A Sense of Urgency
The Dog Trappers Dilemma
Shawn Dienhart, May 2021
It was Sunday morning, May 30th, and I was loading equipment into my car to continue the search for the little dog that had gone missing. A family had adopted her from a rescue about a week earlier. My optimism was high that the that the dog would soon be reunited with them given new sightings. Then my phone alerted me to an incoming message, the dog was hit by a car and subsequently died at one o'clock earlier that morning.
Just three weeks before I conducted an unsolicited brief search for another small dog that had "gone missing" from the owners rural property. After examining the area outside of the property I formed only one conclusion. Sadly it revealed itself to be correct the next day. The dog had drowned in a pond on the property.
These two heartbreaking situations seem irreversible and the circumstances beyond our control, but are they?
As a dog trapper, like most dog trappers, I am always learning. The cumulative experience in the field and through analyzing the patterns of lost dog behavior lends itself to always doing better for the next dog recovery. Given the two real world examples above, what could be done differently, even by the slightest margin, to increase the odds of the dogs being found alive? I believe the answer is having common sense of urgency for everyone involved . This is not to say we can change the forces of mother nature, but even if it's one out of a dozen, urgency has the potential to bring home a dog before the liabilities of being lost turn to disaster.
I have a saying which I share with most every dog owner I come in contact with whose dog has gone missing. "Every hour of every day the dog is missing is a liability". Simply meaning, the sooner we take action, we lessen the odds of bad things happening to the dog. The time is now, not later today, not tomorrow. Paradoxically, this is not the dog owners responsibility.
As it happened with the two situations described above, the dogs owners did everything just right, almost in a textbook manner. As described, it is those of us that have learned from the infield direct experience of searching for and trapping dogs that must recognize timing and action is critical. The dog owner would not have the practical knowledge to understand the importance of urgency, especially when they're so concerned about their dog.
There are a number of factors to consider about the sense of urgency, so here are a few examples.
1. If the search is unsolicited (i.e. you contact the dog owner, they did not contact you), then the sense of urgency must be explained, understood and agreed to by the dog owner. Another way of conveying this is, the owner should agree to your plan which includes taking actions without delay.
2. If the search was solicited by the dog owner (i.e. they contacted you), then they should be more willing to accept and agree to your plan which includes taking actions without delay.
3. Sometimes a dog goes missing which you become aware of, but you do not decide immediately whether you will conduct an unsolicited search, contact the owner, or do nothing at all (for a variety of reasons). In these situations, the decision needs to be made right away in the interest of time and urgency.
To some, conducting an unsolicited search may seem like a bad idea to begin with. After all, having the owners buy in to a plan up front is the best practice. In today's world of social media and the plethora of lost dogs being chased around by well intentioned people making the situation worse, sometimes you just have to step up and take the lead. And in doing so, with the best humility we can muster, we need to do it now, not later.
A sense of urgency is the closest thing we have to a time machine.