How to Find Your Missing Chihuahua

Having just lived through the harrowing experience of having Fiona, our teensy four-pound Chihuahua, go missing in a fox-ridden golf course neighborhood for 16 hours, I thought it might be useful to share what we did that eventually resulted in a happy human/canine reunion.  Feel free to add any of your own advice in the comments below if I’ve left anything out.

1. Put up signs.  This was our best tool.  Be sure to put your pet’s picture and your PHONE NUMBER clearly on the sign.  Preferably a cell phone number so you don’t have to keep going home or calling in to check it.  (Do not put your pet’s name on the sign;   you don’t want to give people the ability to bond with the dog and keep it.)   Using the last place you saw your dog as home base, post signs at every intersection you come to while walking in a spiral outward from home base.  By spiraling you will reach everyone in a nearby radius.   Call your pet’s name loudly and frequently while you’re walking or biking this spiral.  The pet may be too freaked out to come to you but it will let people know that they should be on the lookout for a missing pet.

2. Pass out flyers.  While we were posting signs in a spiral we also made extra flyers to hand out door-to-door at every house and to everyone we passed on the streets.   The object was to get as many people as possible involved in the search.


3. Contact your local Humane Society or SPCA or shelter(s).  They may already have your pet!  If not, you can file a missing pet report with them and they will contact you if an animal comes in matching your description.

4. Post online. Craigslist has a Lost and Found section that you can post in.  Also, be sure to check their Pets section. I had a tip from Avery Angelo that sometimes unscrupulous people will find an animal then list it as their own in the Pets for sale section as a way to make money.   Also post on PetHarbor.com (FREE),  FidoFinder.com (FREE), MissingPet.net (FREE),  and any local publications.  You can also use PetAmberAlert.com but they charge $39.95.

5. Notify your vet and then fax the “Missing” poster to all nearby veterinarian’s offices and animal hospitals, especially the 24-hour emergency vets.  Take your poster to all local pet shops, pet food stores, groomers, etc.  In Boulder this includes PC’s Pantry, Whole Pets, Only Natural Pets, Petco, Petsmart.

6.  Follow up on leads immediately.  We started getting calls about four hours after we posted our signs.  One spotter called us while she was following Fiona through the neighborhood.  Fiona is tiny but quick, like a furry lightning bolt, so this poor woman was really pounding the pavement to keep up with her. She gave us a play by play account of Fiona’s every move but by the time we caught up to her,  Fiona had ducked into some bushes and disappeared.  But at least we knew where she was 45 seconds earlier so we were able to focus our search on that area.

7. Live in Boulder, CO.  Or some other great dog city.  I lost count of how many total strangers dropped, literally dropped, what they were doing on a lovely Sunday morning to hop in their cars or onto their bikes and help us search.  We would never have found her if it hadn’t been for the help of our entire neighborhood pulling together, calling us with sightings, following her, tracking her every move.  When we finally found her it was because of a woman who was gardening in her back yard when she saw Fiona dart by.   She remembered hearing us calling for her so she ran out the street,  found one of our signs and called us to come right away.

Fiona seemed disoriented when I found her, she didn’t recognize me or the sound of my voice until I was about five feet from her.  She collapsed with relief (my interpretation because my own knees went weak with relief at the same time!) and crawled to me for a very slobbery reunion.

When you find your pet, I think it’s a nice, courteous touch to replace some of the “Missing” signs with “Thank You!” signs to let everyone know your fur baby is safe and sound and they can stop looking.   Be sure to call or go back to all the places where you posted notices and let them know all is well too.

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