Two weeks ago, a frightened terrier mix named Pan ran away while his family was trapped in an overturned car.
A trauma ensued – not from the accident but from the dramatic search for a lost dog. The Croft family searched day and night in bone-chilling cold, and found Pan a week later, safe – but unable to walk. As his injuries heal, he leaves behind empowering lessons to help anyone who loses a dog.
Most pet owners know the basics: notify the local shelters, posters everywhere, Craigslist and the local police and fire departments. But even with email, Facebook and listservs, the process resembles searching for a needle in a haystack – until now.
Pan’s owners engaged Missing Pet Recovery Services (MPRS), a Concord-based not-for-profit that worked side-by-side with the family to find Pan and brought new approaches to the effort. The family, who live in Chatham County, had the good fortune to lose Pan in Durham’s Croasdaile/Watts-Hillandale Community, which immediately went on high alert.
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Here are some of the tools that made a difference in the search for Pan.
Facebook - Two Facebook pages, Lost and Found Pets of North Carolina and of the Triangle, provided online tracking of lost, found, and spotted pets, reassuring pet-owner reunions, and occasional tragedies. Both pages are great ways to help spread the word, especially since the page managers regularly cross post from Craigslist, local shelters, and other sources.
Scent/feeding stations and food trails – Feeding stations near reported sightings helped to keep Pan in an area. The Crofts loaded the stations with smelly food (like canned tuna) and clothing with family scents. They added trails of chicken to lead the Pan to the stations. Its best to put stations out early in the day, when they are less likely to attract small animals and vermin.
Sightings reported through Facebook and community networking helped the family map Pan’s movements. A late-night sighting brought the search to the area where they found Pan – a few hundred feet from a feeding station. For me, it’s a newfound commitment to report stray sightings. A simple cellphone photo with time and place, posted on Facebook, makes all the difference.
Trained tracking dogs and handlers from MPRS ultimately found Pan – relying on scents and sightings. In the words of Pan’s owner: “Watching that tracker dog work was unbelievable. I could tell you which light poles he peed on and which ones he passed. I know where he pooped. I know where he crossed the street. “
Car crates and harnesses – Professionals are quick to remind us to safely secure pets riding in cars with harnesses or crates.
The outpouring of support from the Orange and Durham communities has humbled the Croft family. They were offered places to stop and rest, and many local businesses helped with posters, food and materials at no charge. People donated generously to help with Pan’s veterinarian bills, including strangers who anonymously left checks at the veterinary clinic!
There’s a long healing ahead for Pan, who’s recovering from surgery for fractured hips. For the rest of us, there’s a profound lesson in the power of faith, community and compassion, along with some great new tricks.
Bonnie Hauser lives in Orange County with three rescue dogs. Barbara Long of Paw in Hand Dog Training ( pawinhanddogtraining.com/) contributed to this article.