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“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

Pulling myself out of deep sleep, I wake up to the sound of insistent barking. What on earth is the matter with the dog? Then I realise that it is my big dog, Tessa. She is standing outside our automated gate. How on earth did she get there? Running out in the freezing cold my heart is pounding. Letting Tessa in, I frantically start calling out for our 15 year old Terry, surely he will still be sound asleep in his bed. After a frantic search around the yard I find that he is missing! I wake up my husband and with the empty leash and Tessa we walk the streets hoping to find Terry but knowing deep down inside that it is a futile exercise. Then the walk is followed with a slow drive through the neighbourhood returning sad, cold and tired wondering where Terry might be and hoping that he will find his way back.

The following morning is followed with a call to the SPCA; posters printed and put up around the neighbourhood with a photo of Terry and my contact details. A visit to the vets in the area during the following days and revisits to the SPCA don’t turn up anything. No sign of my dear old friend after days of searching and I’m plagued with the question,” What could I have done to have kept my dog safe?”

Many pet owners face the same experience every year. Sometimes they are lucky to find their dear friends but more often than not the pet disappears without a trace.

I have always seen myself as a responsible owner, but realise now that there are many things I could have done to have prevented this loss.

The mistakes I made

My biggest mistake was that he didn’t wear a collar with identification disc. I never imagined him running off and if he did, I always thought that he surely would find his way back home as we walked almost every day.

Prevent your pet from getting lost

Leashes, fences, and gates should be enough to keep your pet safely at home but in the real world as in my case accidents happen. I cannot understand how the remote controlled gate was opened or did someone open the side gate that has a lock? I will never know and it will change nothing but I need to try and make everyone aware of what can be done.

  • A snug collar with proper ID tags on a quality ring with current contact details of the owner is essential and should be worn all the time. The words, ‘Scan my chip’ if the pet is micro chipped can be added. Should the collar be too loose, the pet may be snagged on it or it might lose the collar. It is a good idea to have the pet micro chipped if the tag should fall off.
  • Fences and gates – should secure dogs in a property. Small dogs push themselves through openings in fences or bigger dogs jump walls. Dogs rush out through the main gate when owners arrive home or leave and there is always a possibility that at that point they’ll sneak away unnoticed to go exploring. It is safer if pets can be kept behind a second gate in the back to be greeted in the safety of the property.
  • Micro chipping your pet – A micro chip with a unique ID number is implanted into the pet with a hypodermic needle. Connective tissue forms around the chip preventing it from moving about. Microchips last a lifetime. Most SPCA’s and Vets have a scanner. I’m assured that all strays are scanned as they come into a shelter. This method is only effective if the pet is taken there and is actually scanned.
  • The Tracking card is a brightly coloured 3.5x 2.5cm tag that fits perfectly onto the collar of your pet. Each card has a unique ID number. Activate your card on the website after registering your details. Attach the Tracking Card onto your pet’s collar. If the pet is found the finder can simply text the Tracking Card number to the supplier. The system will send text messages and e-mails to the owner within seconds and you are notified that your pet has been found and the finders contact details. You can then communicate directly with the finder, as to when and how you will retrieve your pet. The Tracking card is valid for 12 months but can be re-activated.
  • Dog tags in any form with the name of the pet and contact details engraved or embossed are another option available from,,
  • Petcap is a lightweight aluminium capsule into which you pop your contact details,

Choose whichever one suits you the best but remember that it should contain all the information necessary to have your lost pet returned to you. Be sure to change the information on the tag as you move or your phone numbers change.

To aid the search

  • Look for the pet.
  • Put up posters or distribute flyers with a resent photo of the pet and your contact details.
  • You might want to offer a reward to make it more attractive for the rescuer to return the pet.
  • Place a classified ad in the local newspaper under the “Lost and Found” category.
  • Read the classifieds for any announcements of pets that have been found
  • Rescuers are more likely to contact the owner if the pet carries contact details around his neck.
  • Contact your local SPCA and Veterinarians; Make sure to leave an accurate description of your pet and your contact details.
  • Maintain contact with local veterinarians and animal shelters.

If you pick up or find a pet

  • Look for a tag or identification
  • Drop it off at the closest veterinarian’s office or animal shelter or
  • inform them about the pet that you have found and leave your contact details or have it picked up by the SPCA.
  • Place a notice in the classifieds for the pet under “Lost and Found”

Please do not informally adopt him because you think nobody cares about him, but if you do not hear anything from where you left your details, love him as though he is your own.

Remember, you have to be proactive. Nothing is worse than always wondering but never knowing what really happened to your pet. I hear him barking; rush out … only to find another dog. Make sure your pets always wear their tags and prevent them from getting out onto the street. I trust that you will have your pet around you for many years to come to make you whole and make you happy.

Heidi Meyer

Professional Organiser

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