Update, Thursday, 11 a.m.: It's a happy story in the end for a dog named Bella who sought adventures far away from home.
The Eckart family, who lost their new pet, Bella, earlier this week was reunited with the precious pooch Wednesday night.
"She is home safe," Melanie Eckart said.
Eckart said the dog was found in the Vernon Marsh and was then given to the humane society.
"She had a nice long adventure," Eckart said.
Wednesday night: If you’ve ever owned a pet, chances are good that you’ve experienced the panic and heartbreak of an escaped and lost pet, even if only temporarily.
One Waukesha family is experiencing that turmoil right now, hoping for the best.
The Eckart family in Waukesha is using Facebook to tell people about their dog, Bella, a recently adopted 6-year-old beagle/spaniel mix who ran away Tuesday. The family is distraught about their dog alone in an unfamiliar area, overnight and during Wednesday’s thunderstorms.
As a life-long pet owner, I’ve lost cats, dogs and a hamster, which was later found living the high life in our basement.
I’ve been fortunate that every time my animal returned – either of their own free-will and ability, or by being captured, including my brother’s basset hound who became well-known to police for his roaming behavior and my current dog, a former stray who ran away just days after we moved but gave up her freedom for a piece of sausage and a ride in the car.
Other pet owners aren’t so lucky.
Lost animals face numerous hazards – traffic, other animals, lack of food, bad weather and, sometimes, unscrupulous people. Many times, the fate of lost animals is unknown, like my friend’s cat, who we hope was taken in by someone kind.
Sometimes, though, the animal’s tragic fate is discovered, as was the case with the well-loved dog who was loose in Wauwatosa for a number of weeks and was recently found dead of unknown causes.
No one intends to lose their pet. A dropped leash, a slipped collar, an incompletely-shut door or gate, an unfamiliar situation or an inexperienced visitor can all lead to animals getting loose.
It’s a common occurrence and can happen anytime, to anyone, according to Jennifer Smieja, development coordinator from the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS).
“It can happen to even the most conscientious of pet owners,” Smieja said.
HAWS gets calls daily from people about lost animals, with more calls after fireworks shows or holiday weekends when people have been traveling and visiting family.
The first thing a pet owner should do if they lose their pet is to call and report it to HAWS so they can contact the owner if the pet turns up at the shelter or someone reports seeing a similar pet on the loose somewhere.
HAWS will take down the basic information about the lost pet, when and where it was lost, what it looks like. A photo is helpful, too, because the dog one person may describe as a golden retriever may look like a yellow Labrador to another.
The second most useful thing to do is to get the word out, by any means available, about the lost animal, Smieja said.
Smieja recommends using everything available to let people know about the lost pet – word of mouth, posters and online sites like Facebook and Lost Dogs in Wisconsin, a volunteer organization committed to reuniting lost dogs with their owners.
“If someone sees a dog running loose, they may assume the owner is close by. But if they see a poster or something about a lost dog, it may jog their memory,” she said.
While HAWS can help with tracking the lost animals, they usually don’t go looking for lost pets because animals on the run are scared and overwhelmed and are likely to run away if approached, Smieja said.
The best thing to do if you see a pet that may be lost is to lure it to a secure location, like a fenced-in back yard, if possible, or report the sighting to HAWS so they can contact the owner. HAWS will pick up the animal if it is successfully lured to a secure location.
People are advised to not chase the animal, which could cause it to leave the location and make it harder to find.
Before animals get loose, though, Smieja recommends that pet owners make sure their animals have every kind of identification available, including tags and microchips.
If a pet is found without a collar, it can be scanned and if it has a microchip, it can be reunited with its owner through the microchip registry, she said.
Another important thing is that collars should be secure, can’t be easily broken or slipped out of, and tags should have the owner’s phone numbers on it, as many as possible.
She also recommends basic socialization and obedience training for dogs but even with training, often a loose dog won’t respond to commands from someone other than the owner.
But back to gentle Bella, who is still missing.
According to her owners, Bella was recently adopted from the humane society in Milwaukee and doesn’t know the area well. She is microchipped but slipped out without her collar from her backyard in the southwestern area of the city.
I’m hoping and praying she is reunited to her family.