A Pennsylvania family long gave up hope of ever seeing their beloved Jax, who disappeared four years ago when he escaped from a pet sitter. At the time, the Swire family was on vacation in Virginia when they received the call that he was missing.
The Swires looked for the then six-year-old yellow Lab mix, and posted info about him on social media and elsewhere. As time passed, Stephanie Swire said she mourned the dog, because he was a family member; they assumed he was dead and gone. Then a miracle happened…
Someone saw a dog resembling Jax, and that person reported the sighting to Tracey Morgan-Chopick of Luzerne County Pet Recovery Services. She managed to catch the dog in a trap, and he was indeed the long-lost Jax. Now 10, Jax was pronounced in relatively good health after a visit to a veterinarian. Jax got to meet the newest member of the Swire family, little Johnny. When Jax returned home, he immediately reclaimed his favorite spot on the sofa.
Pet recovery services
If your pet has ever gone missing, you know the fear and pain that grips you. Morgan-Chopick’s mission in life is reuniting lost pets with their owners. She is a trained, certified animal response technician, who has been tracking and recovering lost pets for years. Luzerne County Pet Recovery Services was started because of a community need. It’s not unusual for Morgan-Chopick to hike miles in all kinds of weather, looking for lost animals. There is no charge for the recovery service, but donations are appreciated. Expenses include the following:
- trail cameras
- camera cards
- humane traps
- pet food
Finding a stray dog
If you find a stray dog, call your local animal control officer or police department. File a report with an animal shelter in the county in which you found the dog. The shelter or animal control officer can check for a microchip. No matter how much you like the dog, you simply can’t keep him, but must try to find his rightful owners.
Protecting your dog
There’s no way to guarantee that your dog will never get lost, but there are plenty of precautions you can take. Never let your dog run loose, and if you’re not walking him, only let him out in a secure, fenced-in area. Don’t leave your dog outside when no one is home.
Give your dog basic obedience training, and make sure he knows to come when called. A well-trained dog isn’t necessarily less likely to get lost due to circumstances beyond your control, but he should be easier for you to catch if you see him.
What to do if your dog gets lost
If your dog gets lost, notify your animal control service and local shelters and spread the information on social media, with a recent photo. Also post the information on lost dog websites. Remember that a dog can cover a lot of territory, so post it on sites in neighboring counties.
Morgan-Chopick advises creating a bright neon poster to put in your yard letting passersby know your dog is missing. You should go door-to-door in your neighborhood and either tell your neighbors or leave a handbill with the dog’s photo and your contact info.
Morgan-Chopick warns not to chase the dog on foot or by vehicle, noting a scared dog runs on adrenaline and will simply run away faster. Put out wet food and his bed or an article of clothing with your scent on it where the dog was last seen.
Canine identification and microchipping
It’s imperative to have identification on your dog in case he gets lost. A collar with his license and your name, address and contact information is important, but a collar can slip or break — or an unscrupulous person could remove it. In addition to a collar, make sure your dog is microchipped. Your vet can microchip your pet, and some animal charities host microchipping clinics as outreach and fundraising events.
The microchip is implanted under your dog’s skin, and the insertion is similar to an injection. It’s permanent identification and relatively inexpensive. The microchip number is registered in a database, and the information is available if he is lost and found. Veterinarians and animal shelters have readers to scan lost pets for microchips. Many animals have been reunited with their owners through this technology.
Microchip technology is not a global positioning system — it cannot track your lost dog. Such technology will likely become available in the future, but it’s not currently achievable. In order for someone to identify a lost dog via a microchip, the animal must be captured and scanned.
Jax’s story is also an example of never giving up hope. It’s unlikely that a pet gone for a long time will return, but it does happen.