A week or so before Christmas, there was a family sitting on a corner in our neighborhood. They were holding posters covered in pictures of their dog that had run away a day or so before. They were on that corner most of the day, even into the twilight hours, and they flagged over anyone who looked half interested in helping them keep an eye out for her.
The next day, these little signs, smaller versions of the posters, showed up on trees and telephone poles around that same intersection and up and down the other nearby streets. Each one had at least four color photos and was in a sheet protector to keep it clean and dry. There are quite a few folks in our area who have dogs of their own and make use of the tree-lined sidewalks both morning and afternoon canine constitutionals, naturally keeping their eyes (and noses) on the lookout for the MIA hound. I’d also like to think that more than one Twilight Bark was sent out to aid in the search, but as I’m human, I’m not privy to that dependable line of communication.
Anyone who has had a pet run away can tell you it is a gut wrenching experience. Traffic, other animals, cruel humans, and the elements—any of those things can harm a critter used to “three hots and cot” in a home where they’re loved and cared for. Sometimes, a kind person finds them and brings them home; other times, they wander back into the yard of their own accord.
However, more often than not, the four-legged members of our families don’t make it back. In fact, according to the American Humane Society, over ten million pets are reported missing every year, and only 17% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats are ever returned to their owners. Our dog, Shadow, who passed away in 2010, was an old fella by the time the pet microchip came out. His digging under the fence and chasing squirrel days were long behind him. However, I couldn’t imagine owning a dog today without having this device, especially in a large city where thousands of animals go unclaimed and are put down. There are quite a few companies who sell the chips for less than $100, and they can be implanted by your veterinarian. After that, they need to be registered in state and national databases so your buddy can be returned to you, and that registration needs to be updated every time you move. It really requires little to no effort, and it more than doubles the chances of finding your lost pet.
I don’t know about you, but the sight of those handmade “Lost Dog/Cat” posters always breaks my heart because I remember what it was like to wait for a cat that never came home. (Shadow also vanished a time or two, but he was never gone for more than a few hours. Still, that was not much fun for little Harpo if you know what I’m saying.) What makes it worse for me is when those posters continue to hang, week after week, until they’re so soaked with rain they disintegrate and fall from their tacks or shrivel up like a mummy and fade in the blistering heat. Eventually, they all disappear, and I never know the outcome of the story. I try to imagine the positive in all cases, but I know that statistics don’t lie.
However, with the Yorkshire Terrier in my neck of the woods, I saw something I had never seen before. A few days ago, each and every one of the signs were still hanging there, with one addendum, a huge piece of duct tape on which the phrase “We Found Her” was written in black Sharpie marker! I’m no graphologist, but judging by the jaunty, bubble shaped letters, I can imagine the girls who got their dog back were pretty John Brown thrilled about it. 🙂
The courtesy of this gesture touched me deeply. Not only was I happy beyond measure that that dog was home with its family, but I was also grateful that a group of people cared enough to update the status of their situation in a simple but obvious way. As far as I’m concerned, that sign can stay up forever. It reminds me that happy endings are possible and that kindness both exists and is rewarded.