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'Who ya gonna call?" when your pet goes missing

This is the photo the Greene family posted on the Animal Humane Society's website and Facebook pages when their dog Patch ran away from home. Hudson High School junior Fiona Greene holds "Patches." Submitted photo.

When Pete Greene let Patch into the backyard to take care of business, the 11-year-old rat terrier/American Eskimo made a break for it.

“Some dogs just like to run,” Greene said in a phone call Monday.

Patch has gotten more venturesome with age. It started with him running across the street to the neighbor’s house. Then he wandered farther and farther, but always returned to the Greenes’ town of Hudson home.

The invisible fence in the Greenes’ yard hasn’t been working lately, but Patch usually sticks around if a family member accompanies him outside.

On the afternoon of Jan. 5, wanderlust overtook the lovable white pooch with a black patch over his left eye, and off he darted into the cold.

An hour later, the Greenes received a call from an owner of the Red Star Kennel, who had spotted Patch along the road and tried to catch him.

The kennel owner followed Patch to near the Hudson Town Hall on County A, where he saw the dog get hit by a car and roll into the ditch.

Relatively uninjured, and now frightened, Patch took off again.

It turns out that the Greenes did a number of things correctly in their attempt to find Patch.

“We looked and looked that Monday night, but couldn’t find him,” Greene said.

One of his daughters had done volunteer work for the Animal Humane Society as part of a Girl Scout Gold Star project, so they called the Woodbury shelter right away to let them know about their missing dog.

A photo of Patch was posted on the Humane Society’s lost pets page.

The Greenes also called pet hospitals in the area, in case someone brought in an injured rat terrier.

They called neighbors and used Facebook to spread the word, including a page run by volunteers called Lost Dogs of Wisconsin.

And they called the rangers at nearby Willow River State Park, where Patch is often taken on outings.

It got down to 8 degrees below zero that night, but at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, a ranger called to say that Patch had been spotted in the park.

Greene and his daughter Fiona, a Hudson High School junior, spent the next three hours searching the park, but darkness fell with Patch still missing.

At around 7 p.m. that night, Greene was preparing to tell his daughters that the odds of seeing Patch again were slim when a family a couple of miles away called to say that they had him.

The Greenes’ phone number was on Patch’s collar.

“He was cold, rundown, tired and finally succumbed to having to go to a person. He went up to somebody’s porch, they brought him in their house and called us,” Pete Greene reported.

Patch had a surgery to remove a couple of inches of his frostbit tail scheduled for Wednesday. But he’s back with the family that has loved him ever since adopting him from an Amery shelter more than 11 years ago.

“You know the old saying, the harder you work the luckier you get. I think that’s about the case of it here,” Greene said.

“And we had a lot of help from the neighbors, too,” he added. “That’s when you know you’ve got good neighbors, when everybody and their kids get in their vehicles and start driving around for hours at a clip trying to help you.

That’s Hudson for you.”

 

Don’t wait

The Greene family’s quick action after Patch ran away was very appropriate, according to Kathi Pelnar, the animal control officer for all of the municipalities in the Hudson area.

“If your pet takes off, do not wait to start calling around looking for it,” Pelnar said. “Don’t wait a day. Start calling right away.”

“That dog or cat could wind up who knows where, because people just don’t think,” she continued. “They will pick up a cat in North Hudson and take it to Prescott, and then wonder why they can’t find the owner.

Pelnar said the first call people should make is to the animal control officer for their municipality.

“If they contact me, usually I know who to send them to,” she explained.

And if someone reports the missing pet as a stray animal, she will know who it belongs to.

Pelnar is available 24 hours a day at (715) 386-7789.

She also stresses the importance of licensing your pet, and attaching identification tags to its collar.

Municipalities don’t require pet licenses just because they need the fee money, Pelnar said.

“Licensing is for identification purposes. If your dog is wearing a license, it is going to go home,” she said. “We’re going to be able to track that license down and we’re going to be able to find where that dog goes.”

She said that pets with identification microchips imbedded in their skin also make it home if the information on the chip is up to date.

Another call people should make when their pet goes missing is to the Animal Humane Society at Woodbury, Minn., according to Pelnar.

The Humane Society is the impound facility for stray animals picked up in the Hudson area.

Its website, www.animalhumanesociety.org, has photos and information about lost pets taken to the shelter, as well as a page where owners of unrecovered missing pets can post pictures of them.

The Humane Society’s phone number is (651) 730-6008.

Pelnar also recommends that people call the St. Croix County dispatch center’s non-emergency number, (715) 386-4701, and area veterinarians to report missing pets.

“They should call anybody they can think of to call,” she said. “They need to get the word out right away that their pet is missing, because the sooner they get it out and the more people that know, the more likely they are to get their pet back … I can’t stress that enough.”

Angela Fellrath of Hudson has started a Facebook page to assist people in finding their missing cats. It’s called Lost Cats of Wisconsin, and is modeled after a Facebook page dedicated with reuniting lost dogs with their owners (Lost Dogs of Wisconsin).

The Facebook pages automatically generate a printable poster that people can distribute in their neighborhood once the information on their pet is entered.

“I think a lot of people just don’t know who to call,” Fellrath said.

She gave the example of an area woman whose dog was taken to the Humane Society in Woodbury.

The woman said it never occurred to her that the dog might be taken to a shelter in another state.

“It’s just not common knowledge,” Fellrath said.

She said people who see a dog or cat running loose should think of the possibility of it being lost.

She recommends that owners keep a current photo of their pet, along with information about its distinctive markings, the color of its collar and its ID tags.  

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066