Every (lost) dog should have its day

Joe Avento • Updated Apr 21, 2018 at 5:26 PM

Losing a pet can be a traumatic experience, but it can have a happy ending with a little preparation, some help and sometimes a little luck.

Monday is National Lost Dog Awareness Day, a day created to bring attention to the number of dogs that go missing from their homes while providing resources and hope to reunite them.

Sierra Tate and Jeremy Tittle, whose Redtick Coonhound recently ran away from his Unicoi home, learned the emotions losing a dog can cause. Hank was on pain medicine after having recently undergone hip surgery and was walking on three legs. Still, a hound has to be a hound, and when something caught his attention, he was gone.

“We drove up on the mountain and hollered for him,” Tate said. “We never saw any sign or heard him.”

Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks with no sign of Hank. They feared the worst.

“It was weird not having him there,” Tate said. “I figured he was gone. I thought he might be starving to death.”

Then, almost three weeks after he disappeared, Hank turned up at a nearby house.

“Somebody called and said they had heard rustling under their porch that night and she said she woke up the next morning and he was there,” Tate said. “You could see the house through the field. It was close. I think he was on his way home.”

When Tate and Tittle drove up the driveway, Hank was indeed ready to go home.

“He saw the truck coming up the driveway and he was barking at us,” she said. “When we found him he looked awful, but he was all happy.”

Hank’s tale had a happy ending, and most do, but many don’t.

There are steps to take to make sure a lost dog doesn’t stay lost for long.

ID tags are an absolute necessity. Just a simple tag with the dog’s name, your name and your phone number can often lead to a quick reunion.

Microchipping is probably the best way to help reunite a pet with its loved ones. It’s safe and relatively painless. A tiny chip is implanted in the back of the animal’s neck. If the pet gets loose and someone finds it, an easy scan at a veterinarian’s office can find its home.

How effective is microchipping? A survey published by the American Veterinary Medical Association says about 22 percent of lost dogs entering animal shelters are reunited with their families. Ones with microchips are reunited at a 52 percent rate.

The chip only works if the pet’s owner keeps the information on file up to date. If they move or get a new phone number, they have to let the folks who implanted the chip know, otherwise the it’s useless.

Another way to identify a found dog is by its rabies tag. If that’s the only tag it has, its owner can be tracked down by the registration number.

National Lost Dog Awareness Day was created in 2011 by the founders of Lost Dogs of America, a network across the country that includes groups in 35 states, including Tennessee. The efforts of the organization’s volunteers, along with over 500,000 fans, have helped reunite more than 100,000 dogs with their families.

That alone makes it a day worth celebrating.

The organization’s website is www.lostdogsofamerica.org. Its Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/lostdogsofamerica. The Tennessee page is www.facebook.com/LostDogsTennessee.

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