, still wearing the blue jacket he'd been wearing when he was lost, had been spotted 10 miles away by a camper who'd seen a flyer! Saunders spent that night where Quiz had been seen, also setting out blankets and food in various places.
November 26: A plea went out for help on the Saluki-L chat list, a worldwide email discussion group for Saluki owners. While the group is often preoccupied with heated discussions about everything Saluki, they banded together for a member in need. More than 20 helpers showed up to post flyers, talk to campers and look for Quiz. Those who couldn't help in person sent their prayers and positive thoughts (and later in the ordeal, money to help with search expenses).
The food was missing and the blankets were scrambled in one of the places Saunders had left them the night before. She moved her camp there.
November 27: Saunders was cooking enticing food on a campfire when she saw Quiz. He approached to within 200 yards, but ran off when she stood up. "He was too far away to recognize me," she said. She later found out he'd been chased by people on motorcycles the night before, which would have made him extra leery. "They thought they could tire him out and catch him. They meant well."
November 30: No more sightings. Ads came out in the local papers. Helpers dropped off flyers at the post office and other busy locations, as well as at the sanitation company for the drivers to hand out (which they seemed glad to do). The thought was that dumpsters would be an ideal lure for a hungry dog.
Saunders camped out again; this time with a baited live trap borrowed from animal control. Temperatures dipped below freezing.
December 1: The trap remained empty. Helpers had plastered most of the town — including the post office, animal control, police station, market, gas stations, real estate offices, airport and laundromat — with flyers, and talked to kids, police, UPS, postal workers, anyone they met. The area in which Quiz was lost covered over 900 square miles of rough terrain. Friends lined up search dogs and a wildlife veterinarian with a tranquilizer gun, but those would only help if they could narrow down Quiz's location. And still no sign of him in over three days.
December 9: The food was gone from the trap. (They would later discover birds ate the food, so they put a screen over it.)
December 11: Now 19 days since Quiz had gone missing, and 11 days since the last sighting. "Basically at this point, unless we get a sighting, there is not much we can do," Saunders sadly realized. "Unless you have been out there, it is hard to imagine just how vast and isolated the area is … there is no civilization for miles on either side of the town." Even the off-roaders, who had been a main source of eyes, were few and far between now. Saunders returned home two and a half hours away.
December 18: A plane with a spotter flew over the area, but no sign of Quiz. "At least we tried."
December 20: "Not much to report today. I'm trying very hard to not be discouraged," reported Saunders to the Saluki chat list.
December 21: A man called who thought he'd seen Quiz in his blue jacket a few days earlier, near where Quiz was seen right after Thanksgiving. Saunders alerted the off-roaders and animal control that he might be in that area.
December 22: Two calls; both false alarms.
December 26: Saunders borrowed a larger trap from a Greyhound rescue group and set it where Quiz had been possibly seen, thinking the smaller trap may have closed too quickly to catch him.
December 27: Another false alarm: When handing out Lost Dog business cards (cards are handier than flyers and more likely to be kept), somebody said she'd seen Quiz being walked a few days previously. It turned out to probably be one of the searchers' dogs.
December 28: Day 36 since Quiz was lost. Saunders posted her thanks to everyone for their concern and help, marveling that even after all this time friends and strangers were willing to pass out flyers and look for a dog they'd never met.
December 30: Saunders and a friend went back to where Quiz was spotted a month earlier and just sat on a ridge and looked. Terry stayed behind after her friend left, darkness falling. It had been 38 days; maybe it was time to give up. But how? What if he was out there?
A while later her friend called, saying she'd received a call while driving from a woman asking if she'd lost a dog. But the name on the license wasn't Quiz. Another false alarm. Then the woman read the name and it matched Saunders' other dog. Could Saunders have switched collars?
Saunders tried not to get her hopes up. "There had been several disappointments, and I was afraid it really wasn’t him." But still, "I had to really concentrate to drive at a reasonable speed!"
Then she was walking in a strange house, into the kitchen … and there was an emaciated dog weakly scrambling to his feet and wagging his tail and jumping and hugging her. And she was crying, because Quiz was home!
Quiz had been found on the side of the road. Too weak to run, he allowed his savior to pick him up and she took him home, fed him and then found the phone number from the flyer she still had.
Quiz had gone from 55 to 36 pounds. It took him about three weeks to gain the weight back, and several months to build back his wasted muscles. "He’s back to his old self," says Saunders, except that he is wary of strange dogs and sticks closer on runs. She says he also wears a GPS collar these days.
Saunders did many things right in her search for Quiz. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, keep her story and the following tips in mind.
Lost Dog Search Tips
- Maintain a base where the dog disappeared. Camp, leave your car with the door open, leave a crate and blankets or anything with your scent.
- Call, visit and befriend area veterinarians, animal control officers, and shelters.
- Be aware of local events or clubs in the area, such as trail riding, hiking or off-roading.
By Phone and in Print
- Make large posters that state in large red letters “REWARD” and have a photo of the dog and a large phone number. Place them at intersections, along sidewalks, and anywhere with traffic.
- Make fliers or business cards to hand out and post at post offices, markets, laundromats and any frequented locations.
- Contact the police.
- Take out a classified ad in the newspaper, and contact radio stations.
- Contact your microchip company to notify them of your lost dog and to see if they offer any additional lost pet services.
- Get the word out on Internet groups relating to the geographic location, your dog's breed, a rescue organization, or any other group that might be of assistance. Now is not the time to be shy!
- Post on Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter.
- Check The Center for Lost Pets, Flealess Market's Lost Pets International, Missing Pet Network, Missing Pets, and Fido Finder.
- Find Toto and Pet Amber Alert send automated phone calls in minutes to local pet-related businesses and to neighbors.
- Help Me Find My Pet emails local pet-related businesses, as well as people who have signed up to receive alerts, within a 25-mile radius.
- Lost Pet Cards and Pet Harbor mail postcards with your dog's photo to everyone in your area within a day (fees start at several hundred dollars and vary depending on number of cards ordered).
- Act fast.
- Don't give up!