A friend of mine lost his dog a few weeks ago. Don't worry, you can keep reading, the story has a happy ending. He and his dog are once more sharing snacks on the sofa.
If you ever lose your pet, here are some things that may help you be reunited. First, call the local shelter. My friend checked their website regularly, but the Chautauqua County Humane Society doesn't post photos until the animal is available for adoption, which isn't until after the owner has had a chance to claim the animal. In his case the dog was at the shelter a week longer than he would have had to be. So, call the shelter. Call more than once. You might call Monday morning, and your pet might not be picked up until Monday afternoon. If you have a photo, stop by in person and don't depend on a verbal description. If you have a mixed breed, your idea of what your dog looks like, and the shelter's may be two different things.
Check all the shelters in the area. In our case, check Dunkirk and Warren. Dogs can travel quite a ways, and the longer the animal is gone, the farther away they may be. Years ago a German Shepherd dog escaped from a fenced yard and was found half an hour later 8 miles away.
Run an ad in the lost and found column of the paper. Maybe someone took your pet in. Read that same column. Someone may list your pet as "found" but not make the connection between their ad and yours.
Locally, check out Pet Alert on Facebook. This site is what ultimately reunited my friend and his dog. Pet Alert posted a photo, and someone recognized the dog and passed the information on.
Put up signs around the neighborhood. If you can include a photo of your pet on the poster, that photo will be more helpful than a long description. If you can copy the photo in color, that's even better. Otherwise, a brief description, color or colors, any distinguishing features, (a scar on the muzzle, or limps), and your contact information are essential. Your pet's name may also be helpful, but a frightened animal probably won't respond anyway. If you are offering a reward, just say "reward" and don't put a specific amount. Ask kids in your neighborhood if they've seen your pet as kids tend to walk more places and may have seen your pet.
Go door to door. Possibly someone has seen your pet, but not your posters.
Use social media. The more people who know your pet is missing, the better.
Check with all area veterinarians. Your pet may have been injured, and someone may have taken him to a veterinarian. Keep checking. Many veterinarians post information in their waiting room, so ask if you can put up one of your posters. If not, at least leave a poster with the receptionist, so if your pet is brought in, they can contact you.
Consider getting your pet micro chipped. Collars can snag and get pulled off, and if that happens, there goes any ID tag, rabies tag or license. Micro chipping costs about $40, but your pet then carries permanent ID that can't be lost or removed.
Don't be afraid to try to claim your dog. Yes, your dog needs to be under your control, and licensed, but shelter personnel know that accidents happen. They want to reunite you with your pet. They know that it's easy for a pet to slip out an unguarded door, or to be frightened by thunder or fireworks and run away. My first dog, who was terrified of thunder, clawed the panes of glass from a French door, broke through a screen door and then through the screen siding of our breezeway during a storm. I was lucky, because when I came home, she was still in the yard, but she might have gone much further.
At the Chautauqua County Humane Society they will demand that you have proof of both rabies shot and a license before you can claim your dog, but apparently, this happens frequently, and area vets are used to being asked to go to the stray center to inoculate a dog. If you can't find your license, your town or city clerk can make you a copy.
Be pro-active if you lose your pet and you increase the odds that your story, like my friend's, has a happy ending.