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 of us try to protect our babies with collars, tags, microchips, and tattoos. While these methods are helpful in finding lost pets, I am still speechless when I learn that some pet owners can’t describe specific physical traits of their furry kids, other than things like “She’s black and white” or “He 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!
Here’s one story that should make you pay better attention: Thanks to a small physical trait my friend Ruth noted about her cat, Lexie, the two were reunited.
Ruth, a senior citizen, often let her longhaired tortoiseshell cat outside of her front door on a tie-out cord, while keeping 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 residue. Thankfully, Lexie was found under the porch of a nearby home. The woman who rescued her noticed that 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 the physical traits of my dog, Trucker. I always joke with people that he looks like a small Holstein cow, with the distinct white tip on his black tail. But he has many more fun features 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, which I can stick my fingertip 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, you see that Trucker’s right nostril is pink while the other one is black.
On his 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.
His black ears are graced by a white streak of hair that runs down the length of his left ear. On the top of his black head shines a white spot, which looks like the pattern of a shooting star. And 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.
Tucker has a history of anxiety and chewing chain-link fencing and wood doorframes; consequently, he entered my life with worn-down teeth. Since then, two of his fangs have been 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. It’s also a great safety issue. What you notice can prove essential if your pet is ever lost, so write the details down. It’s also vital to have clear and current photos on hand, so you can have up-to-date fliers.
And while we’re on the subject of lost pets, here’s a refresher course: If your pet is lost, act immediately. Contact neighbors, friends, and family. Share color fliers with images of the pet and your contact information. Call area police departments, animal welfare organizations, animal control facilities, veterinary offices, and pet grooming facilities. You can even try calling area radio stations to see if they can air a news brief that your pet is missing. Place ads in local newspapers and recruit neighbors, friends, and family members to help you search. Also, don’t forget to offer a reward.
Above all, be aggressive and persistent, and do not lose hope. Your pet will be searching for you, too.
Can you name your dog’s lovely details from memory? Go ahead, give it a shot in the comments! (Cheating by sneaking a peek at your dog is OK!)
Share your dog’s unique features with us in the slide show below. Simply click on the blue “Select Photos” button below to upload your photos. Then be patient — sometimes it takes a couple reloads for your photo to show up (if you try to submit multiple times, you might end up posting 10 photos to the slide show). Enjoy!
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