Casey's Big Adventure And What We Can Learn From It
Casey couldn't have picked a worse day to discover the latch to the gate of his fenced yard had broken, and then decide to go off exploring. The evening before, temperatures, not counting wind-chill, had dipped to sixteen degrees below zero. By morning, when Casey made off for his adventure, it had warmed up a bit. But, it was still below zero, with bitter wind that was pushing the wind-chill to below -20 degrees. Outside, in Minnesota it was not fit for man nor beast, nor senior Yellow Lab.
To make matters worse, the senior pooch was new to the neighborhood, after having recently been adopted from a local rescue. His poor hearing and arthritic hips weren't helping much, either.
People who know animal sheltering understand that lost pets like Casey face a host of challenges, many of them created by the animal shelters that are, at least in theory, there to help provide them a safety net.
Think about it. Most shelters have remarkably low Return To Owner (RTO) rates. Additionally, adoption rates for senior pets with medical issues tend to be low, because many shelters don't even try to find them new homes.
Casey, though, was lucky. The people who found him knew that an animal shelter was not likely the best place for him. Rather than disappearing into a sheltering system, which often fails to post photos of lost and found pets in a timely manner (if at all), this sweet soul found a community that rushed in to support him.
How it Unfolded
One of the first things Casey's family did when they realized he had gone missing was to post a photo and description of him at NextDoor.com, a neighborhood networking web site. The posting looked like this:
Meanwhile, the people who found Casey figured it was too cold outside for most people to be walking around looking for the lost dog. So, they put him in their car and drove the neighborhood trying to find his family. They also posted found pet records at HelpingLostPets.com and PetHelpDesk.org, where they were also able to print "found pet" flyers. They also posted photos of Casey on their Facebook timeline. Before long, the whole neighborhood seemed to be talking about Casey. Soon, another neighbor posted the following comment at NextDoor.com:
"A light blue Prius is driving thru the neighborhood right now with an older Golden Lab they found outside."
Another neighbor connected the dots between the Facebook posts and those made at NextDoor.com and before you know it, Casey was back home. In between, Casey met several people, including a very friendly yoga studio in the neighborhood that gave him a place to rest and keep warm for a while.
Ironically, even though Casey's neighbors were happy to provide the safety net he needed, they would likely have been given bad advice had they contacted an animal shelter in most communities. They, likely, would have been advised to bring Casey to the shelter. While shelters can provide urgent and valuable service for lost pets and the people who find them, like scanning for microchips or providing medical attention, if needed, they should not be a substitute for general, all-around, good, neighborly friendliness.
In fact, because Casey was NOT taken directly to an animal shelter, he was returned to his family much more quickly. In the process, he got to meet several of his neighbors. Casey was also responsible for several neighbors meeting each other. Casey, his family and the neighborhood in general are all better for people coming together to help this friendly fellow.
Given the differing nature of each lost & found pet situation there is no cookie-cutter approach shelters can take when dealing with them. However, when doing so, they do better by their communities if they remember and take to heart the fact in every community there are tools and resources available that empower people to be better stewards of all of the community's companion animals.