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Finding Fido

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With the winter weather in brutal full-force all around Northeast Ohio and other areas of the country, it becomes more and more crucial to keep animals indoors. The cold temperatures and snow could give dogs frostbite in matters of minutes, and dogs that are forced to stay outside for long periods of time can freeze to death in hours.

Clearly, these are dangerous odds, so keeping the family dog inside is of utmost importance. Sometimes, though, problems arise, and the family pet slips past a guest out the door, or jumps out of the car before anybody can grab him.

So what do you do when Fido has gone missing, and you don't know where to start?

The first thing to do after looking, calling his name, and maybe opening some food in the area he went missing is to call the police station. Call the police for the city in which he went missing and all the nearby cities too. People end up very surprised by the distances their pups can travel.

After the police stations have been called to let them know what your dog looks like, where he went missing, and any distinguishing features, the next step that many people say works is to take an article of clothing--preferably something that had been worn all day--and place it, along with a favorite toy of Fido's and maybe a familiar crate with blankets, where Fido was last seen. Dogs have a tendency to go back to the last place they were after they have finished exploring or chasing the rabbit they saw run past. When he goes back to the last place he was, if there is something familiar, he will feel safe and want to stay there. This way, you can keep a close eye on that location and have a better chance of being able to catch him, as he'll stay in this location longer.

If this works, great! Bring some food to coax him over to you if he isn't quite ready to settle down. If this doesn't work, though, and your pooch is still missing, it's time to start networking. Social media sites are a great way to get your dog's picture and information out there. This could find him if someone took him in, or if someone does find him, they will know to whom he belongs and who to call. Post signs in the neighborhood and area where you found him. Anywhere you can put them, put them. Make the picture and "LOST" the biggest part on the page, then include his name, distinguishing features, and your name and phone number. If you can afford to offer a reward, it will encourage people to look and return your dog rather than take him themselves. Please make sure to answer the phone if people try to call. The most frustrating thing is knowing where a dog belongs and not being able to reach the owner. Look in the "Pets" and "Lost and found" sections on Craigslist. There is a lot of controversy over the site, but it can be great to find a lost pet. Also, call any and all local shelters. Many shelters will not check with the police departments when a stray is brought to them. So go to Petfinder's list of shelters (if this isn't your area, change the location), and contact them. Describe your dog. Even if they don't have him, they can put the word out and there are more sets of eyes looking for Fido.

Most rescues and cities put a 48-72 hour hold on any strays that are brought in. Then they officially belong to that shelter or the city to adopt out and vet as they see fit. This is why it is important to call everywhere and get the dog's information out there ASAP. Leave your information with the police and the shelters so that they can call you immediately if your dog comes in.

Lastly, form a search party. Try to set it up as soon as possible. Get people outside with flashlights, toys, treats, and food to try to find Fido in the area near where he went missing. You would be surprised how many people will be willing to help find a lost pooch.

It is extremely important to have tags with current information on your dog and to license your dog with the county in which you live. Make sure your current phone number is on his tag in case he is picked up. Also, microchips are a great way to figure out who a found dog belongs to. Any shelter and vet will scan for microchips so that they can contact you even if Fido ripped his collar off.

If a lost dog is found, call shelters and police stations to see if anyone called it in. Don't just stick to your area. He might be from surrounding cities.

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