Sometimes, no matter how well contained our pets are, or how well trained they are to stay in their own yard or house, something is left open or something captures their attention and they manage to make their great escape. Twice I have had, or thought I had, lost my dog; both times everything worked out fine, but I swear it shaved years off my life! The first time I thought my dog went missing, I spent two hours in complete panic searching the neighborhood for her. It was not until I went home to change into running shoes so I could continue my search did I find that I had accidently locked her in my bedroom closet. She had been there the entire time…never barked, never whined, never scratched at the door. The second time it was my 14-year-old blind poodle that had wandered out the gate. He was at the point where all he ever did was sleep and I had not realized he was gone until he came walking down the street towards me as I was working in the garden. Even though I hadn’t known he was gone, the terror that gripped me when I realized what could have happened to him as he wandered blindly through the neighborhood, haunted me until long after he had passed away.
We have people calling or coming into the shelter everyday looking for their lost pets; some never find them; that to me would be pure torture. Unfortunately, we have many more pets coming into the shelter everyday whose owners never come looking for them; this I do not understand. The reclaim rate for dogs is only about 40%; where are the other 60% of owners?
The reclaim rate for cats is an abysmal two to three percent, if we’re lucky. It’s one of the few statistics that has not improved over time within the sheltering industry. It seems odd that as our society has become more proactive about other important issues, such as pet retention and spay/neuter, that the cat reclaim rate has not budged. It’s so unusual for a cat to be reclaimed from the shelter that the staff is thrilled when it actually happens.
Last week we had an especially heartwarming reunion that was completely unexpected. For the past six months a very determined lady has been coming in to look for her cat three times a week like clockwork. The cat had shown up at her house last year and although very friendly, it had taken her quite some time to get him into her house. She finally managed to get him inside, get him neutered
and was trying to integrate him into her existing indoor feline family. It turned out that he was very scared of the other cats and one day he was able to make a beeline out the door. Shari was devastated but went on a mission to get her sweet boy back. The months passed but her determination did not. She continued her tireless search but was just coming to the realization that too much time had gone by since he disappeared and that the chances that she would find him were becoming very slim. Reluctantly, she decided that this past Monday, the six-month mark, would be her last visit to the shelter to look for him.
She walked in and greeted the staff, whom she knew well by this time, went through to the first cat room, got to the third cage and stopped dead in her tracks. There he was, her “Georgie”. She ran back and got a staff member to get him out of the cage for her. As soon as the big tabby got onto the floor he immediately went over to his long lost mom, rubbing up against her and meowing up a storm. Tears of joy flowed throughout the shelter for this very persistent lady and her feline friend.
Fingers crossed, maybe this will be a better year for reuniting pets with their people.