It’s a pet owner’s worst nightmare.
Calling out for your little loved one and getting no response. Finding a door ajar when it shouldn’t be, or a sudden escape from a car.
Panic sets in and you don’t know what to do next.
Putting up posters in your neighbourhood and hoping for the best has always been one way to try and recover a lost pet, but nowadays the internet is the go-to place for searching for your furry loved ones.
There are several Facebook communities devoted to trying to find a lost pet and one such example is Barrie and Area’s Lost and Found Pets!
A quick scan of the page shows many pet owners reaching out for help. And it appears that there is quite a high percentage of happy endings.
And no wonder, with a membership that has reached 6,400 people.
Take little seven-month-old kitten Artemis, for example. The grey tabby escaped home through a tear in a screen. The owner wrote in a post in the group that “….she will come to the sound of a treat bag being shaken…. She’s our baby. She sleeps in a bed and must be so cold outside.”
Attached to the plea for help are a few images of the young cat, including one that shows her tucked in under a blanket and sound asleep.
Thankfully, this is one of the happy endings, as Artemis was found and the owner overjoyed: "This group is so amazing.”
Another great story belongs to Theo, a cat who lives near downtown Barrie. He wandered away one day a year ago and never returned. Fast-forward to just a few days ago and, miraculously, little Theo was discovered behind the Comfort Inn on Hart Drive near a garbage bin.
Pictures of the little cat were posted on the group’s page in search of the owner.
“Theo was a gift from my son,” Heather Buchan, Theo’s owner, told BarrieToday. “He originally lived on a farm up north.”
No doubt Theo’s life skills from the farm aided in his fight for survival over the past year. Never give up hope is the lesson here.
Sue Holden-Morandini, co-founder of the Facebook group Pawsitive Ground Search, has seriously upped the game when it comes to helping with lost animals. She created an online community in 2015 for the purpose of helping friends or others search for their lost pets.
“We chose to focus on lost dogs as there are a few groups that assist lost and feral cats in our community,“ she told BarrieToday.
The group now boasts more than 14,000 followers on Facebook.
“Our team has changed slowly over time. We currently have a core of 15 volunteers, each being available for varying amounts of hours, but that works for us, because when some are busy, others are there to fill gaps," Holden-Morandini said.
And each person brings different skills.
"Some are on the ground banging on doors, others are busy scouring online and keeping things up to date and in order in the group that is focused on that current lost dog, while others are looking at maps or scouring for best trap placement if the need arises," she added.
When beginning a search for a lost pet, speed is of the essence, says Holden-Morandini. They post on various social media groups and advise owners of the best first steps, such as contacting local animal services and shelters.
"Then we will get out as soon after as we can. We suggest postering once all calls are made and microchip company is notified that their pet is missing," she said. "Often a dog is returning quite quickly to its family as a neighbourhood resident may find them and post about a found dog or turn it over to animal services, which is the best way to get a dog home if you find one."
They will also spend time educating neighbourhood residents about what to do if they see the missing animal.
"Some lost dogs are just wandering and will approach the first friendly face, others not so much," Holden-Morandini said. "They may be a new rescue or purchased or adopted newly into the family and less likely to approach any stranger.
"Approaching a lost, timid or even terrified dog can cause it to run like lightning not thinking of keeping itself safe in that case and can end up in some dangerous situations," she added.
Thankfully, there are far too many lost-pet stories with happy endings that involve the group, but one stands out in particular for Holden-Morandini.
Gunner, a dog in Essa Township, was lost after a family member was in a car accident.
"He escaped through the back window or was thrown (from the vehicle)," she said. "He ran a line or two away, based on initial sightings, then there were no sightings," she said.
"One morning, his family got a call that he was seen crossing a sideroad and heading to the forest. Plans were made and spotters sat in place while his owner quietly checked the area," Holden-Morandini added. "There he was, after two weeks."
But Gunner wasn't going to come to anyone, so cameras and traps were placed. But he remained elusive.
"Storms moved in and it was a few days before another sighting," she said.
That evening at 7 p.m., he showed up on camera at a feeding station," then moved right to the trap and went right in."
"It was one heck of a reunion and tears all around," Holden-Morandini said. "Straight to the vet he went as he had lost considerable weight over his 21-day adventure.
"He is home and settled and has gained his weight back and doing fantastic."
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