#FindLeon and What to Do When You’re Puppy Goes Missing

It’s been quiet on here for a reason.

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Saturday, August 26th at 8am our dogs got loose. I noticed within 10-15 minutes of it happening and raced into the backyard, calling for Rony as I did so. They dug a hole in the corner of the yard and pried off a couple of boards off the fence, escaping into the alley. Almond is a runner and has escaped a few times, giving us heart attacks as we chase her down and she plays keep away, but this was Leon’s first time being gone. He follows Almond wherever she goes and would have followed her out that hole.

Almond was found crossing one of the major, busy streets by Marisa and was brought home safe. We didn’t find Leon.

For 6 days/144 hours, he was missing.

We hardly slept at all. We ate whenever we had a chance to pause, scarfing down chips or snack bars, or whatever people would bring us and go back out. We’ve searched almost non-stop, from 7am in the morning to 1am at night. My bones and muscles ached from walking, my fingertips were raw and peeling from posting flyers, and any ground I had made on getting over being sick was shot to the wind and I felt awful. I couldn’t breathe from congestion and my eyes were swelling shut and I kept having migraines. We couldn’t stop though.

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Saturday was not only going to be my first Pride after coming out but it was also National Dog Day. It felt like being stabbed every time I saw people post pictures of their dogs while I had no clue where Leon was. Was he safe, hurt, taken, hiding, scared? We’ve checked the shelter every day and nothing. They have a binder of deceased dogs and it was nauseating to flip through, hoping we didn’t see him every day.

That first day, we walked 6 miles looking for him. Sunday we walked 10-11 miles and then Monday 3 miles. All together, we walked 32 miles looking for Leon. We visited every shelter and pet store and groomers, giving flyers. Asked people on the street. Checked every tip, no matter how crazy. I’ve made hundreds of lost pet posts online and taken out ads and have done everything. He had his tags and collar on when he went missing and was micro-chipped, but no one had found him or called or brought him in to a vet or shelter.

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On top of it, we also adopted 3 kittens that are about 4-5 weeks old. Mae Mae took a while, but she’s adopted them and is feeding them and watching over them. We think they belong to one of our strays that passed away last week. Our neighbor heard them crying in her backyard. They’re cute and distracting and kept me busy, which was good because I was so near falling apart.

We have literally posted over a thousand flyers. That’s not hyperbole either. We literally have printed and posted around 1300 flyers. We’ve put them everywhere. Every time we found a blank area, we put them all over. We asked businesses, put them in high populated areas, shopping centers, the university.

This is what hell feels like. Being in pain, exhausted, but not being able to stop or else the hopelessness crushes you because your loved one is out there and you don’t know if they’re hurt or scared or being taken care of by a good family.

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We got so many tips that ended up being different dogs or dead ends. Our most promising ones were a girl that said she saw him with a kid and a mom less than 10 blocks from us, in the direction he was seen running. She said she tried to see him and the mom cussed her out, saying she doesn’t care where he came from and that he was theirs now. The location wasn’t far from our house and we staked it out for 2 days, but when we finally saw the dog it wasn’t ours.

An older man called and thought he saw Leon by the park by his house. I raced over at lunch and he ran to the park to show me, but it was also the wrong dog. Two different ladies in our neighborhood said they saw him with a dog gang. We woke up early at 6am, and scouted the streets looking for them. We found them in 15 minutes. It was 3 Chihuahua looking dogs and a white/brown pit. They were sweet and ran up to the car and gave kisses. Not much of a gang, but also not Leon.

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At the same time, we had a lady say she thought she saw him by his house and was trying to track him down. I was texting her when I got a call at about 630. A guy said he may have Leon ten blocks from our house. I described Leon’s tail and figure and he said he was almost sure it was him. We turned around and drove there, looking for a corner house and a guy with a dog sitting on the porch.

When we found the house, we burst into tears because it was finally Leon. I ran out the car before it was even fully stopped and ran to him. He jumped and wagged his tail and licked my face while I sobbed my heart out. This whole week it hadn’t sunken in that he was gone, like at any time I’d wake up and he’d be home. I couldn’t see how we could do so much for everyone else. Events, charities, promo-ing, dog sitting, fostering, helping other people find their animals. While searching we helped like 3 people and took in the kittens. We needed luck on our side and I refused to let go that our dog was gone forever, but it was starting to feel so hopeless.

Having him in my arms was heaven. The guy had been walking his dog near the high school and had grabbed one of our flyers. He saw Leon and managed to grab him and called us, waiting on the porch until we showed up. Him and his partner had lost their dog a year ago and knew how it felt and were so happy to find him for us, they didn’t want the reward. We’re going to donate it to the Humane Society and aid or Hurricane Harvey.

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Leon was skinnier, but uninjured and happy and still had his collar on even. We have no clue what he had been doing for almost a week and had patrolled that area so many times that we don’t know how we didn’t find him.

I sat in the trunk area with him while Rony talked to the guys and just cried and hugged him and called everyone. Almond was excited when we got home and Leon drank all the water and ate 4 cups of food. They ran around and played and it was like he hadn’t left.

It took all morning to call and let everyone know and just relax and know he was okay. It still feels surreal but he’s home and I can’t thank enough people for helping us search for him. We literally painted the town in his flyers and we have him back.

It’s been an exhausting process but it paid off.

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So, if you are missing your dog, all I can do is write down some tips that we learned. No one can say we weren’t dedicated to finding him and he’s probably the most famous lost pup in town now but it got results:

Tips for Finding your Puppy

  1. Immediately search the entirety of your neighborhood as fast as you can after they go missing
  2. Find all the Lost and Found Facebook pages/group and post to them all daily
  3. Post on Pawboost
  4. Post on your neighborhood app (NextDoor is the one we have)
  5. Check the shelters every day, don’t just call. If you do it an hour or so before they close, most of their trucks should be in from picking up animals.
  6. After a few days, email or check the shelters of nearby towns. Dogs can travel a lot at night
  7. Put some of your dirty clothes or their toys outside so if they’re lost, they may try to find their way home. Don’t put food because you’ll just attract other dogs.
  8. Post flyers on all major intersections, busy areas, and stores that will let you
  9. Give flyers to every vets office and groomers/boarders that you can
  10. Put flyers on your car and put a big sign in your yard so that if someone finds them, they know where to return them
  11. Check with neighbors, anyone outside, or joggers in your area.
  12. Follow all tips, no matter how far they are from your home.
  13. As soon as you can, see if you can get your friends to do a search party
  14. If your dog has a microchip, register it as Lost and make sure to tell your vets office
  15. If someone has seen him in your neighborhood, try to walk from your house to the tip spot and see where they could have gone from there
  16. If you can afford it, do a Facebook and Instagram ad.
  17. Post on Craigslist
  18. Ask your mail carrier when you see them, police officers, or city services if you come across them. They drive around constantly!
  19. It’s weird, but don’t be afraid to ask homeless people and give them flyers. A lot of times they’re very happy to help (especially if there is a reward)
  20. Don’t give up hope.

And when you get them home, make sure your fence is secure! Nail any loose boards, pour concrete along the bottom, or if you can’t then chicken wire it down so they cant dig to get under it! You can bend it along the base and stake it down!

I can only hope this helps someone else looking for their baby. Our animals are our children and it felt like my heart had died while he was gone. We couldn’t go on with our lives until he was home and I’m so glad he is. I’m never letting him go.

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-Sam <3

 

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