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Woman locates dog using automated phone calling system

Posted by Kathryn Eident  June 24, 2009 07:48 AM

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Waltham resident Alexis Moran with her Alaskan Eskimo, Sasha, in their backyard.

By Kathryn Eident
Globe Correspondent

When Waltham resident Alexis Moran discovered her six-year-old American Eskimo dog, Sasha, was missing, she did what most pet owners would do: she scoured the neighborhood, made fliers, called around.

“We asked as many people as we could,” Moran, a bio-technology consultant, said. “She’s fast…and I was doubtful people would be able to catch her.”

Sasha had jumped the backyard fence while Moran and her husband were gone for the night, and she had taken off into the thickly-settled neighborhood. She had been gone for hours, and there was no telling where she might have run to.

“She’s a sweet, gentle dog, but her nerves get the best of her,” Moran said. “I think she was just trying to find us; I’ve never seen her jump the fence.”

After a few hours of frantic searching, Moran was just starting to panic when her mother called from Maryland with a suggestion: try a new automated calling service that can alert thousands of people to look for a missing pet within minutes.

So, for about $100 Moran hired FindToto, a nationwide amber alert system for missing pets. Soon 500 neighbors living within one mile of her house were notified of Sasha’s disappearance.

To listen to a sample phone call, click HERE.

And though the 20-pound, pure-white dog was not found immediately, within minutes Moran received numerous phone calls from people who had sighted the dog in the neighborhood.

The next morning, after paying $525 for a second round of calls to reach 5,000 people, Moran got the phone call she had been waiting for.

A neighbor in her car had seen the dog, and guided her to Sasha’s location via cell phone. Twenty-four hours after FindToto had made the first automated call, a relieved Moran had been reunited with her pet.

The key to FindToto—over some services that notify neighbors via email or website—is that a human makes the recording and sends it only to land-line phone numbers within the selected radius, said Colleen Busch, spokeswoman for the California-based company. This method targets only people who may have seen the pet, and increases the likelihood of it being found, she said.

Depending on how long the pet has been gone, and whether it’s a dog, cat, turtle (or even a wallaby!), operators can help customers find the right package. Packages start at $95 for 500 homes, and can go as high as $825 for 10,000 homes, with six options in between, she said.

“We guide people depending on their situation. If it’s a cat that’s only been gone for a few days, the smallest package would be fine,” she said. “If it’s a German shepherd that’s been gone for a week, he’s probably covered more ground and a bigger package is needed.”

So far the service has found more than 1,600 missing pets since it began in 2007, with most pets found within 48 hours of the first call, according to Busch.

For Moran, having Sasha back makes the cost of the service worthwhile.

“I was thinking perhaps if she was lost longer, her chances were higher of getting hit by a car and needing the vet,” she said. “It outweighs the potential vet bills.”

The service also helped Moran get to know neighbors she might never have met otherwise.

“You really feel loved by the community,” she said. “It’s a way to connect with people, help the community and be involved with your neighbors.”

As for Sasha, she won’t be jumping over that fence again, if Moran can help it; she’ll be installing fence extensions in the coming weeks, she said.

“I feel so lucky to have her back,” she said.

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1 comments so far...
  1. Don't leave the dog out in the first place unattended... duh!!!

    Posted by Dot June 24, 09 03:29 PM