Lost and Found: What to do when you lose your dog

It’s our worst nightmare, isn’t it? To lose a dog. To have Rosie or Harold disappear, I can’t breathe when that happens. Rarely is Harold out of my sight but it happens. With that mama’s boy, he’s usually close enough to return within minutes. Rosie though? Ah, she ran off once.

A cold November afternoon, we’d gone for a walk in the nearby mountains. Up to the crest and looking over to the Jemez in the far distance, we scrambled through the cactus and rocks. Incredible. Worth puffing and panting. With the sun dropping towards the Sandias and the temperature following along for a ride, I headed back downhill. A whistle and followed by a jangle of dog tags, I didn’t worry. It was only when we were within a half a mile of the truck that I noticed it was only Harold coming along. Rosie? Nowhere to be seen or heard. Rosie! I screamed, yelled, cajoled, clapped hands, and threatened to leave her. Nothing worked. The sun was low in the clouds. It was cold, did I mention that? Suddenly my bravado failed. I stormed uphill, along the trail, calling her name more and more desperately. Nothing. Back down to the truck with Harold within reach, I found I’d left the phone back at home. Shit. Now what? I couldn’t call my friends or neighbors to help search. Shit. What to do? Harold sat in the front seat. I started the engine and waited as sometimes that helps get her attention. Nope. Nothing. It was getting colder. Panicked, I threw my coat under a juniper near the truck with a bowl of water and a toy of hers. Then I drove home and got the phone. A stressed call to Mo and Katie. They met me back at the mountain driveway. I set off uphill, Katie went sideways and Mo held the fort.

Nothing. I strode back down to the truck to see Rosie running towards us with half a rabbit in her mouth. “Be happy to see her,” reminded Mo, “don’t be angry.”

Rosie. Rosie. Rosie. You little bugger. “Hi, honey, did you have fun?” Wag. Wag. Seethe. Breathe.

Last week, on FB a friend posted, “Javier is missing! Please look out for him.” My poor friends had just adopted this foundling from a rescue, he’d only been with them for a week, less. Javier, a small pittie-mix with white fur and black patches and the most adorable underbite. He’d run off one afternoon. Into the hills behind town, where the coyotes live. And yes, the sun was setting and it’s a cold February afternoon. Shit. I drove down to see my friends, to offer help and suggestions. On the way, I’d walked the ridge line with Harold and Rosie, calling Javier, and searching the mesa for a little white blob in the distance. Nothing. No luck.

Back at their home, we sat on the porch and talked. She was terrified, feeling guilty, and lost. I start throwing out ideas, all those suggestions I’ve known from working at a shelter and helping local rescues over the last years. I described how the adrenalin takes the dog fast and uncontrolled until they just can’t maintain that level of panic. The dog will then stop, catch its breath and hide until the adrenalin leaves the system. From what I understand, the pup will then backtrack, using its own scented trail and return to the last place he’d been. The car? The crash? The home or yard you’d been visiting? Scent is key, he’ll backtrack. What do we do with that information though? Does it really help?

Yes, and here are some ideas.

  • Leave a blanket or coat of yours at the place you last saw your dog. It will give him a grounding point, something familiar in a scary situation.
  • Hide the blanket under a tree, within some shrubs perhaps? Make it a safe haven.
  • If you can, leave your own vehicle there, again, it’s a point of reference.
  • Talk to the neighborhood near where you last saw him. Give them your number and ask them to keep an eye on your blanket but don’t react, just call, if the pup shows up.
  • Leave a bowl of water and food if you can.
  • Call your friends, let them help. We want to, we will. It’s not an imposition. Honest.
  • Use social media, and again, tell your community, give them photos and phone numbers, however private a person you are – it doesn’t matter! Reach out.
  • Are you close to home? Close enough to walk back and forth a few times to create a scented trail home? Do it.
  • If you are, then you can also do this. It’s weird but it works. You know how I keep mentioning scent? Well, go home and fill a bucket with your dog’s poop. Then create a trail home with a scattering of dried up poop. Yep, it works. It’ll make you laugh too…
  • Leave the gate to your yard propped open, a blanket and bowl of food and another of water outside, just incase you finally do fall asleep.

All talked out with my heartbroken friends, I headed home. It was a full moon, an evening of coyotes yipping across town, and I knew that my friends wouldn’t be able to sleep well. We’d done what we could. We waited.

I made coffee at home in the morning and then checked my phone. Javier was home. He’d eaten all the food on the porch, and let himself into the studio. He was tired, safe, and in one piece with paws full of cacti spines.

Javier was home.


How to build a dog ramp

How to build a ramp for your dog: Have you looked at prices of dog ramps? Crazy, eh? My vet told me that Harold needed a ramp for the truck to prevent more jarring and wear on his knees. Poor lad, we’ve been playing too hard. Looking online, it was clear that we wouldn’t be getting one soon, but then I looked at what others had done. Inspired by what I read, it was time to improvise given what was lying around the homestead. That was the goal then, to build a ramp for my dogs.  A few websites had instructions but looking around my yard, I didn’t have the right materials to follow their directions. Time to improvise then. I hope this helps you too.11136274_10204888873794756_3704977024337816675_o

  • Plywood: check. Yep. Cut two lengths measuring 18″ by 36″. Sand edges smooth.
  • Hinges: Yep. Piano hinges in the shed will be just fine as they’re 12″ length.
  • Lay the two pieces of plywood level and screw in hinges. Make sure that the screws don’t poke through the other side. Check it opens and closes.
  • Cross members next were 1x2s. Cut them to fit width of plywood. I did them at 12″ even though the width is 18″ as I had enough for four cross members. Screw in at 12″ spacing lengthwise starting at the centre so that they are evenly spread out.


  • Next up, I needed supports to stop the two pieces of plywood folding in at the hinge. I used 2x2s cut to 12″. Setting them on the top surface of the ramp, I screwed them both in on the upper half. This way the ramp is still foldable yet the ends sticking out across the lower half are acting as a brace. It worked.

  • Adding a lip to the end that rests on the truck bed. Again I used 1×2 cut to 18″ and screwed in to the underside.


  • Next: Check it folds, lays flat on the truck bed, and has no sharp edges. Ready? Paint the topside for easy identification.


  • If you have any scrap carpet, glue it onto the areas between the cross members for more traction.
  • Test run.
  • Hmm… Rosie was unimpressed. Harold sat in the front seat and pretended he didn’t hear me. Throwing treats on the cross members got them over it though.

The plan is to now leave it lying around the home so it begins to smell like us, and for them to get used to walking on and over it.

If you have any suggestions or questions, let me know. Good luck!