John Funck’s Lost Pet Network locates missing animals
By Alison Rooney
All over town, at any given time, there are posters up for missing dogs or cats who have wandered off, been spooked by a noise, or wriggled free from a leash. As a devastated owner, it can be hard to figure out what actions to take to have the best chance of a safe return for a beloved pet. Here at Philipstown.info, we always immediately post notices of any pet gone missing, and we are heartened to receive frequent updates from John Funck, who heads the “Lost Pet Network of Philipstown” that many of these missing animals have been found, often with great assistance from the community at large.
Philipstown.info approached John Funck about doing an interview relating to the systems he has put in place. His written reply was so complete and spelled out not only the history of this network, but all the steps owners should take, that we have just edited and condensed his words. Pet owners may wish to print this out, and keep it in a place you will remember, should you experience this kind of emergency situation.
From John Funck
The Help to Find Lost Dogs Group developed on its own. People in the community always have helped one another when any form of difficulty develops. When you hear that someone’s pet is lost, it is natural to try help. About five years ago a friend’s dog went missing so I tried to help and we succeeded. That friend told other friends what we did that worked and before we knew it another dog was missing. After we found that one I started to think that there had to be better methods and sequential actions that would work quicker and more effectively. I started to truly pay attention to what we humans did naturally each time a dog was lost, thinking about how we could do it better.
In the beginning I would go out with the owner and encourage him/her to gather a group of family and friends to do different tasks. First we talked about the nature of the dog, where s/he normally was exposed to going, and under what circumstances s/he chose to leave. Using this information we would grab a local map and make sure that we started at the real beginning and gradually grew the size of the search circle. One of us would use the best photo of the dog and create color flyer, printing 50 copies as quickly as possible to give to the people we met as we searched around the neighborhood, asking each to do what ever s/he could to help us to find the dog. We quickly learned to each carry a leash, a bag of prized treats, and if possible something that made a sound that was familiar to the dog. Many of the owners yelled the dogs name loudly as they went. It seemed to me that the dog might read that their owner was upset (which they were), so early on I encouraged them to call out the dog’s name sweetly, inviting him/her to join us for a treat.
The story of Bear
I went hiking one morning in Fahnestock Park, seeing a couple on the trail in distress. They told me that they had been on a hike in the park with their dogs when a large dog had attacked their puppy, named Bear, which caused him to run away in fear. They said they had been walking all around and calling for hours and did not hear or see a thing. I could not help but start looking myself. After many hours of searching I went to my home, scanned a photo of Bear, and printed as many flyers as my printer had ink to print. I started to think of where I could put them up to get Bear’s image in as many people’s minds as possible. I even went down to meet the evening trains to hand them out. I put them up all over town. I then drove around, widening the circle, giving one to every person I saw. In a day or two more and more people were out and around, and when I approached them they would tell me they were out looking for Bear.
After a week or so a woman who said she got the flyer from her mailbox parked at the entrance to the trail where the family originally entered. She opened the back of her station wagon and placed many treats there, After parking for hours she heard the footsteps of a small dog as it jumped into her car. Lost Bear was found and saved. The whole community was relieved and happy to hear the great positive news. (Editor’s note: five years later, Bear is with his family, and thriving.)
The Network Grows
This was a wonderful moment in local dog search history, as hundreds of people who were emotionally moved and also cared about their neighbors searched during any free time they had. I learned that the more people who are out looking, the better chances are. It also was an experience that caused me to feel emotionally responsible to the entire community and all their dog families.
Before I knew it I was getting more calls asking for help. I went on the web and researched better processes on finding lost dogs. This is when I started to send out my first emails that a dog was lost, showing the best photo I could get and describing the physical and emotional nature of the dog. I thought this could get the message to many people in a direct emotional way at high speed. Gradually the number of people who were taking part started to increase.
Golden Retriever Mugsy, who got lost in Fahnestock Park when the park was deep in snow, really became a big turning point. It was the first emailed poster where I composed it in the manner of having the dog communicate directly to the reader. The dog’s voice telling her story and asking for help seemed to engage more people. A mother who lived south of us in a totally different community called my home phone on a Saturday two weeks after Mugsy was lost to say she and her family were going for a hike in Fahnestock and had heard there was a lost dog. She wanted to know where to hike that they just might find him. I sent her an email flyer with Mugsy’s photo and told her that I thought Sunken Mine Road was a good possibility.
About an hour and a half later my phone rang again and the woman said she had the dog. She and her family had already gotten there and hiked into snow-covered Sunken Mine Road. They hiked along and called for Mugsy to come out with a sweet voice. He did. It was the first sighting in two weeks. She got him to come to her and took the leash off of her Lab and clipped it onto Mugsy’s collar. I went out and got there before they had hiked out. I left the car running with the heat on, thinking Mugsy might have frozen feet. He did but thawed out in no time. I called Mugsy’s owners to tell them that Mugsy was safe, in good shape, and sitting in my car enjoying the fresh chicken that had been made for the hiking sandwiches! His owner screamed in total joy. I found out that Mugsy’s other owner was hiking on the west side of the Park and not that far away. I called him and told him the good news. I had to call him every 5 minutes to beg him to please quit running on the narrow icy trail. Within 30 minutes he was there with us. What joyful excitement. A few days later Mugsy’s “mom” was admitted to the hospital to give birth. Four days later she sent me a photo of Mugsy, lying down in a curl with the new baby right in the middle!
How to search for your lost dog
I now have a general outline that I send to anyone who has a lost dog or is involved with searching, with our tested methods, to use to get going effectively. [Most of this applies to cats as well] First thing is to call me at (845) 424-6017 and pick out a good photo of the lost dog. Describe the dog; tell where the dog was lost and when it was last seen. Provide numbers to call: one that the owner is carrying with him/her, and a second with an answering machine to record messages on. Lastly, provide your email address. Describe what you have done so far, to make sure you have a solid support team helping you to do the different things that have to be done all at the same time.
I wait for their email with the photo attached and then proceed to quickly write and design an electronic flyer to send out. We now make it an emotionally involving message from the dog to the public telling them that the dog (Named) is lost and needs their help to help find their way home. A self description of the dog by the dog is included and where the dog says s/he was lost from or last seen at. The telephone numbers to call if you see him/her or have him/her sitting on your sofa, and up front thanks from the dog for helping to find his/her family. I then send it out to the approximately 650 email list members in the Cold Spring, Garrison, Putnam Valley, Peekskill and Fishkill areas.
I then send the owner my local dog rescue agencies contact list, encouraging them to have someone on their search team to contact them each by phone daily. I also send a message to those that I have built a relationship with as we have searched for different lost dogs or dogs that we have found without I.D. When we find the dog, we send out a message from the dog that he/she has been found and is very happy to be at home with their family.
Praise for John Funck and the Lost Dog Network
Annette Flaherty and her family, of Cold Spring, will always be grateful to John Funck and his network. In her words: “I first met John when our dog Riley went missing in the summer of 2009. John heard about Riley and just jumped right in to help offering his calming advice, always willing to talk with us during the seven-day ordeal. [Riley was found safe – hiding in a cave.] He called almost every day to check in for an update on Riley. It took us almost a year to let Riley stay with anyone for fear that he would escape again. John took him for a week and gave him one on one care just as if he were at home. We had peace of mind knowing Riley was in good hands. John is truly one of a kind. He goes above and beyond when it comes to helping families find their lost pets using his time and resources, wit and knowledge about animals and how to go about searching for them. Most recently friends of ours, the Garrison family’s German Shepherd Gus went missing. John was contacted and within a half hour he had posters ready and was sending them out to his network to help in the search. The panic they were in was eased a bit knowing that many in the community were contacted about Gus and gave more hope in locating him. John is truly amazing and our community is very lucky to have him!”
How John became involved
John Funck’s involvement with dogs stemmed from a beloved pet who passed away of cancer. At the time he was a NYC transplant, having worked in advertising brand strategies. Upon the death of his dog, a number of friends would show up every day with a dog, trying to persuade him to get another dog right away. Soon this same group of friends starting coming up with reasons for their dogs to stay overnight. This morphed into “you should take care of dogs” and week-long stay requests from his friends. Hence the beginnings of “Bow Wow Haus” John’s home away from home taking care of dogs business (which is separate from his all-voluntary animal finding network).
John Funck may be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone (845) 424-6017. He suggests that any dog or cat owner in Philipstown might want to email him a labeled image of his/her pet(s), along with full owner contact information, and that image will be kept on file to be distributed rapidly in case the animal ever goes missing. Or simply contact him if you’d like to help.