What I learned from searching for my lost dog

Even though we couldn’t bring Pinner home in the way we wanted, I learned a lot about searching for lost dogs during the process. We were searching 24/7 for two weeks until we found his body. During that time, we tried a lot of things..pretty much everything we (us and helpful volunteers) could think of.

A lot of people...A LOT...offered advice and sometimes it was overwhelming and/or conflicting to the point that there were several moments during those two weeks when I really doubted myself and the approach we were taking in the search.

Looking back, I truly believe we did everything we could have; and, below, I have shared my take everything in case it is of use or interest to others in the future. I did NOT come up with any of this on my own, it came from people who volunteered their time to help me including the people here on this page, Lara Shaw from Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, members of Southeast GSP Rescue ..and more...you know who you are. Some of these people had lost pets in the past and this was their way of paying it forward, some of them are involved with animal rescue. Some of them were friends and some were strangers.. but they are all friends for life now.

Hopefully you never need the advice in this post. However, this tip is for everyone: Remember to update your pet's microchip registration and info, ID on his/her collar; and, if you use an e-collar, pony up for the GPS-enabled collar. I just purchased the Dogtra GPS/training collar since I only had the Garmin training collar (no-GPS) before.

I’ve tried to organize the tips into a logical timeline, of what you may want to do early on and then go from there. A lot of the steps can be done simultaneously if you have a group of people who can help you. Also, if you are putting up signs and flyers during the day, you can do a lot of the internet stuff at night. For us, it was a 24-hour job to search for our dog - there was always something that could be done. Luckily, we had an incredible network of people willing to help us.

Alert the microchip service of your lost dog.

We used Homeagain and they put out a lost pet alert and created a flyer that we could distribute. They also send out this lost pet alert and flyer to all the veterinarians and shelters within a defined radius of the zip code you give them. Note: You will still want to follow up with these clinics and shelters on your own because many of them were not actually aware of our lost dog even though the alert system had contacted them.

Flyers.

The flyer Homeagain created for the lost pet alert was great to distribute to vets but it was too heavy on the text for a general flyer. A flyer that has LOST DOG, the name, photo, and phone number to call is what I would recommend as essential information. Make sure the font is large, bold, and visible. You can also include a reward if you are offering one. Some options are just “REWARD”, “$$$ REWARD $$$” or a specific dollar amount for the reward.

People will argue one side or the other as whether to put a specific dollar amount on the reward. We had flyers out with all of the above but did not find that people would call specifically about the reward. Most people who called us were genuinely wanting to help and not concerned with the reward that was on the flyer. That being said, my personal opinion would be to include “$$$ REWARD $$$” but not include a specific amount.

We printed the flyers in color and had FedEx Office hold them at their location so when a volunteer would contact me wanting to help, they could simply swing by FedEx and pick up some flyers to hang.

You can laminate the flyers but placing them in plastic sheet protectors and then using thumb tacks, strong double sided tape, or a staple gun to hang them is more affordable. Put the flyers in the sheet protectors upside down so if it rains, the closed end of the sheet protector is facing up.

Having two people working together to put up flyers is much more efficient than doing it yourself. We hung flyers on telephone poles (with staple gun) near stop signs and strategic intersections near neighborhoods, etc. where people would be stopping and waiting. Also in pedestrian-friendly areas where people would walk by and see the flyers. Some park services will not want you stapling flyers to trees so be conscious of that and other rules such as private property etc. If I was hanging a flyer at a business, I would always ask them first. Other tips:

  • Starbucks has a bulletin board

  • Waffle House was always willing to let us hang a flyer

  • Most gas stations were willing to allow a flyer

  • Neighborhoods often have bulletin boards, mail kiosks, or club house areas where you can hang flyers

  • We hung flyers near the entrance/exit of the local schools because kids notice a lot more than adults do, sometimes! Plus, kids are typically very willing to help keep an eye out for the missing pet.

  • We gave flyers to the security staff at the local offices since they are out and about at all hours

  • We also hung flyers near dumpsters in the area

  • Local businesses seemed very willing to allow flyers on their property, franchises...not so much.

  • You can also had flyers to the mail delivery person, food delivery people in the area, UPS/FedEx/Amazon drivers, etc. We found most of them were happy to help keep an eye out for our dog even if they weren’t willing to distribute the flyers. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Signs.

Double-sided weatherproof signs work best for busy intersections. Ours were 20”x24” and we worked with a local business who offered a discount for lost pet signs. They were not exactly timely or convenient, but the price break was worth it. In the meantime, we picked up some single sided 18”x24” signs that were actually more expensive but to put up immediately.

On the sign itself, we included “LOST DOG” in large bold print at the top and “$$$ REWARD $$$” in the same print at the bottom. The sign included a large picture of the dog and text near it that had a description, “Name, Gender, Weight, Age, Breed”, Collar color/type, microchipped/neutered, “Take photo&text/call #”, “Do not chase!!!”, and then a location where the dog was lost (intersection, specific area). The phone number was in large bold print at the bottom, just above the $$$ REWARD $$$.

fake flyer.jpg

Some people like neon signs, we chose to go with a red/black/white approach. While the counties had sign ordinances, we were surprised how many of them were not taken down. I really think this is because they didn’t look as tacky as neon signs.

We placed the signs at high traffic intersections so they could be seen from all directions. We placed them near shopping centers, gas stations, schools, neighborhoods, office complexes, interstate on/off ramps, long red lights, and churches. Fire stations were also willing to let us put signs up on their property when it was in a strategic location.

If we got a believable tip or sighting, we would move some signs to that area if it was further out than where our original signs were placed but we always left signs near where we lost him and where the last confirmed sighting was.

Many counties have sign ordinances so check what those are before you put up a bunch of signs. For example, some ordinances allow you to place signs 25ft from a right of way, some cities don't allow any signage at all Monday-Friday at major intersections. Also keep in mind there may be neighborhood HOAs that don't allow street signs so find out from neighbors in the area if there is an HOA and find out the rules before spending money on signs that get pulled immediately.

Lost Pet Amber Alert.

There are a few of these including LostmyDoggie.com, FindToto.com, and Pawboost.com - we used LostmyDoggie and Pawboost.

On Pawboost, I chose to purchase the premium alert and then once the “featured pet” listing was available, I also purchased this. I’m not sure if the featured pet listing was worth it or not, but definitely utilizing the alert service was. As part of the PawBoost alert, they called all phone numbers within a defined distance radius and created a facebook page listing as part of the service. Anyone who is in their network or “likes” that facebook page sees these posts and can share on facebook.

Nextdoor.com

I found Nextdoor.com to be just as useful as putting out flyers and signs, plus you reach a very large audience very quickly. Not everyone uses Nextdoor.com, but many people do. You can only create a Nextdoor.com account with a verified address and email account, but if you type up a post with text and photo (and image of your lost dog flyer), people can very easily copy and paste that to their Nextdoor.com neighborhood community. Make sure to remind people to select all surrounding neighborhoods to reach a wider audience.

We started a Facebook community page for people to follow the search for our dog. On this page I would post zip codes and neighborhoods where I needed the Nextdoor.com post shared, along with the text and photos for them to easily cut and paste to share.

Facebook.

As mentioned above, we created a Facebook community page where all updates related to our search were posted. I shared this page from my personal Facebook account and asked friends and neighbors do the same to spread the word.

On the Facebook page, I included a pinned post at the top that included the latest confirmed sighting information and my contact information. All other posts would be visible if you scroll through the page.

I was surprised at how many Facebook pages exist for Lost/Found Dogs in the community by state, county, and city. Be sure to post on each one of these or ask people to help share your post on all these pages. Also, share your lost dog post on the Facebook pages for the local shelters, veterinarians, and Buy/Sell/Trade pages relevant for all the areas in your search.

Someone also suggested I run location-targeted Facebook and Instagram Ads and it turned out to be very easy and relatively inexpensive. You can run the ad for a few days per week in the exact zip codes you are searching in. Our add was basically a simple image of the dog with a very limited amount of text. The point of the ad was to direct people to our community Facebook page for more information. The ad ran on both Facebook and Instagram.

I will say, I believe most of the bait called I received for the reward $$$ came from people seeing these Facebook and Instagram ads. They would call with possible sightings and some would ask about the reward, some wouldn’t. However, just be aware that this can happen and it’s up to you on whether you follow up on these leads or how far you engage with these people. Always ask for a photo - if they are not willing to send a photo or can’t really provide a description then there’s a good chance it’s not a real lead.

That brings me to another point on leads/tips/sightings. Some people may just be out for the reward if you are offering one, and some people just genuinely want to help so bad that they will tell you they are SURE they saw your dog and describe the dog so well that even you believe them. The following text is taken from a website regarding eyewitness testimony and memory construction:

Because memory is so fragile, witnesses can be easily (and often accidentally) misled due to the problem of suggestibility. Suggestibility describes the effects of misinformation from external sources that leads to the creation of false memories….we are vulnerable to the power of suggestion, simply based on something we see on the news. Or we can claim to remember something that in fact is only a suggestion someone made. It is the suggestion that is the cause of the false memory.

Believing these tips did lead us down a lot of wild goose chases but it was difficult for me to ignore them altogether. In the end, it turned out ALL of the tips and sightings I received were incorrect. However, I will say, there was an unusual amount of missing dogs that were recovered that week that looked so similar to my dog. So, I really can’t blame these eyewitnesses at all! The biggest take home point is that people were aware of my missing dog and they were willing to help and contact me. The more volunteers you have who can help you search an area and/or put up flyers/signs in these areas where you receive sightings/tips, the easier it is to follow up on each one until you have a reason not to.

Follow up with the shelters.

Check the local shelters daily - especially if they don’t have a mandatory holding period for dogs who are brought in. Also, they may not always pick up the microchip number even if your dog has one. It’s best to either go in yourself or ask a trusted friend or volunteer in the area to check in daily.

Follow up with Veterinarians and animal clinics.

Contact veterinarians yourself by phone and/or drop off a flyer - I was surprised how many offices weren’t aware of our missing dog in their area even though the Homeagain alert and Pawboost amber alert supposedly went out to them.

Preserve your dog's scent.

Bag up a bed, blanket, soft toy or something with your dog’s scent on it. Wrap it in plastic and something airtight, but not a scented bag. You want to preserve the scent in case you end up wanting to use a tracking dog later on.

Twitter.

I am not a big Twitter user but a lot of media outlets and local newscasters (radio, TV, newspapers) etc. and local businesses use it. Many of these individuals are animal lovers and are willing to help retweet your posts so you can reach a wider local audience.

Change your voicemail greeting.

You don’t want to miss any calls, so make sure you change your voicemail greeting so people know to leave a message and/or text you with a photo and as many details as possible so you can follow up with them ASAP.

Billboards.

We did not run a billboard ad but some other people we know in other areas were able to get billboard time donated. It’s worth checking into and asking your search network for any contacts in the industry who could help with this.

Craigslist.

Search Craigslist daily for any dogs that may have been posted in Lost/Found or For Sale

You can also post your lost dog on Craigslist with your contact info, but you may get some false leads and people who are digging for the reward. In two weeks, we received two fake texts from people who said they had our dog..but neither of them would provide any detail or a photo. It was pretty obvious to us that these were Craigslist scammers.

The next set of items pertains to the actual physical search…..

  • Follow water sources. If a dog has found a water source, he/she will likely stick close to it

  • Follow train tracks and power lines.

  • The dog should typically make his way to somewhere familiar (e.g. the last place you saw him or home)

  • Dogs will be attracted by the smell of food - check restaurants, fast food joints, dumpsters, hotels, etc.

  • Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume your dog had to have gone a certain way or would do a certain thing. Sure, we know our dogs but making assumptions can be extremely detrimental to the search. Keep your mind open and follow leads as they come.

  • If you have another dog, have him/her help you in the search. They may pick up on things that you don't, and they can also attract your missing dog back. Make sure they are well hydrated and fed so they can sustain the effort of the search (we walked several hours per day); and, this way they can also pee/poop and spread their scent in areas where your missing dog may be.

  • If you had a very recent sighting that you are going to check out, you may want to keep that information to yourself and your smaller network of trusted volunteers who can help you search the area. Especially if you are offering a reward, random people may flock to that area to try to get the dog for the $$$ and if your dog is really there, he/she could be scared off by all the strangers and it could turn into a dangerous situation.

Do not chase or follow

One of the biggest things for people to know if they see your dog is to not follow them. Dogs can tell if they are being followed and it may cause them to run if they feel pursued or chased.

People should take a picture if at all possible and then contact the number on the flyer with the photo and any details of the sighting (location including intersection or address, time of day, day of the week, direction the dog was heading, identifying marks on the dog, demeanor/energy level, etc.)

To call or not to call?

You will know your dog the best. Some dogs, if very social, may come to someone random who is calling their name. However, even social dogs will become frightened and eventually feral the longer they are lost.

After 24 hours of our dog being missing, we asked people who were searching to not call his name. At that point, I was unsure if he would even come to his family if he was that scared.

As the owners, we would call his name only in certain locations - 1) the location where we last had contact with him ourselves and 2) from location where we believed he was likely last sighted.

We sometimes used a squeaky toy and others did as well if they were searching. This could be a way to entice the dog out of hiding instead of calling his/her name.

Use of food/treats.

Do not scatter food or treats everywhere you are searching.

Set up a food station only at the location of where you last saw your dog and/or wherever you have a believable recent sighting.

Ask searching volunteers to not trail food everywhere because if your dog is out there, you want him or her to stay in one place, not to be traveling the streets searching out food that he/she knows people are leaving out.

If there’s dumpsters and/or restaurants and grocery stores in the area, you can set up your own food station there if you think your dog may be visiting the dumpster to find food or if you had a recent sighting near there.

What to do if you see the dog very close to you?

  • Do not follow or chase
  • Do not yell or talk loudly
  • In a soft voice, encourage the dog to come as you get low to the ground or even lay flat on the ground
  • Do not reach out to grab the dog too quickly as you may scare him/her away
  • If you have food or treats, that may entice the dog to come closer.
  • If you have another dog with you, or a squeaky toy, that may also entice the dog to come to you
  • Be gentle and leash the dog if/when you have the opportunity.
  • If you are unsuccessful, do not chase or follow. Contact the number on the flyer ASAP and let the owner(s) know about the encounter with as much detail as possible.

Scent stations.

In the same area where you set up a food station, only at the location of where you last saw your dog and/or wherever you have a believable recent sighting, leave some of your belongings that have your scent...t-shirts, sheets/pillowcase, underwear, etc. You can also rub kleenex on your body to get your scent on it and drop them around your scent station because they will biodegrade.

Pee around your scent station - others also suggested peeing in a spray bottle and spraying the area around your scent station to attract your dog.

Trail cameras.

Trail cameras are useful at your scent/food station. Set up a camera in line of sight where you leave the food.

This camera is perfect, easy to use, and has a date and time stamp on the images.

You will need to purchase batteries and a memory card up to 32 GB separately.

Secure the camera to a nearby tree that is in the line of sight where you set the food bowl to catch the animal eating. It should be set at the appropriate height to capture the animal in the image - not too high, not too low. Secure it with a bungee cord around the tree.

In a plastic disposable food bowl in front of the camera, place a combination of dry and wet dog food, hot dogs, rotisserie chicken, etc. Also, scatter a couple milk bones and rawhide bones in the area taking note of where you placed them. You can also sprinkle dog food on the ground around the food bowl to keep the animal in the vicinity of the camera and increase your chance of getting him/her on camera.

From a few different directions, you can trail a scent to lead the animal to the food bowl which should not be in plain sight or in a high traffic area. Use dog food, hot dogs, and liquid smoke to create a scent trail to the bowl.

Coyotes and raccoons will eat the human food but will typically not eat the dry dog food or milk bones or rawhides. If you see the bones gone and/or the dry food eaten, chances are it was a dog and not another type of animal.

Humane traps.

We never got to the point of putting out a trap because we never had a real sighting on camera. You need to know where to put the trap and then you need to be out there to watch it once it’s set up in location with food. In my opinion, you should work with someone who has experience using them...if you can reach out to someone from a local animal rescue organization or animal control, they may be able to help you.

Drones and security cameras.

If you have access to a drone and pilot, this could be very useful. We did not.

If there are any office buildings, parking garages, schools, residential communities, etc. that may have security cameras, you can ask to see the footage if you believe your dog may have been in the area.

Tracking Dog.

A tracking dog is not a guarantee to find your missing dog. It’s a tool, just like everything else here. Think of it as a possible way to help you narrow down your search area, which can be especially helpful if you have not had any sightings.

There are some big-money lost pet tracking services out there. We spoke to one who was going to charge $2600 just to show up, then you have to pay them tracking time plus travel expenses. It just wasn’t feasible for us given there was no guarantee they would even find our dog.

We found a local tracking dog (Malinois) and handler who charged approximately $150. The dog seemed to know what he was doing and didn’t waste any time. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up helping us. If you want more details about it, I’d be happy to discuss how it played out.

Pet psychic/dog whisperer/communicator.

This is an absolute last resort in my opinion. We worked with two and the first one was pretty harsh and off the mark. The second one was much easier to talk with, she took her time, and even seemed to have enough clues about the situation that I really believed her. Again, unfortunately, she totally missed the mark and it was not helpful to us in the search.

Going into this, you have to be OK with whatever they tell you - they may tell you that your dog is dead and will give you the details if you want them. They may tell you that your dog ran away and doesn’t want to come home...and possibly even why. Also keep in mind, they could be wrong. This is a hard thing to go through being that you are likely already in a very stressed and emotional state. I know pet psychics have led others to finding their missing pets but, in our case, it was a waste of time and energy and worse yet, an unnecessary added emotional rollercoaster.

The financial cost of the search.

Conducting a thorough and extensive search can be a financial burden but people are often willing to help with donations, especially if they can’t volunteer their time to help you search. If you choose to use GoFundMe.com be very clear about what you are asking for and what you will use the donations for. If the donations exceed your spending, also be clear about what you will do with the leftover donations (i.e. donate them to a specific animal shelter or organization).

The emotional cost of the search.

I'm not going to sugar coat it, if you lose a dog and even do half the things on this list..it's stressful, emotionally draining, and very, very difficult. You have to try to get some sleep, even if it's a few minutes or a couple hours at a time. You also have to stay positive in the face of every outcome possible looming. The search will be an emotional rollercoaster and you have to be strong. Don't get too invested in any one lead if it's not confirm-able, but don't let yourself get stuck in a low spot with feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, remorse, etc. etc. I told myself that I was going to continue searching for my dog until I had a reason to stop. I truly believed I would find him and I channeled that energy into the universe hoping that my dog would hear me. I told him I would never give up on him. 

- Namrita 

"Why I Rescue" by Juliann Worden

My family has always been an advocate of animal rescue. Growing up, it seemed either dogs or cats found us, or people we knew asked if we could take an animal in and my mother could never say no. We even had a rabbit that had gotten scratched by another animal and went blind. Because it was blinded, the owner returned it to the pet store they purchased it at because they didn’t want it anymore. Knowing the rabbit would probably just live in a cage in the back of the store for the rest of its life, we adopted it and gave it a wonderful home. I also remember picking out my first kitten at the SPCA in Buffalo when I was eight years old, he was a little grey fluff ball and my buddy for the next 10 years. 

As an adult, I can only imagine rescuing animals. Our three Weimaraners are all rescues. Six years ago, I was looking for a dog that I could take running with me. I had done research and found that Weimaraners made excellent running partners. One evening in May 2012, I was browsing the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh’s website and saw they had a six year old Weimaraner named Hurley. I was a little concerned that perhaps he was a bit old but I called the shelter the next day to ask about him. He had been given up by his family because they no longer had time for him, with four children and two other dogs. They described him as energetic and recommended he would be good for running for a few years. That Saturday morning, we drove from Erie, PA to Pittsburgh to hopefully adopt Hurley. We walked into the kennel area and came up to Hurley’s cage. He growled at me when we first approached his cage, but I reached in to let him sniff my hand. He leaned forward and then lifted his paw like he wanted to shake! I knew then we had to take him home. We took him for a walk around the block and he certainly had the spunk to run! He pulled me down the sidewalk as I tried to keep up with him. We went back into the shelter and adopted him and were able to bring him home with us that afternoon. He was a perfect gentleman during the two hour car ride. He quickly became my best buddy and I logged hundreds of miles with him. He was much faster than me which encouraged me to run faster and I improved as a runner. I wanted to be a faster runner because of him, knowing he could do so much more. When he was about eight, I noticed he was starting to slow down and no longer could run consistently for the 4-6 miles we would do every other day. Hurley is now 12 and although his running days are over, he is my best buddy and I can’t imagine our lives without him. He is my protector and guards the house. He sits in the kitchen where he can keep an eye on the door. His favorite place to lay in the winter is in front of our fireplace. He still loves to run around outside in the woods and play. I still question why his previous family dropped him at a shelter; he truly is the smartest, most loyal dog I have ever had. 

We have since adopted two other Weimaraners, one as a puppy where the family had bred their female in hopes of “calming her down”. Hank was the last of the puppies to find a home and we had heard about him from a friend. He was already 12 weeks old, and the owners of the female said they were just going to give him to a shelter if they couldn’t find a home for him. Hank is now 6 and has taken Hurley’s place as my running buddy. He gets excited when he sees me putting my running shoes on and is as sweet as can be.

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Winston is our most recently adopted Weimaraner. We weren’t looking to add a third dog to our family but one day, I came across his posting on a local shelter’s website. He is ten years old and was dropped at the shelter because “his family was tired of him” to quote the shelter manager when we went to look at him. We had brought Hank and Hurley to the shelter incase we wanted them to meet him. All three dogs walked nicely together and Winston seemed to be a perfect fit. It took a few months for Winston to really warm up to us and the other dogs. He didn’t seem to understand what a treat was, and had no interest in playing or cuddling. It took him four days before he would eat anything for us; he just seemed so depressed. Weimaraners are known for not doing too well in shelters and I am sure that Winston was confused and felt abandoned. It has been about five months and he has finally bonded with Hank (Hurley prefers to be off by himself, he seems to think he is more a human than a dog). He absolutely adores my husband and is a perfect angel. He is another dog that we find ourselves often questioning why his previous owners gave him up. 

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I can only image rescuing Weimaraners in the future. It has been so rewarding rescuing our three Weimaraners. The bonds we have with our dogs are impossible to describe. I follow various Weimaraner rescue groups that are located across the United States on Facebook and there are always so many dogs of all ages that are surrendered and need homes. It breaks my heart that I cannot adopt every single one of them. I am not able to volunteer with any of these groups since they are not local but I support their fundraisers whenever possible. I love my old senior pups Hurley and Winston and hope we can make their last years their best years. They bring so much joy to our lives and I think they know and appreciate that they were rescued. 

- Pack Leader, Juliann Worden of Erie PA
 

Fostering | Part One

I’ll get too attached.

It’s not the right time.

Yes, you probably will get attached. And, it might not seem like the right time. But isn’t that so true for so many things? We can be very good at protecting ourselves; but, in this situation, I think almost anyone who has fostered a rescue animal in need would say it’s time to open yourself to the idea. For these animals, time is of the essence and could be the difference between life and death. Committing to adopting is a lifelong commitment to the animal. But fostering? While it is temporary, it may be one of the most significant things you ever do.

 Sizemore and Kim Dillen

Sizemore and Kim Dillen

 Titan (R) rescued from the streets in Alabama. We named him Ranger, treated him for Heartworm and helped socialize him with other male dogs. Now he is Duke and living the life with a loving family, farm, and three other very happy dogs in South Carolina. 

Titan (R) rescued from the streets in Alabama. We named him Ranger, treated him for Heartworm and helped socialize him with other male dogs. Now he is Duke and living the life with a loving family, farm, and three other very happy dogs in South Carolina. 

The thing is, we would all be lying if we said fostering was always easy. Seriously, sometimes it actually is simply fun and shockingly easy. But more often than not, you will encounter some challenges whether it’s adapting to a new routine, waking up a little earlier, having to sweep a little more often, spending a little more money on food, or...getting attached and having to say good bye. If you ended up here reading this, chances are you’re not the type of person who typically chooses the easy way out, are you? You’ve experienced the deep sense of fulfillment and pride when you worked really hard on a project, trained really hard for a race, or took in an animal in need and transformed his/her life. Easy things don’t give us that fulfillment and satisfaction, challenges do.

The thing is, we have that option. We can choose to say yes or no. We can choose to offer help or turn our head. Animals who are neglected, abused, dumped, abandoned..they can’t choose. They need us. While fostering is no doubt a commitment, it’s not permanent unless you want it to be. The life of the animal you foster will be forever changed by love and trust because of you. And, whether you expect it or not, the effect that will have on you is profound.

We asked our friends on social media to share with us what they thought was “the most surprising thing” about fostering. After reading the responses, the general theme that emerged was that the experience of connecting with these animals and sensing their gratitude is actually a gift to us. When we go into a foster situation to help them, somehow we are always surprised at the degree to which the animal helps us, whether we thought we needed it or not.

We’ve included a selection of the comments received from our instagram and facebook pages below.

It’s amazing how quickly you can see a change in a scared, traumatized, neglected dog. Their hearts are so pure and they just want to know they are loved. The other surprising thing is how cruel some people can be...but I like to focus on the good that’s out there.
They can so quickly fall right in line and adapt to routine and love..like they’ve been with us their whole life.
It’s so much more about the adoption match than it is about their time with me. I stopped fostering for years because I thought I needed to have an ideal lifestyle first, then I finally got involved again when I started working from home. But why did I wait? I don’t have to be their perfect home, I just need to keep them safe and get to know them so I know if a home is a good fit.
That goodbye gets easier. And, if you’re fostering puppies, sometimes the goodbye is a huge relief - puppies can be high maintenance! Some fosters I could so easily see staying in our family but our role as a loving pitstop on the way to their forever-ever home makes me feel awesome and immensely fulfilled. When they go home, I take a few minutes to cry in my car, and then I know it’s on to the next one that needs our help! There is no shortage.
Fostering is one of the most gratifying gifts I’ve ever been the RECEIVER OF. Yes, I know I’m potentially saving that animal’s life but I feel like I’m the one who’s being fulfilled, uplifted and given the biggest gift! Fosters are needed so desperately to save these lives..I would strongly encourage everyone to give it a try because it just might rescue you.
They are so genuinely happy to be in an environment with love, you can see the gratitude in their little faces! I love how quickly they figure out how nice it is to sleep on a soft bed and how they come out of their shell and blossom physically and mentally. They are so appreciative of being well cared for.
I was actually surprised at how I was able to become attached without getting my heart broken. We rescued a dog before her and I think that made the entire fostering process a lot easier.
While it’s tough to say good-bye, the reminder that there’s always another dog/cat in need makes it a lot easier to let go as they move on to their fur-ever homes. At first I used to think I could never let go of my fosters, but experience has taught me otherwise.
Every foster has his/her own story. Getting to know each one and finding them the best possible home is the best feeling.

We’ll be posting our next question regarding some of the challenges and difficult situations you’ve had with fostering and how you dealt with it. Stay tuned for that on social media, we’d love you to chime in as a contributor.

Special thanks to Polly Johnson of Southeast GSP Rescue for assisting with this article.

#teamrescueproject

DaisyDuke by Christine Rucker

For the original story and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

This was Daisy. Calm in the presence of chaos. Always a perfect combination of grace and goof. Of curiosity and fear. We were lucky to have shared 14 years of adventures and mis-adventures. 

Yes, she was 14.

I do it myself, when someone tells me they lost a pet, first I offer my condolences, then I ask..so how old was he/she? somehow the longer the life of the animal.. the easier it should be to let go, right?

They’ve had a full life, and probably enough love for five lifetimes. They have also been entwined longer in your life and they become the glue that keeps the rest of your family together.

Yes, fourteen IS a ripe old age for a dog, and especially her breed of German Shorthair Pointer.

 But 14 years is not long enough when they have planted roots into your life.


She grew up in the shadow of a great dog name “Duke’, who stayed with us until he was 19. She was named DaisyDuke in honor of him. We shared her lineage with one of my best friends who adopted her brother “Luke”. They made up the Dukes of Hazard dog dynasty.


There are a million “little” things that made Daisy “Daisy”.

The way she would bark when the tires hit our gravel drive and she would stick her head out the window inhaling the air, biting at the trees we passed by. Like she was trying to ingest all that was home to her.

The way she would know the second I got out of the shower, no matter how hard it was for her to climb the stairs as she got older, she would be waiting to lick the water off my legs and if there was lotion involved. it was like icing.


The way she would press her body against mine at night.. not just sleeping “next” to me.. but sleeping with me. How you could easily get her to break into a song by one howl in the morning and the way her ears would perk and her head would cock when you told her there were rabbits waiting for her outside.

The way she barked at you if you were a little late in feeding her, just in case you might have forgotten.


These are just the physical things she would do. She could easily read my emotions and at times knew me better than I knew myself, and while she couldn’t talk, she had developed a different kind of language. One that spoke directly to my emotions.

She’s been my confidant, my therapist, and my marriage counselor when needed. She came into my life when I wanted kids but could not have them... and she became my surrogate child.


It might sound cliche to say she was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. I’ve known a lot of dogs and been privileged to spend my time on this planet surrounded by dogs. But, Daisy truly was the sweetest I’ve ever met.
She had a combination of gentleness and kindness that really is rare in an animal. She never killed anything. She was kind of a Buddah dog that way..


There was the time she found baby bunnies in the back yard and brought them in one by one to her dog bed,then took a nap on top of them. If anything has ever died from too much love, it was those bunnies.


Being a bird dog, she would find birds and bring them to me inside. As soon as they dried off from her slobber , they would take flight and we would chase them through the house and release them back outside.


She once met her match when she cornered a chip monk who took offense and hissed at her, then took pleasure in chasing Daisy back to the house.


And she was the only dog in our pack that I would allow off leash when a baby fawn showed up at our house needing some care. It immediately imprinted on Daisy and Daisy reluctantly became a surrogate animal mom for the fawn.


Daisy was not the independent type unless we were on a trail, then she would satellite me or just plain wander off.


I tried the E-Collar a few times, but she figured out how far she needed to be away from me for it not to work. This only enabled the satellite effect.


I had a signature “Whoop Whoop” when I wanted to find her, and so many times that would be answered by a “Bark Bark” coming from the parking area of the trail. She would be waiting by the car for me, ready to go home and my bike ride was usually cut short when it was hot.


But other than that, she didn’t mind asking for help.. she would bark at doorsteps the couple times she got lost until someone came to the door. Once she wandered off on a hike along the Blue Ridge parkway, she went to the road and barked at passing cars until someone stopped.


Even though most pointers are good swimmers, she preferred if you’d find her a big raft or boat to float on. The few times she was inured, she was the best dog patient ever, because she didn’t fight your help, she loved it.


She eventually became a better trail dog and would come when called quickly. So when I blindly got another pointer. This one rescued and wired with an anxiety I couldn’t put my finger on, I recruited Daisy to help with the training.

Since Daisy came back to me when I called her and she was 20 lbs. bigger than our new dog Bailey.. I figured I could leash them together and Daisy could bring her back by overpowering Bailey.
I momentarily forgot how easy going Daisy was. Bailey took off, dragging Daisy along for the ride. They ended up 4 miles down the road at a dairy farm, probably with Daisy barking at the farmhouse until someone came out.
The call I got from the farmer was hilarious: “So, I know pointers are prone to run off and all.. but I never seen two of ‘em tied together before”


And that was Daisy. Ready to go along for the ride without a worry. She traveled across country with us when she was recovering from a knee surgery. She stayed in weird places and strange motels without a single bark of opposition. She traveled more miles with me than most people have. She adventured hard and made me laugh often.


And she was always there waiting for me when I returned from adventures of my own. She taught me to be kinder, and made me a more patient person.

We always think in terms of how to train our dogs, but don’t realize the way they train us. She taught me how to relax more and appreciate a 2 mile walk in the woods instead of a 20 mile ride in the woods.


14 years of adventures are suddenly ending in a sterile emergency vet office at 11:00 at night on the 4th of July.

Leaving us wondering what happened and how we are going to walk out of here without you.


Daisy was too sweet of a dog to linger with an illness and too sweet of a dog to make us wonder when the time was “right” to let her go. She got sick suddenly and the decision was made for us. Everything happened so quickly.

All we could do was send you out of this world with our love and our tears.


Your last day was spent in the woods and by the river, with a pack that loved you. And that’s how it should have been for a dog as sweet as you.

 I’m sure you’ve carved out a little piece of dog heaven and named it Hazard County.

There are thousands of pictures I could share of Daisy's life. But these embody her like no others I have taken of her. We loaded her up in an overpacked element and drove west. She was the peacekeeper, the comedian, and the best therapist a married couple could have on a 4,000 mile journey. This is the spirit of Daisy:

For the original story published July 12, 2017 and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

Wild Love by Christine Rucker

Detached attachment is a sticky line.

Love tends to hook onto my heart easily and when I love back, it’s for the long haul.

So when a four month old starving fawn walked up to me in the yard this past September, I felt those hooks sink in and I knew I was in for a life changing experience . I named her Farrah Fawncett. And Farrah was going to challenge how I could love something with a sense of detachment.

I felt like new mom. Second guessing my every decision, googling what to feed, how much to feed this new baby. When her belly would swell from the fruit and goat milk I gave her.. I worried I might kill her.. but a quick google search tipped me off to adding baby gas drops to her milk.

Of course I wanted to bring her inside, let her sleep with us and our three dogs. But I also knew that might ruin her chance of staying wild. And I more than anyone, know that being wild is being free. So instead, I made little huts all around the woods near our house. I spread straw under our deck and kept all our dogs.-except our gentle dog daisy- on leashes until I knew she would grow bigger and faster than the pups.

And I fell in love. hard. I’ve had many animals in my life.. I’ve raised all our dogs from pups to old age. But Farrah was different . I felt a crushing weight of responsibility to keep her alive and also keep her free. With the dogs I had a level of control.. but when Farrah left our front porch after eating and went into the woods, control was out of my reach.

I didn’t sleep much on the nights it got into the single digits. But Farrah would be at the door at day break , her fur all fluffed up and looking much bigger than she actually was. When I would her the coyotes howl and yip at night.. I’d get up and turn all the outside lights on. And in the morning, she would be waiting for me by the door.

We live in the middle of a triangle of hunters, so every time I would hear a gunshot, I would hold my breath. But then she would pop her head out of the woods, reminding me that she felt safe here and was not going to wander off too far.

People told me to put an orange collar on her, or an orange handkerchief, that she was now a family pet. I didn’t follow their advice. For one, she was not mine to keep or lay claim to, and secondly, I worried she’d get it hung up on something in the woods. Mostly, I didn’t want other deer to avoid her because of something “human” hanging around her neck. I wanted to keep her wild more than my need tokeep her mine.  I’ve been connected to this landscape we live in since we moved ten years ago and through that landscape, I felt connected to Farrah. We are all part of nature, and nature is more about connections to the wild world than it is about taming it.

I started to prepare myself for the morning she would not show up. And those occasional times she wouldn’t be waiting at the door, I would lose hours of my day just worrying about her, until she rambled up to the house mid-day. So it was a tightrope I balanced on. I learned to love without expectation. I learned to love something as much as I could and then let hope take over.

When I wondered if she was lonely being out in the woods solo, I would look outside and watch her doing hot laps chasing the dogs around the fenced-in enclosure. She found a way to play with them on my terms.

She brought a kind of balance into my life that is hard to explain. It’s a little like being able inhale deeper and breath easier. There was a new calmness around the house that her presence
created.

There are a handful of moments in my life that I feel are perfect, pure experiences.
One evening I was walking the dogs down by the river. We had just had a big rain and this heavy fog had settled over the river but you could see the clouds turning a deep pink from the sunset. It was as if we were surrounded in a soft cotton candy colored fog. I turned to walk back up the trail and Farrah was standing behind us.As she joined us at the river , she was silhouetted in this amazing colored fog. I wished only for a second that I had a camera but then realized it would have taken me out of this moment and taken away the rawness of this experience. Farrah walked the trail with us, all of us still enveloped in this surreal fog. As long as I live, the memory of that evening will be etched into my mind.

She began to take walks with us, then she started to follow me on my mountain bike though the trails. I finally let Bailey, my English pointer, off leash and she and Farrah would rip through the woods playing a hilarious game of tag and hide and seek. Farrah always won.

Eventually she stopped coming every day. Spring was here and the forest was full of new green treats. Maybe she was getting introduced to other yearlings that had separated from their mom. She was becoming more wild. This was my goal all along. She had gotten through the winter. She was still small, but she had filled out.

She was returning where she belonged. But it hurt. And we missed her. When she would pop back out of the woods, I was almost as surprised as when I first saw her. A kind of excitement you might get when you see family member you haven’t seen in a while. A kind of fluttering inyour stomach.

But the weeks we didn’t see her, that fluttering was replaced by a quiet sadness.

I’ve tried to write this many times but could not find the words. Or I thought in writing this, it might jinx her from ever coming back.

It’s been over two weeks since she last visited. Part of me is saying she’s moved on. Part of me is worried she ran into trouble. But all of my heart knows where ever she is, she had the loveof a human family, a free love that didn’t try to make her less wild. She was simply loved and given a little more advantage to survive.

This story has been abbreviated for this blog. To read the full version published on May 10, 2017 with more photos and videos, visit Christine Rucker