Bucket's Big Adventure
On Wednesday, the worst thing imaginable happened: Our dog, Bucket, escaped from my parents house while Alex and I were away. When we arrived back from a long day shooting in the studio, hungry and tired and ready for dinner and bed, we were greeted by a frantic search party circling the neighborhood for Bucket. Panic stricken, I dropped everything I was carrying into the hands of my neighbor and took of running, calling him name endlessly hoping he'd crawl out from wherever he was hiding at the sound of my voice.
We called the local police and humane society to report him missing. We printed up flyers. We emailed a photo of him to our neighborhood newsletter. We searched, we called for him, we whistled, we cried.
Darkness fell, and we combed the park with flashlights for hours to no avail. Finally around 2 am, we had to give up and rest. Alex nor I had eaten anything since breakfast, but we went to bed with empty stomachs and our shoes on in case we needed to jump up at any minute.
I can not explain to you how much this dog means to us. And how desperately I knew he must have been missing home. Bucket is an unusual dog. He is extremely sky, skiddish, and nervous. He is deeply attached to me, and usually follows me around like a shadow. I can only imagine that he escaped from my parents' yard in search of me. I knew that no one would be able to approach him because he is so scared of other people, and that the greyhound in him would enable him run faster than any human could, making him even more difficult to catch. My only hope was that we would find him and that he would come to us when we did.
Sleep never came. I tossed and turned, trying not to think about what Bucket was experiencing. Having read that Italian Greyhounds are uncomfortable -- at best -- in temperatures under 70 degrees, I shuddered to think what 55 degrees outside would do to him.
As the sun rose, we pulled ourselves from our sleepless bed and resumed our search. We hung our flyers all over the neighborhood, parks, and schools. We handed one to every person we met. We called him name over and over hoping he would hear our voices and run to us. We walked the quiet streets from six am until nearly one in the afternoon with no leads or signs of him.
We drove the street, hollering his name out the window until we both went hoarse. Subconsciously, I started scanning the sides of the road, praying I wouldn't see him lying there.
At about one in the afternoon, eight hours after we had began our morning search, seventeen hours after he went missing, we went home to see if he had come back on his own. He hadn't.
Fear rolled through me. Was he dead?
Alex decided to take a shower while I drank the coffee my mom had picked up for us. While he was in the bathroom, the first call came in. A glimmer of hope. A neighbor, named Ron, had seen him across town, recognized him from the flyers and neighborhood newsletter, noted his location, and circled back here to get my phone number off one of the flyers. By the time he called, it had been about 10 minutes since he saw Bucket casually walking down the street all the way across town. According to where he had been spotted, Bucket would have had to cross two major motorways -- a least four lanes of traffic each -- and gone over the tracks of a frequently-running train. That seemed impossible.
I jumped in the car, anyway, and drove the two and a half miles to where he had last been seen. I parked the car on the corner and lept out, desperately screaming Bucket's name. Alex and my mom arrived a few minutes later, his hair still wet from the shower. We scoured the winding streets of this cross-town neighborhood for an hour. Ron even left his job at a local elementary school to show us the exact location where he had seen Bucket, and walked the beat to try to find him.
No sign of Bucket.
Doubt began to set in. Was Ron lying to us? Pulling our leg? Was he just mistaken? Had he seen Bucket, or some other dog? Maybe he reported the wrong intersection? Worse: was Bucket hit by a car? Would we even be able to find his body? How would we get the closure we so desperately needed? We needed him back!
We sat in Alex's car silent and dumbfounded.
Suddenly, a miracle. A call from the humane society came through the car speakers. Someone had a very scared, small dog matching Bucket's description in their back yard. So full of hope, we both shouted, "Where? Where is he?!" The operator told us to calm down and connected us to the man who had called in. He was right around the corner! Bucket was in this neighborhood! Ron had been right!
In less than 30 seconds, we arrived at the house and dashed into this man's yard. Huddled in the corner of his yard, there was Bucket. Dirty, covered in cuts and scrapes, crying, and indeed frightened of even us.
I scooped him up, tears of relief and gratitude rolling down my face. We gave a thousand thank yous. We could not have been happier. We didn't even get the man's name. I carried Bucket to the car and he yowled and winced in pain. We headed home.
Twenty excruciating hours later, the nightmare was over.
Bucket was missing for less than 24 hours, but they were undoubtedly the worst of my life. Losing a pet is something no one ever wants to experience, and even when you are very careful, pets can run off. Based on our experiences, here are a few tips: some of the things we did right and some things we wished we had done.
HERE'S WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. Report him missing to the Humane Society, Local Police, Animal Shelters, Vets, and Animal Control. Don't just ask if they have found him. Insist on leaving his description and your contact information. You'll want to tell them his name, breed, size/weight, gender (and if he's fixed), any special markings or tattoos, what he's wearing (collar color, etc), and microchip number, if you have one.
Here's why: The person who cornered Bucket in their yard couldn't get close enough to read his collar and my phone number before he began to bear his teeth at him out of fear. Instead, they called the Humane Society and described Bucket to them. Because they already had a record that he was missing because Alex had called and made a report the night before, they were able to contact us and patch us through to the man. If they didn't have our information, they would have sent a dog catcher (who likely wouldn't have been able to catch him), and we would have had to go pick him up from the pound, rather than getting him right then and there.
2. Microchip your pet.
Here's why: We were lucky we didn't have to identify him by his chip, but if he had gotten out of his collar and vest, that would have been the only way to know who he was. (Side note: when we adopted Bucket, we were told that his microchip could not be updated with our info, and that if he were ever lost, the finder would call them, and they would call us. NOT TRUE! It is absolutely possible to change your pets microchip registration after you adopt him. Do it.
3. Put flyers up and spread the word.
Here's why: Bucket was found because our neighbors actually took the time to read out signs and the message we sent to the local newsletter. They actually work! Post flyers, make an ad on craigslist (put one in the Pets section and one in the Lost and Found section), submit to local newspapers, newletters, and online bulletin boards. They will make all the difference.
4. Do not stop looking.
Here's why: It's been proven that searching for your pet is the best way to recover him! Bucket did not know where he was or how to make his way back to my parents' house, so we had to go for him. If we had given up or stopped searching, I'm confident he would have never reversed his path all the way back to us and walked home.
HERE'S WHAT I WISH WE HAD DONE:
1. Stop what you're doing right now and go take a good picture of your pet. I'm sure you have hundreds of photos of him making a goofy face or taking a nap. Those won't do. Take one that shows his size and shape, particular markings and any special traits. Take it against a white background so that if you have to print it in black and white, your pet will be recognizable.
Here's why: It was midnight when we decided to make posters, I was exhausted, frantic, panicked, and numb. I couldn't find a picture that really showed the way Bucket looked. All I had were silly instagrams of him. It upset me even more going through old photos of him trying to find a good one.
2. (Are you back from taking that photo?) Make a Lost Pet poster template so that, god forbid, when you are in a pinch and can't think, you'll have one ready. Leave off date and time, and last place seen and fill that in if and when your pet is missing with the proper information. Put "Lost Dog" (or whatever your pet is) on the top in bold letters. Write a description of your pet, and tell your reader what they should do if they see him. Give a phone number and an alternate way to contact you. Make sure you include that great photo!
Here's why: I was so panicked that I could barely type. I couldn't think of what should go on the poster, and as a result, I left off some information I later wished I had included. I didn't know the best way to describe Bucket. It was so stressful having to work on this project when all I could think about was where the heck he was.
3. Expand your search. Don't just look in your local neighborhood. Look everywhere. Print a map of your town and as you search each street, check it off. Go through systematically, and keep widening your search area.
Here's why: We recovered Bucket in an area of town that was inconceivable to me that he would ever have been able to reach. We spent countless precious hours searching and re-searching the same few streets and area of our park. He wasn't even there! He was clear across town! Perhaps, if we had checked off the places we searched as we went and kept pushing our search radius wider, we would have found him sooner.
That's just a short list of what you can do. I also found this list helpful. If you've lost your pet, there is hope. Never, ever give up. Your pet wants to come home as much as you want him home. Don't forget that!