Resources: Coordinating Your Search

Here are some suggestions for ways that you might coordinate the search for your lost pet.

1. Assign one “point person”. Preferably this is the person that is most bonded with the lost dog (the owner or foster parent) and with the biggest emotional commitment to the process. The point person must be a responsible individual with the time required to be able to answer EVERY phone call and go to every sighting location. The point person must be dedicated to the process for the days, weeks or months that it might require to successfully catch the dog.

2. Answer the phone. Use a phone number on your poster that will be answered promptly. Many people who see your dog won’t call again, or may not leave a message. If you miss the opportunity to speak with them, you could miss valuable information about your dog’s location. Still, for those times when you might miss a call, make sure your voice mail message includes something about your missing dog, so callers know they’ve reached the right number, and that you’re still searching.

3. Distribute materials. It is often easier for volunteers to put up already printed posters than to print them out themselves. Make sure you have plenty on hand to give out to people who would like to help you with your search. You could even leave a container in a relatively accessible location to store flyers and maps so anyone with spare time could pick them up. However, do make sure there is a printable version of your flyer available for anybody who would prefer that route.

4. Don’t be noisy. Don’t congregate noisily in an area to flyer. Don’t slam car doors. The dog may be hidden somewhere nearby watching you. Too much activity may frighten him into leaving the area. Flyer in groups of two for safety, but be quiet and calm. You do not want to scare him away.

5. Pace your volunteers. Make sure they understand that this could take weeks or months. Volunteers will be needed to flyer after every sighting, to make and move signs, to keep posting notices online, and to keep notifying vet clinics, shelters, etc.

6. Try to keep everyone “in the loop.” You want your volunteers to feel useful and engaged. A Facebook group or page for the search might keep everyone informed, and will help you share updates easily. Stay positive. Don’t waste any time in assigning blame for how or why the dog went missing. This does nothing to help find the dog and will decrease the morale of the team.

7. Don’t be too quick to dismiss a sighting. Some sightings may be false alarms, but remember that not everyone knows dog breeds or sizes. Just because a description doesn’t match your dog perfectly doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Someone might call an American Eskimo Dog a Samoyed, or a shepherd mix a husky. Assume that every sighting is legitimate, unless proven otherwise, and keep a note of it. Dogs can travel great distances very fast, especially if they feel pursued. They may be using shortcuts that you aren’t aware of. Don’t assume that a sighting is too far away to be your dog.