If you lose your dog, don't call him

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Earlier this week, a man drove through our neighborhood, stopping at every single mailbox to drop off a flier. You could see the desperation in his face. His dog was lost.

A lost dog is traumatizing for any family. One minute this cuddly creature is an integral part of your family, licking your face and eating your socks. The next minute he's gone. And it's terrifying.

Wade and Ruthie Stevenson of Woodhaven know what that's like. On Christmas night, the couple and their young daughter hit a slick spot on I-75 near Lapeer Road and their car rolled several times. Luckily, no one was injured but their dog, Red, a golden retriever, bolted into the nearby woods.

Red Stevenson was missing for a week after his family got in a car accident before he was found.

For a week, the Stevensons turned to the media to help find their dog. Eventually, Michael James of Lending a Helping Paw helped find Red. James set live traps with food to catch Red, who was skittish, and it worked. He was returned to the Robinsons early last week.

"We have him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Michael!!!!!!" owner Wade Stevenson posted on Facebook last week with a picture of James, who rescued their missing dog.

I could relate when I heard about Red. My family also has a golden retriever whose name also happens to be Red.

And I can still the feel the angst when we briefly lost our Red. On Thanksgiving night about six weeks ago, my husband took our 15-month-old golden out for a walk after we'd been gone all day. Within seconds of starting their walk, Red saw several deer in a neighbor's yard, took off after them and snapped his leash. He was too fast for my husband to keep up.

For hours, my husband circled our neighborhood and the woods near our house, calling our dog's name. But there were no streetlights and it was hard to see. At midnight, we decided to put our search on hold until morning.

You quickly realize who your friends are in a situation like that. Neighbors drove to nearby subdivisions and parks to look for Red. Some good friends offered to come over at 2 a.m. to help with the search.

Unable to sleep, I scrolled the Internet late into the night, looking for advice to bring home our beloved dog. I posted his picture on popular Facebook group called "For the Love of Louie."

It turns out there are an entire group of people -- like James of Lending a Helping Paw -- who are trained to find lost pets. The Missing Animal Response Network recovers lost pets using time-tested techniques. The group's website (missinganimalresponse.com) lists professionals by state (and there's one in Michigan).

As contrary as it sounds, when a dog is lost, don't call its name, the group advises. It could scare off a lost dog even more.

"There’s a reason why one of the worst things that you can do is call out to a stray dog or panicked dog," writes the Missing Animal Response Network. "The reason is that it’s likely that other people (who encountered the loose dog) have already tried to capture him and calling him has become a 'trigger' that causes him to automatically bolt in fear when anyone, including his owner, calls him."

For us, my husband finally found our dog 12 hours after he first went missing, one subdivision over from ours. He was scared, dirty and had been sprayed in the face by a skunk. I cried tears of joy when my husband texted me that he'd found him. 

These days, the flier of that other lost dog hangs on our refrigerator. I'll keep my eyes out for him. And I won't call his name if I see him.