Tips on Finding a Lost Pet

The author with Betty White (left) and Sophia (right) - AKA the runaway.
The author with Betty White (left) and Sophia (right) – AKA the runaway.

By Laura Braden

A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened – my dog (literally) ran away.

I had just adopted her two weeks prior, and the Sacramento City Shelter knew nothing about her past, just that she had been turned in “over the counter” as a stray. In fairness to her, she was still adjusting to her new home,  family and name … but in my defense, what dog would run away from a warm couch and (real) bacon treats??

I allowed myself 30 seconds of panic before springing into action. The good news is that she was back safely at home within 48 hours … and here’s how we did it.

1. Don’t. Panic.

For real, don’t panic. This is incredibly hard to do because my pups are my IRL children. Combine that with the fact that my home is next to BUSY Freeport Blvd, and you’ll be craving a box of wine to cope with your jittery nerves.

But panicking is completely unproductive – it clouds your mind and makes you worry about worst case scenarios before they’ve actually happened. It may be morbid, but I kept telling myself, “you don’t know that she’s not alive and hanging out in a neighbor’s backyard. Don’t get upset until you know there’s something to be upset about.”

2. Microchip, Microchip, Microchip.

If you’re pet isn’t microchipped, go get that done – today – and then make sure you register online at They have a free service where you can send out an alert to local vets, shelters and pet stores letting folks know that your pet has gone missing with a description/picture. Conversely, should someone find your pet and go to any of these places, your profile (and contact information) will pop up in their database when they get scanned.

3. Alert Locals.

Bravo to the city of Sacramento – their 311 service was ultimately how we found her so quickly. In reality, she had wandered six blocks away only to encounter a very lovely, retired gentleman who took her in and contacted 311. I had already filled out a missing pet alert online so they were able to determine a match once the good samaritan called them. Someone at the city (guardian angel #2) called my cell to let me know that he had Sophia. I called him right after and arranged pick-up for that evening.

I also posted a notice on Craigslist. Amazingly enough, complete strangers reached out to either offer sympathy or tips to find her. Once Sophia was safely back at home, I updated the post to “FOUND” and thanked everyone for their help (standard protocol on CL).

And I also scanned the websites of the local shelters every few hours because they’re super great about updating their database as animals come in.

4. Sit Back and Be Patient…And Continue to Not Panic.

Which is easier said than done. I blew through my “to do” list. I went home early and cleaned out my closets. I went to happy hour on a Monday night. Basically anything to keep my mind off the fact that my poor, little pup was wandering around Land Park (hungry? cold? confused?) without her owner.

But, as mentioned, this story (thankfully) had a very happy ending. My roomies and I also learned that she is not to be trusted off-leash…even for a second. If you have a story or additional tips for recovering lost pets, please let us know by leaving a comment below!

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