Before starting out on our Full-Time RV adventure, one of our biggest concerns with RVing with dogs along was if we lost them in our travels. If they got loose in a strange place, how would they find their way back to us? How would we find them? Our nightmare came true when we lost our dog, Bella.
Here is how we found her, and some tips on how you can increase your chances of being reunited with your RVing pets if you get separated in your travels.
Table of contents
- The Risks of RVing with Dogs
- How We Lost Our Dog
- How To Look For A Lost Dog
- Dog Found 9 Minutes After Facebook Ad Launched
- What To Do When You Find a Lost Dog While RVing
- Before You Go RVing with Your Dog
- Read More from the Mortons:
The Risks of RVing with Dogs
Overall, RVing is a great way to travel with dogs and have shared experiences with your furry friends. However, there is always a risk of separation in a new and strange place.
Dogs who are runners need extra vigilance with leashes, tie-outs, and the opening/closing of your doors. In a strange place, they might not be able to find their way home, encounter new wildlife, or end up crossing busy roads.
But even if you’re dog isn’t a runner or wanderer, there can be situations where factors out of your control cause separation.
How We Lost Our Dog
Our dog, Bella, isn’t a runner. We had been RVing with dogs for over a year without issue, and we hadn’t urgently replaced the ID tags she lost a few weeks prior.
Our dogs came with us to an appointment in Saginaw, Michigan. We cracked the windows and set up their little car fan like we normally do and went inside.
When we came back out to the truck after our meeting about an hour later, Bella was not in the truck.
Our Dog Ran Away?!
While in our meeting, a storm rolled through and (we presume) Bella got scared and tried to come find us. She squeezed out of the back window of the truck and was nowhere to be seen. She had a collar on and a microchip but had lost her tags a few week prior that we hadn’t replaced yet.
How To Look For A Lost Dog
If you’re traveling with dogs, it can seem overwhelming to start a search in an unfamiliar place. Here is what you should do if you lose your dog:
1. Call local organizations
A long time ago, I worked at a Humane Society and learned about how organizations in municipalities work together to handle stray and found animals. There are several quick calls that you can make to aid in your search by enlisting these local organizations:
- Local Humane Society/Animal Shelters
- Police/Animal Control Branch
- Local Veterinary clinics – all of them
- Your veterinarian – your dog’s rabies tag should have their phone number if found.
Many communities have a Humane Society or Animal Shelter that is in communication with vet clinics and the Animal Control arm of the police department.
By calling these organizations, you can:
- Find out if anyone has reported they’ve found your pet
- Give them a description of the pet, including if they are wearing a collar, have a microchip, and any other defining features (markings, scars, etc.)
- Give them contact information, should your pet be reported or brought in
- Get their help in spreading the word on their social channels
2. Enlist Social Media
We also turned to social media to help get the word out – and we are happy to report that the outpouring of community support for something like this is AMAZING. When our bikes were stolen in Oregon, our Facebook post about it triggered a similar reaction from that community, who ultimately helped us track down one of them.
Every community has Facebook groups for things going on, if not a dedicated group for Lost & Found Pets. In our case, we found the following groups for Saginaw, Michigan:
- Saginaw Michigan Lost & Found Pets
- For the Love of Louie *Michigan Lost Pet Lookers*
- Undercover Angels Animal Rescue of Saginaw
We posted on these lost and found pet pages and the humane society pages.
3. Create a Facebook Ad & Get Thousands of Views in Minutes
If you ask me, posting up paper signs for lost pets is a slow and largely ineffective way to find a pet these days. The internet is a powerful tool that you can utilize in your search.
In our experience, creating a Facebook Ad is a GREAT way to harness the power of Facebook. It allows you to target people in a certain area to look for something lost. People who are RVing with dogs can especially use this to tap into a region they are unfamiliar with and don’t have local connections to.
To do this you will need to use a Business page and account. Set one up if you don’t have one yet – it’s worth it!
Create Your Ad with a picture of your pet, a description, and a way to reach you. Use the geographical targeting controls to tell Facebook who should see this post. This will put your LOST DOG poster in front of thousands of people in just minutes, versus the handful who might see and take notice of a paper sign.
Dog Found 9 Minutes After Facebook Ad Launched
We put $50 on our Facebook Ad for Bella to go out to people in Saginaw and the neighboring counties.
In just 9 minutes, we had multiple people contacting us and pointing to a “Found” post on a “Saginaw Township Yard Sale” Facebook group.
Within 15 minutes of our Ad posting, I was in contact with the woman who had found Bella.
Nicole had found Bella just sitting outside of her workplace – which happened to be in the same building complex as where our appointment had been. When Nicole saw her, Bella went right up to her, and instead of leaving her she took her home where she posted on Facebook.
What To Do When You Find a Lost Dog While RVing
If you find a dog, there are several things you can do to help reunite it with its owner.
- If it has a collar and tags, call the number.
- Call local organizations to report a found dog.
- Take animal to get microchip scan – this can be done at most animal shelters and veterinary offices (including Banfield Vet Clinics in PetSmart).
- Find Facebook groups for local area and post found dog.
- Take dog to the animal shelter.*
*We recommend evaluating the animal shelter before you drop a dog off. Many animal shelters have a window of time for an owner to claim the dog before it is put up for adoption. This timeframe can vary greatly from place to place, for a little as 48 hours to two weeks. Many shelters these days are no-kill shelters, but always check to make sure.
Why You Shouldn’t Keep a Dog Without Trying to Reunite With Owner
The woman who found Bella told me she thought about just keeping Bella because she was so cute. If she had, we might have never found her.
Chances are if you find a really awesome dog, it’s owner is probably worried sick and having a really bad day. During the time we searched for Bella, the heartache and the thoughts of losing her forever were unbearable.
Before You Go RVing with Your Dog
Help prevent separation from your dog and help your chances of being reunited with these two simple steps:
- Have you dogs wear Collars and Identification tags
- Microchip your dog
Microchipping doesn’t hurt your pet and is widely used at vet clinics and shelters. You can have this done at your vet clinic or even more affordably at vaccination clinics.
As always, obey leash laws, and devise ways to keep your dogs close with tie-outs or portable fencing.
RVing with dogs doesn’t have to be scary, but if you’re prepared for the worst it’ll hopefully make the whole process much smoother if it happens.
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