Praveen Deshmukh, a 54-year-old employee with a security agency in Nashik drove over 170 times from his home to the kennel that his Indie dog, Coco, escaped from. She jumped past the wall while her family was attending a family member’s last rites.
For three months, from September to December 2021 the desperate papa of the furry daughter drove day and night in search of the then two-year-old Indie. Coco had been with the Deshmukhs since she was a month old. The family of seven — Deshmukh and his wife, their two children, his parents and sisters — was inconsolable for days.
“My 15-year-old daughter refused to eat for ten days,” he says. “It was one of the most trying times for my family.” Can we even imagine what they must have gone through for 90-odd days?
Then one fine day, Deshmukh’s son spotted their dog on the street next to his house. He called out to her and in a happy sprint, she came back home her tail wagging.
Losing a dog is pet parents’ worst nightmare come true. Ask me. When in August, Khal Dogo, my one-year-old Dogo Argentino ran away from his evening trek in Kharghar Hills, scared by the sudden sound of loud dhols, my body turned cold. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, my throat went dry and I felt nauseated. Thanks to my husband’s presence of mind and immediate efforts to find Khal, however, we were petting our dog again after the longest 90 minutes of our lives.
“It’s free-spirited dogs such as Beagles and Indies that are most prone to getting lost,” says pet parent and dog activist Amruta Deshpande. “They love to explore, and sometimes in their excitement tend to stray too far away from the owners, not always finding their way back to them. Sometimes, even street dogs and loud traffic noises scare them off and they run further away,” she adds.
When we lost Khal, I realised that in an unpredictable city like Mumbai, where people play loud dhols days before a festival and where rains accompanied by lightning and thunderstorm make several surprise appearances, it’s best to be prepared with an action plan to find a missing dog.
Many pet parents aren’t aware that sophisticated collars with an in-built GPS and a camera are available on e-commerce sites. These can be connected to your smart devices. Most of these are products from abroad, so you might have to wait a while for these to be delivered in India (and you might have to pay a premium), but it’s totally worth it. A good collar with a wide range will give your pet’s exact location, making it very easy to track him or her down.
A cheaper option for the collar is a small GPS tag that can be attached to your dog’s collar. It works like the Bluetooth-connected tags that you can use to track your dog’s movement.
You might have made several Instagram Reels of your dog, but may not have that one clear profile picture of his that shows all his features and different spots clearly. This one good photograph will play a crucial role in finding your dog. Make sure you have one handy all the time.
Attach an unbreakable, sturdy tag with your pet’s name and your phone number to his collar. If he or she is ever lost, the rescuers will know the pet’s name, making it easier for your pet to respond to them. The number will obviously help them inform you about the pet's whereabouts.
Some e-commerce sites like HeadsUpForTails also have products with QR codes, by which you can feed in all the details, like your dog’s name, age, vaccination history, allergies, and health issues as well as your details, too. This helps pet lovers or activists who find the dog to know exactly what to do with him or her, especially if he or she is injured or sick, which could be the case if the dog has been lost for several days. “But these will only work if your dog is friendly and co-operates with other humans,” notes Deshpande.
Familiarise your dog with your neighbours
While on your walks, introduce your dog to your building’s security guards, hospitality staff, milkmen, newspaper vendors, neighbourhood shopkeepers and others. Ensure that your dog is friendly with them. It’s this community that will be the most helpful in helping you spot and track your dog.
Social media and community apps
There are several city- and area-specific dog-parent Whatsapp groups, and Facebook and Instagram pages. Post your missing dog’s pictures and details on these. It increases your chances of finding your dog faster. In Bengaluru, there is also an app called ForPaws that creates a database for all registered dogs. If a pet goes missing, the app alerts all its users, activating a city-wide community of people who can help find the furry baby.
Searching his usual places
Look for your dog at all the places you take him for walks, to relieve himself, or to play. Check the dog park, your building, the surrounding area and the area he was lost from.
Talk to people
Speak with as many people as possible in the area he was lost. This includes building watchmen, security guards, and domestic staff, and Whatsapp them a clear photo of your dog and your phone number. When Khal went missing, he was spotted by a security guard whom my husband had reached, before our dog found his way there. The guard called my husband when he spotted Khal and that helped us bring him back home. That good man is in my prayers every night.
Treats to the rescue
The best time to look for a missing dog is at night when there is less traffic and other city sounds. A dog that is less frightened is most likely to respond to the smell of his favourite treat that you must place at different places while calling him out.
Go old school
Paste posters with his photograph and your contact number all around your neighbourhood. You can also declare a reward sum for the one who brings you back your dog. And lastly, follow every lead.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, a Kathak student and a first-time pet parent