Absent Without Leave

Absent Without Leave

Hopefully not too many of us will experience the heart sinking, gut wrenching moment when our beloved pet goes AWOL but should that happen what are the best things to do to get them home again?

First of all stay calm – no pet, however devoted, will return to a screaming banshee!

Here are some more hints and tips:

Cats are wanderers by nature and can be quite fickle if they decide they have found a better option. However they are also pretty good at getting shut in places such as sheds, garages, houses being refurbished, vans with their doors left open and so on. You can call them, rattle the biscuits, speak to your neighbours whose gardens your cat visits, put up posters, contact local vets and social media lost pet pages, put out their favourite food, litter tray, bed or blanket and hope. If they want to come home, and are able, they will eventually return – never give up, it can take a few days or even a few years!

Dogs are a completely different matter as they like to be with their family and are not known for packing their bags by choice. It usually means they have escaped for some fun and got lost, or possibly been frightened and run away to hide. 

If your dog runs off from a walk or escapes from home think about how the Team VIPPIES plan works and either call them in or follow it for yourself.  Stay calm and start by calling your dog’s name in a happy and excited way, if they are nearby they will probably come back to you eventually. Whatever you do, don’t give chase as that turns it into a game – they can usually run faster and it may drive them into more danger. Also don’t get a search party of well-meaning strangers yelling for them, that will make them hide up even more, if you need more help use people who know your dog. Have the courage to return to where you last saw them and stay there with their favourite treats and make sure there is someone at home with the gate open. Hopefully they will come back with their tail between their legs looking for a cuddle.

Team Vippies have a plan for how they deal with customers’ lost dogs, one they have thankfully, rarely had to use. It makes a good model for you set up in your own area with fellow dog walking chums…..

Sheena explains the Team VIPPIES approach: “the key is to be calm but with a happy vibe and to make sure one person is co-ordinating the search on the ground and that everyone communicates, unfortunately a panic stricken owner can be a bit of a hindrance but they have their role in being the safe place to return to”.

  • As soon as the call is received Sheena activates the two emergency phone lines – one for incoming calls and one for outgoing. She establishes where the pet was last seen and what the surroundings are like, especially if there is a potential danger such as a busy road or rail line. If it is a rural situation is it a dog hunting pheasants or having fun with hares in a field?
  • Jade and Jake go out to the last known sighting to assess the situation and see how many extra Team VIPPIES colleagues are needed to help search.
  • Sheena then rings round for the requisite helpers – some customers are also on the list of willing helpers and gets everyone on standby or despatched to a specific task.
  • Owners are usually tasked with staying either at home or the last sighting so they can receive the runaway with hugs and treats.
  • Everyone taking part has to call in happy excited voices that will encourage a swift return for better fun, however if the pets is spotted and still runs away when called it is time to sit down and wait quietly – unless of course there is imminent danger.
  • If the search takes longer than is comfortable for the situation Sheena also contacts local radio and vets local to the last sighting. As the day goes on a decision is taken about calling in a professional tracker – to date this has not had to happen.

Unfortunately it can take a lot of patience and a good dose of luck to recapture your dog once they have been on the run for a few hours as they will be frightened of everyone and everything – even you. This is when you may need to camp out where they were last seen with things that smell familiar to them such as your usual dog walking gear, their bed and favourite toys as well as some tasty high value treats such as a steak or some fish or cheese. You may have to stay out overnight.

At this stage in a search, no matter how pleased you are to see your pet, when they eventually come within sight STAY CALM, REMAIN QUIET, LET THEM COME TO YOU.

Other things you can do for any pet includes putting up posters with a recent photograph, contact local vets and get active on social media – especially local pages and lost pets pages. For dogs it is worth contacting the dog warden, known dog walking companies, dog rescue folks, and the brilliant Dog Lost  , but make sure when you post you remind people to call you not the dog. If you can afford a reward, go for it as you might just stop someone adopting or selling on your pet.  After 24 hours you will probably need expert help such as the amazing K9 Tracker

Let’s hope this never happens to you but remember a chipped pet is more likely to be returned to you when found and as with all things, prevention is better than cure so make sure you work on recall with your cats and dogs every day of your partnership!