Help & Hope on National Lost Dog Awareness Day

On National Lost Dog Awareness Day, the Retrievers would like to give you two very important messages.

1. Always consider a loose dog a LOST dog, not simply a stray. That dog you see wandering in a field, or hanging around a dumpster, or begging at your back door for scraps probably belongs to someone—someone who may be desperately looking for it.

  • Be sure to really look the dog and notice whether it’s wearing a collar with or without tags. Try to determine its gender and likely breed. Notice which direction it’s heading and what kind of mental state it’s in. If possible, take a photo.
  • Leave food, water and shelter for the dog to try to keep it from wandering further.
  • Post a “Found” ad on your local Craigslist and on every lost dog Facebook page pertinent to your area. If the dog appears to be a particular breed, see if there’s a breed-specific Facebook page you can post on (such as our own Facebook page here specializing in lost and found Golden Retrievers).

Get involved with the “stray” dogs you see. Because you could be the turning point in a lost dog’s story—the person who stepped up when everyone else looked away.

2. Never give up. You’ve heard the stories of dogs being reunited with their owners after weeks, months and even years apart. In many cases, it was a microchip that made the difference, but not always. Thousands of found dogs have been matched with their owners thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers on Facebook, who are diligently trying to help behind the scenes.

If your dog has been missing for a long while, take heart from some of these stories, including that of a dog reunited with his family after seven long years. It can happen for you, too.

Rowan in Owen


Lost: Unknown

Retrieved: April 12, 2014

Outcome: Fostered in private home

Case Manager: Devon Thomas Treadwell

On our Facebook page we learned of a Good Samaritan who was trying to help a stray dog in Owen, Wisconsin. For two months she had appealed to local authorities, to no avail. In desperation, she turned to the Retrievers.

As her job required driving between local communities, Tammy had frequently seen the dog in a field next to Hwy 29. Neighbors estimated that the dog, which she called “Owen,” had been in the area for up to two years. There was no photo—he would not allow anyone close enough to get decent shot. Neighbors described him as a setter or retriever mix.

Although that part of Wisconsin is outside of our normal operations area, I offered to take the case because I have personal connections to the town. I arrived early afternoon on a Saturday, set up the Missy Trap to trigger manually by cutting power to an electromagnet, then waited in my car a short distance away.

But Owen never showed. At 10:30 p.m., I reluctantly locked the trap gate open, turned on the cellular trail cam, instructed Tammy to stock the trap nightly with high-value food, then made the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to the Twin Cities.

For two days, we received no photos from the camera and assumed that it had malfunctioned. But then we discovered that our hosting service’s spam filter had intercepted the shots, and suddenly 80 timestamped images poured into our email boxes.

We learned that Owen had visited the trap only a few minutes after we had packed up and left. And he came again every night that week—multiple times a night, and usually around the same hours. In one shot, he was close enough to the camera for us to see that “he” was really a “she.” From that point, we began to call her “Rowan.”

Monitoring her activities by trail cam for a week enabled us to predict when she would visit the trap. The following Friday, I returned to Owen, this time with a colleague—M.J. Brookes—our newly developed photoelectric sensor system, and a catchpole specially designed and constructed by teammate Jen Eidbo.

The trail cam images had shown that a neighbor’s cat often visited the trap, so we set the sensor at a height too high for it to inadvertently break the beam and cause the gate to drop. And because we suspected Rowan had avoided the trap when we were present the previous weekend, we waited in a car parked 100 yards away as we monitored the trap via a video surveillance system comprised of Skype and two smartphones.

Rowan came by right on time at 9:45 p.m., but shocked us by skittering beneath the sensor beam. In less than 30 seconds, she ate much of her food and exited the trap without triggering the gate. Thankfully, because we’d observed her patterns, we knew she would be back. We lowered the sensor and waited again.

Rowan returned at 11:20 p.m., and this time walked through the beam and triggered the gate. As we approached the trap, she started climbing up the meshed panels and was halfway out when I was able to get the catchpole on her. She jumped down to the ground and went into a full-scale panic, writhing and growling and snarling and gnawing on the lead on the catchpole.

Luckily, we were able to get her into a crate before she could chew completely through and escape. Once she was in the crate and the tension was off the lead, she quickly calmed down.

Rowan turned out to be a much smaller dog than we had expected—likely a beagle/shepherd mix. Her later vet visit revealed her weight at only 33 pounds. No wonder she was able to duck under the beam! The vet estimated her age at 1 1/2 years. Though she was not spayed, she shows no evidence of having had a litter. She is heartworm-free, basically healthy, and not microchipped.

Rowan’s return to a home environment has been more successful than anyone could have predicted. Tammy reports that within the first few days, she was playing with the family’s other dogs and even enjoyed being brushed and petted by Tammy and her husband.

You can follow Rowan’s story on her Facebook page, Hope for Owen.

See also:

Woman Committed to Helping Stray Dog — Marshfield News Herald, April 21, 2014

Stray dog captured and given a home — Leader Telegram, May 5, 2014

Small But Resilient


Lost: November 2013

Retrieved: April 13, 2014

Outcome: Returned to adoptive family

Case Manager: Jessica Peterson

Chloe the day she was adopted and went missing in November 2013

Chloe the day she was adopted
and went missing in November

The Retrievers learned of Chloe through her lost dog posting in late Nov 2013.  She escaped her harness while at Petsmart just after being adopted.  There were zero sightings of this Pomeranian and given the coldest winter in Minnesota history, the outlook on hope was slim.

In April of 2014, The Retrievers heard from a Good Samaritan (GS) who had spotted a Pomeranian regularly in her neighborhood and visiting their home for food they were providing it.   There were thoughts this could be Chloe from Nov, but could it really be after all this time? Given how small she was, could she have really survived the coldest winter in Minnesota history on her own?  Only time would tell….
The Retrievers partnered with the GS to provide a wire crate to use as a trap and with their ingenuity they were able to outfit the trap with a rope  that was run to their home, and two live cameras they would monitor from their home.  Then they waited….about 10 days after first sighting the Pomeranian and setting regular feeding stations, there she came and the GS was ready and watching the video feed from their cameras set up near the trap.  They used the cameras to make sure she was all the way into the trap before pulling the gate closed with the rope.  They got her!

After speaking with the owner and wondering of this really could be Chloe, it was determined that this precious little girl was indeed her and she had survived the winter.  Pure resilience.

Chloe visiting the front yard of the GS in April 2014.

Chloe visiting the front yard of
the GS in April 2014.

Huge kudos to the GS whose goodwill and determination got this brave little girl out of the cold and back to her loving home where she belonged!
The Retrievers like Chloe’s story for a few reasons…. It’s further evidence that there are many people out there with kind hearts that are willing to go the extra mile to help animals in need, and it shows how creative anyone can be in helping safely capture dogs in Chloe’s situation.  Most of all it proves what we often tell people who are missing dogs: They are very resilient and you must give them credit for their survival capabilities…