You come home and glance out the back door. How do you get him back? A little foresight, of course, could have prevented the crisis. For starters, have your pet microchipped. And keep little Scruffy collared with an ID, vaccination tags and license attached. Beyond that, technology has given pet owners some amazing options. Here are a few:
Internet help: The Web is full of sites for free help. Some examples: Flealess Market's Lost Pets International page (flealess.org/lostpets) lets owners post missing pet information on a state-by-state basis. At FidoFinder.com, owners and finders of lost dogs can post the animals on a lost-dog database. The volunteer-run Missing Pet Network (missingpet.net) and the Center for Lost Pets (thecenterforlostpets.com) both give owners a place to list animals. Twitter, Facebook and Craigslist can also help you get the word out.
Electronic magic: Technology is now a dog's best friend. Pet owners can register and store vital information at pethub.com and getpetshome.com. If your lost dog is found, the finder can access its information by scanning its tag with a smartphone or by going online. A scan or a click lets the pet owner know Fido has been found. Basic packages for each is free; upgrades available.
GPS: GPS-based systems, ranging from the RoamEO pettronix.com/products.php), which uses a handset to track your pooch, to the Garmin GTU 10 (buy.garmin.com) and the Tagg Pet Tracker (pettracker.com), which link to cellphone networks. Prices start at around $100, with additional charges for the cellphone systems.
Neighborhood alert: Lost Pet Cards (lostpetcards.com) is a mailing service that sends out 1,000 postcards ($480 to $550) around the neighborhood, with the pet's photo and description. More immediate is findtoto.com, which takes the location where the dog was last seen, maps it and automatically calls all phones in a given radius from the starting point. Prices begin at $85 for 250 neighbors. Petamberalert.com has three levels of searching, sending posters to animal control facilities, vets and other locations ($39.96), making phone calls to homes in the area ($59.95), and a third level that combines the first two ($99.95).