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2015-10-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

It becomes an owner’s worst nightmare when a beloved pet goes missing. Today’s “Dog Lost & Found” true tales will start with lessons for owners; then end with lessons for finders. Here goes:

Lost & found lessons for owners: Microchip your pets and keep your registration information current. When your pet is missing, hang as many legible flyers as possible, contact social media lost & found sites, follow up on every lead, expand your search, check all area shelters repeatedly in person and please do not be quick to think your hunt is futile. Sometimes recoveries take time.

True tale #1: “Dale,” a stray Chihuahua at Hempstead Animal Shelter, moved next door to Last Hope and a week later went home. He did not leave with new adopters, but, instead, with his original family who had been searching diligently for him.

The Ranger Reunion The Ranger Reunion “Dale” is really “Toby.” He belonged to a family from Huntington. We don’t know how he got to Hempstead Shelter rather than Huntington Shelter. Perhaps his finder knew Hempstead Shelter accepts strays found by residents 24/7, and took him there when Huntington was closed. Even this doesn’t sound plausible because if Hempstead Shelter is told a dog was found in another town, the dog is transferred to the correct town shelter when both shelters are open.

Maybe his finder mistakenly took “Toby” to his hometown shelter instead of the shelter in the town where the little dog was found...Or worse yet, perhaps someone devious took “Toby” for a “ride.”

That happened in 2012 with “Ranger,” a Mattituck Border Collie that was a stray at Babylon Shelter for months. Mattituck is 55 miles from Babylon Shelter. He wasn’t redeemed until the owner’s friend saw Ranger’s photo online. The Ranger reunion was as joyous as can be. A sinister neighbor made the Border Collie disappear twice. The second trip was further away– a drop-off at Lindenhurst HS. By the time the owner redeemed his beloved dog, he had moved away from his evil neighbor.

Meanwhile “Toby’s” real Huntington family had been driving around frantically looking for him. They expanded their search to include other LI town shelters and arrived at Hempstead shortly after “Toby/Dale” had left for Last Hope next door. Their persistence paid off. Hempstead Shelter notified Last Hope of possible owners.

When “Toby’s” folks got to Last Hope, the Chihuahua was thrilled to see them. There was no doubt they were his family. His young mom owned him since she was in high school, and now she was married with a child. “Toby” had an exciting time away from home. He was in two shelters, got updated shots, a microchip, spent an afternoon at the Merrick Fall Festival, then returned to Hempstead Shelter for his neuter and came back to Last Hope where his happy family claimed him.

True tales #2 & 3: Too many people think if you find a stray dog, it means the dog’s owners are neglectful and should not get their pet back. This is not true.

A dirty or matted dog doesn’t prove owner neglect. The dog may be lost a long time, or be a breed requiring lots of grooming. My Afghans would look completely unkempt soon after they became fugitives because of their long coats.

Dogs get lost through no fault of the owner. Several examples: A landscaper or delivery person may leave a gate open. Dogs often escape from pet sitters, especially when staying at the sitter’s house, because they take off, desperately searching for the owner they think has abandoned them. Thus was the case in 2011 when confused “Kirek,” a Border Collie, burst out her sitter’s door and vanished in Lindenhurst while her owners were in Georgia at an agility trial. Two weeks later a kayaker spied a marooned dog on uninhabited Indian Island in Copiague, and a canoe rescue was arranged.

Next pup panic situation: Years ago, a friend went to Amsterdam for the weekend. She boarded her Shepherd but left her Lhasa with a friend. Since she rescued this Lhasa from the middle of Cross Island Parkway years before, the dog may have had a history of being a runaway.

The sitter lived in a Baldwin apartment. She came home to find the Lhasa missing and the cover off her air conditioner. The Lhasa had escaped through the vent onto Grand Avenue. Panic ensued. The sitter posted flyers everywhere. On Sunday I drove around with her for hours. When we got back, there was an answering machine message from a lady who found the Lhasa minutes after her jailbreak. I stashed the Lhasa at Last Hope until our unaware friend’s return.

True tale #4: Sometimes Good Samaritans have admirable intentions but make lost dogs harder to reclaim because of erroneous assumptions and actions. They find a dog, decide the rightful owners don’t deserve the dog back and hand the pup off to a friend making it virtually impossible for distraught owners to reclaim their dog. Or they are unsure about what to do, so they take the dog to their hometown shelter and then “lie” about where they found the dog.

About 30 years ago, a Newsday ad said a dog from Valley Stream wearing a costume was missing. As luck would have it, a stray wearing a costume was taken to Babylon Shelter. I called the ad to learn the Valley Stream home backed up to Southern State Parkway. The dog must have gotten through the fence. The costume was this dog’s ticket home. The finder lived in Babylon Town and must have driven home after he rescued the dog off the parkway. He was afraid to say “Valley Stream”.

Lost & found lessons for finders: If you find a stray dog, take it to a vet to be scanned for a registered microchip. If not chipped, bring the stray to the municipal shelter in the LI town where found so the real owners have a chance to get their dog back.

Adoptable at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: This tiny male Pomeranian 15- 591 was found as a stray. “Captain Ahab” 5-384 is a survivor and a superstar. Rescued after being found with a broken pelvis, “Ahab” made a full recovery after his rear leg was amputated, and now charms the shelter staff with his incredible temperament. A feline treasure!

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