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The Power of Facebook in Reuniting a Lost Puppy with his Family
"Have you lost your dog?" asked my postman?
It was around 10am on a Saturday morning and I was preparing to start taking my dogs out for a walk when there was a knock on the door and I saw the postman silhouetted through the glass.
I knew he had already been about 30 minutes earlier with a couple of letters, so wondered if he had a parcel for me as I made my way down the hall.
However, his visit was of a more personal nature - he asked if one of my dogs had escaped! He had spotted a dog which looked like my Millie wandering on the next street and thought she had strayed from the garden.
Thankfully, it wasn't Millie, but I was touched that my postman had taken the trouble to come back and check.
As I thought about the straying dog, out on its own and wandering the streets, I knew I had to do something to help.
Lost Shar Pei puppy was terrified in a garden
I quickly drove round the block, looking for the dog. It wasn't long before I spotted an elderly gent standing at his garden gate, looking up and down the street, while a young, brown dog darted up and down his garden, appearing very scared.
The dog resembled my Millie a lot and I recognized him as a Shar Pei. But he wasn't much more than a puppy.
I parked the car and walked over to the householder, who said he had seen the dog in the street and had managed to corner him in the garden. But he didn't know what to do, as it was a Saturday and the dog wardens operated only Monday to Friday, with just an emergency call-out service at the weekend.
I decided to capture the dog and take him to a nearby vet's to see if he was microchipped. He was wearing a collar (no name tag) and was very well cared for, so I knew he couldn't be a stray.
Finally the puppy was safe in my car
I realised it wasn't going to be easy capturing the dog, who was very scared and hiding behind the car and in the hedge.
I thought there was a chance he may bite me, as dogs tend to do when they are nervous and cornered. It would not have been the end of the world if he had bitten me, but obviously I wanted to avoid this if possible!
I decided to follow the method I had seen used by the famous American dog rescuer, Eldad Hagar, whose videos of his dog rescues I had watched on Facebook and YouTube. He is one of my heroes and has saved many dogs. I follow all his rescue stories with great interest and always a tear in my eye.
This method involved my crouching down at ground level and talking gently to the dog, trying to coax him to come closer, while not alarming him or making any sudden moves towards him. It was a case of being patient until I gained his trust a little.
Thirty minutes later, the dog calmed down sufficiently for me to gently put the lead around his neck and slowly tighten it, again taking care not to alarm him. He was quite friendly as I persuaded him to jump into my car.
The man who had captured him in the garden took my phone number and address and said he would contact me if anyone appeared to be looking for their dog.
As I prepared to drive off, another neighbour, a young man, came rushing out of his house and said he would take a picture of the dog and share it in the "dogs missing" groups on Facebook. We also exchanged phone numbers.
First stop - the vet's to check for a microchip
I drove the short trip to my local vet's and by this time, my little four-legged companion was starting to enjoy himself and obviously liked being in the car.
In the waiting room, after speaking to the receptionist, I met a fellow customer whom I had seen there before and she was asking me the dog's story. She too said she would share his details on Facebook to see if anyone recognized him and we exchanged phone numbers.
I explained I was going to take him home with me if his owner didn't come forward, but that I was a little worried due to having five dogs already.
To my delight, this kind lady, Tanya, said if he didn't get on with my dogs, I could give her a call and she would look after him for a while, so I could search for his owner in peace!
She also said that if necessary, she would design and print off some posters to put through letterboxes and on lampposts to try to locate his owner.
I am often surprised by people's kindness. In general, I have to say, I have formed a low opinion of much of the human race through my knowledge of animal cruelty, particularly dog fighting. But sometimes, someone steps up and restores a little of my faith in humanity.
A quick scan by the vet revealed he wasn't microchipped. The vet and I were quite surprised, since he was a valuable pedigree dog and was worth several hundred pounds! He also wasn't neutered. So had someone other than me found him - someone unscrupulous - he could have been stolen in a flash and used for breeding.
I contacted the police and animal rescue centres
My next step, in the absence of a microchip, was to report the dog to the police. Although they don't officially deal with lost dogs any more, I have always found them helpful in the past in cases of missing pets.
I logged the little guy's details with them, but was dismayed when he hadn't been reported missing.
However, the police said it may be the case that his family didn't actually know yet, since it was only about 45 minutes since he had been found. Maybe he had been in the garden and escaped and no-one knew yet.
As I sat in my car, working out what to do next, I spotted a young man out walking his dog.
I had seen him before and as a lot of the local dog-walking community knew each other, I quickly stopped him. He said he recognized the dog and had seen him being walked occasionally about half a mile away from where he had been found.
However, he didn't know where the puppy lived. But this gave me hope that the dog hadn't strayed too far and I was looking in the right area.
The young man also took a photo of the dog and shared it on Facebook, as I did.
I am in many animal rescue groups on there and hoped someone local might spot his picture and recognize him.
Then, it was off to the RSPCA rescue centre, which was only ten minutes away, to see if they'd had any report of a missing dog that morning.
Again, I was disappointed that there had been no report that morning. The receptionist logged his details and my telephone number and said she would let me know if there were any calls about a missing Shar Pei.
I was also told that as long as I had reported him to the police and made reasonable efforts to locate his owner, if nobody came forward in seven days, I would be able to keep him if I chose to do so. It had never been my intention to get another dog, but I would have kept him if necessary, rather than see him go off to the dog pound.
Pepper my cat slept through the excitement!
Drawing a blank with the police and local animal rescues, I decided to take the pup home and give him a drink and something to eat, as it was a hot day and he was looking tired.
This was a challenge in itself, since my five dogs were less than impressed at this intruder entering their territory! It was a case of shutting some of them in the back garden and others in various rooms until I brought the Shar Pei through the house and put him in my bedroom.
On the way, he met my cat, Pepper. I wasn't sure how the dog was with cats. But I needn't have worried. He wasn't remotely interested and after a cursory sniff, the dog went on his way and into my room.
Once inside, I gave him dog treats and water and let him have a lie down.
He seemed relieved to be somewhere safe and started falling asleep pretty quickly.
Little Shar Pei loved George the guinea pig
I had been a little concerned that the dog might worry my guinea pig, George.
Although George was used to dogs and cats, I wasn't sure if the Shar Pei would scare him if he hadn't met a small animal before.
However, I needn't have worried. The pup seemed to like the look of George and settled down next to his cage almost right away, falling asleep after only a few minutes.
This gave me time to check my computer and see if there was any news of his owner through Facebook.
I was thrilled to see that the dog's photo had been shared many, many times - first through my friends, then through friends of friends and also on public pages. His photo was not only on the 'pets lost and found' pages, but also in general community groups too. So far, there was no positive identification, but I thought it would only be a matter of time.
My dogs were not impressed at our visitor!
It would not have been a problem at all having the Shar Pei in my house, had it not been for my own dogs. Although he was friendly towards cats and rodents - and seemed interested in my dogs, though not aggressive - they soon became over-excited at the scent of a strange dog in the house.
It ended up with the poor lost dog shut in my bedroom, more for his own safety than anything, while three of my dogs clustered round the door excitedly, sniffing underneath and sometimes growling.
I decided to ring my friend from the vet's, Tanya, to see if she could assist by taking him to her house for a while. She came straight over to pick him up and took him to her house, where he could run in the large garden to his heart's content.
She contacted me half an hour later to say he was getting on really well with her female dog and that she had given him his dinner!
I continued to go on Facebook and lost dog websites to try and locate his owner.
Appeal on Facebook successful!
I didn't have long to wait - about two hours after the Shar Pei had gone to my friend's house, a lady turned up on my doorstep. She was a friend of the dog's owner!
She explained she had been out helping to look for the dog (who was called Lenny, it transpired) and she had seen his photo in one of the missing dog groups on Facebook on her mobile phone.
She had managed to trace him through following the 'trail' on Facebook - the photo of Lenny that she had seen was the one originally posted by the householder in the street where he was found. She had gone tearing round there to his house, where the guy gave her my details and said I now had Lenny.
So it had taken her only a few minutes to rush round to my house.
The owner then called me - she had two Shar Peis and apparently the front door had accidentally blown open that morning and both dogs had rushed out. The other one had returned right away, but everyone had been out looking for Lenny all day.
If it hadn't been for Facebook, he may well have ended up being collected by the emergency dog warden service and taken to the very stark council dog kennels, where he would have been stuck for the weekend. It would have also cost his owner more than £100 to get him back again.
My friend Tanya brought Lenny back over when I told her his owner had come forward. We were both delighted our efforts to reunite them had been successful.
I popped Lenny in the car and drove him home, as his owner didn't drive and I had arranged to meet her there.
As soon as we pulled up outside his house, you could see Lenny's delight as he recognized the street and his own front door! He flew out of my car and ran to his door, where his owner awaited him. Their reunion made me smile, as he stood on his hind legs and put his paws around her waist, licking her face as she bent down to greet him.
Their other Shar Pei also came to the door and when the two dogs were reunited, they went totally crazy, pelting round the house like little tornadoes, barking and yelping with joy as they bounced off the furniture and walls, running round the house as fast as they could!
It's scenes like that which make all the hard work worthwhile.
I decided to write this Hub about how we helped Lenny not only as a tribute to everyone involved in rescuing animals, but also to prove to all those people who are somewhat sceptical about Facebook's role in animal rescue that it does indeed produce results.
I have been told, countless times, that Facebook is for "keyboard warriors" and that it's better to "get out there in the real world" to help animals. But Facebook does have a big place in animal rescue because of its huge ability to network needy animals on a wide scale.
I hope Lenny will have a long and happy life with his family, but may recall his adventure once in a while ... as long as he doesn't try to do it again!
A footnote about a second lost Shar Pei
Coincidentally, about one year after I had found Lenny and traced his family, a similar incident occurred as I drove home from a shopping trip one day.
Driving down a main street near the town centre during rush hour, I spotted a small Shar Pei puppy running along, obviously very scared.
This one was a very wrinkly little puppy, who was obviously lost and not used to being out on her own. Scared she would be knocked down, I pulled the car over alongside her and tried to coax her to climb in.
But she was so terrified, she ran straight past and carried on down the main road.
The next 30 minutes saw me cruising round very slowly, mainly keeping an eye on her and trying to shepherd her off the main road and away from traffic. I felt there was little chance of catching her, as she could run pretty fast for a small dog and I couldn't get near her.
I was also concerned she could be stolen if she fell into the wrong hands, as Shar Peis are very expensive dogs and any unscrupulous person could have sold her privately, had they been inclined to do so.
On this second occasion, I was disappointed when nobody helped me!
One man walking down the street made a half-hearted attempt to catch the puppy, but just shrugged and walked on when she ran past him.
Two women actually screamed when she ran towards them, as if they thought she'd attack them! She was so tiny, how could they have been so fearful?
Twice I cornered her (I thought) but she escaped both times. I managed to capture a quick photo of her and was going to put it on Facebook and see if I could trace her owner.
But as luck would have it, after she evaded capture the second time I cornered her, in a garden, she rushed round the corner and as I followed in the car, I saw her running up to a young man and little girl, wagging her tail and going crazy with excitement! Yes, she had found her own family!
She was called Poppy and had escaped from the garden when someone had opened the gate. She had been missing for some time and her family was out looking for her. They thanked me for helping and were so happy to see her again, hugging her and letting her lick their face.
I had really done very little to help, except keep a watchful eye on her and inadvertently chased her in the right direction, into the waiting arms of her loved ones.
It was a relief to see them reunited and I hoped I'd helped a little by making sure she'd stayed safe and away from traffic.
Two happy endings, thank goodness, as it could easily have been a different story.