By Tracy Ahrens
An estimated 10 million pets are lost every year for various, unfortunate reasons. In fact, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy notes that family pets are lost about every two seconds.
Most pet owners try to protect their babies with collars, tags, microchips and tattoos. While these methods are helpful in finding lost pets, I am still speechless when I talk to some pet owners who can’t describe specific physical traits about their furry kids other than it is “black and white” or “has a scar on his face.”
Police officers trying to record descriptions of missing persons often encounter people who cannot remember the color of a spouse’s or child’s eyes. Imagine how much harder it is to find a missing pet!
Ruth, a senior citizen, often let her longhair, tortoiseshell-colored female cat outside of her front door on a tie-out cord and kept a close eye on her by sitting nearby. Unfortunately, one day Lexie apparently tried to chase a bird or another animal and slipped out of her collar. Lexie was gone.
Though she has classic dark tortoiseshell markings, Lexie sports one specific characteristic that helps to identify her – a spot of white fur just under her nose. It looks like a drop of milk, Ruth said, noting that she lets Lexie lick milk off of her fingertip and often thinks that this white spot is milk residue.
Thankfully, Lexie was found under the porch of a nearby home. The woman who rescued her noticed that “white spot” and instantly knew it was Lexie. Days after she disappeared, Lexie was reunited with Ruth.
Maybe it is because I draw detailed portraits of pets and study their features carefully, but I notice and remember countless little aspects about my pets and other pets that I meet.
One day I stopped to write down little physical traits that I have noticed about my dog, Trucker. I always joke with people that he looks like a small Holstein cow with a distinct white tip on his black tail; but, there are many more fun features about him that make me smile.
Just over his Adam’s apple, amid a sea of white fur, is a tiny tuft of black fur. On the back of his neck he has a matching black tuft.
On the sides of his neck, just a few inches below his floppy ears, he displays vivid, swirly cowlicks that I can stick my fingertip down inside and touch his skin. Another small cowlick sticks out on his white chest, just below where his collar tags rest.
If the light catches his face just right and you get a glimpse up his nostrils, Trucker’s right nostril is pink inside while the other one is black.
On a mostly black-colored rump, Trucker has a white mark that extends from his belly upward, outlining his “private parts.”
Along the backside of his lower front legs is a perfect seam where hair flows together and sticks out with a slight feathering.
Shortly after I adopted him I noticed a dark scar on his inner left back leg, possibly in the area where his dewclaw used to be.
With a history of anxiety and chewing chain link fencing and wood doorframes, Trucker entered my life with worn-down teeth. Since then, two of his fangs needed to be extracted – upper right and lower left – leaving a very distinct way to identify him by dental records.
And I cannot forget his black toes that contain pink spots – one toe on each front foot and one toe on the right back foot.
Studying pets is fun and can be a great bonding time between owner and furry child. Also, what you notice can prove essential if a pet is ever lost. Save the features you note in a computer file and take frequent pictures of your pet so that current images are on record.
It is vital to have clear and current photos of a pet on hand so that if the pet is lost, you can create fliers and run ads with those images posted.
If a pet is lost, act immediately. Contact neighbors by knocking on doors and calling them. Share color fliers with images of the pet and contact information. Call area police departments, animal welfare organizations, animal control facilities, veterinary offices and pet grooming facilities. Notify area radio stations and see if they can air a news brief that your pet is missing. E-mail friends and family that your pet is missing. Place ads in local newspapers. Recruit neighbors, friends and family members to help you search for your furry child. Offer a reward.
Be aggressive, be persistent and do not lose hope. Your pet will be searching for you, too.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book, “Raising My Furry Children” to your collection, www.raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com