Reader Sarah added the following comment to a blog post I wrote in the early days of Dog Jaunt, about ideas for ways to keep your dog’s ID current while you’re traveling:
“I use loveyourpets.com for inexpensive ID tags (less than $4). I set up an email address on gmail that I include on the tag, in addition to phone and address. When an email is sent, it automatically triggers a chain of communication with me and my husband to let us know our dog has been found. It also sends a message automatically to the person who wrote the email, with some basic information about our dog. This summer, we will set it up to send a reply back in Turkish. Peace of mind.”
That intrigued me, and puzzled me too, since when I went to the site she mentioned, I found that it really only sells reasonably-priced ID tags — it doesn’t offer the features she described. I asked her for more details, and it turns out that she and her husband created their own alert system, and the process sounds simple enough that I think anyone could do it. Here’s what she told me:
“As for the tags, we get them from loveyourpets because they are super inexpensive, and have the added bonus of having one or two whole extra lines for text than other companies! While our phone numbers are on the tags, we opted to put a custom email address that would give quick information to whomever found our dog. On the tag, it says INFO! [email address].”
As she said in her comment, someone who finds her dog will see that e-mail address, and when they send a message to it, a response is automatically sent to the finder with info about the dog and how to return him to Sarah. A message is also sent to Sarah and her husband, alerting them that a finder has responded.
She began by setting up a dedicated e-mail address on Gmail:
“Once your Gmail account is created, go to settings and click vacation responder. This email sits in vacation mode permanently. We created the following message:
SUBJECT: You found me!
Hello and thank you for finding me! If I am alone, I am certainly lost. I am contacting my owners right now, but here is some information that can help me get back home.
My name is Pico. I’m 3 years old, and up to date on all my shots. I’m really shy, but would be very grateful if you helped me stay warm while I find my family. I have a skin condition called Alopecia, so please don’t be alarmed by my fur! I also walk funny from my knee caps.
If you found a little black fur ball, that’s my little brother Bartok. He’s 1 year old and up to date on all his shots. He’s super friendly. You’ll probably get some puppy kisses.
My mom is Sarah and my dad is [name]. Their phone numbers are [telephone number] and [telephone number]. We live at: [address].
I see Dr. [vet's name] at [veterinary clinic's name] in [city]. It’s in the [information about the clinic's location, including neighborhood and address]. Their phone number is [phone number].We are also both microchipped. If you give me to a law enforcement officer or any vet, they can help me get home very quickly. Thank you for finding me!
Pico and Bartok
When someone emails this address, they get this message as the automatic response. At the same time, I’ve set the forwarding settings to email not only our personal email address, but also our work and our phone text ‘email’.”
Sarah and her husband use this set-up all the time, she told me, but she “recently thought of how it could be useful while traveling. Since you can change the email response at any time, it could be updated with ever-changing local numbers while on the go and hotels/addresses. Also, it can be in the language of the country which you are traveling. While traveling stateside, it’s even easier, since the cell phone numbers don’t change.”
Because the tags they get from loveyourpets are inexpensive, she doesn’t hesitate to get new ones for trips: “We just ordered new ones for Turkey this summer with a local address and phone numbers, as well as our email address. When we go we will add a Turkish version of the email.”
There are companies out there that offer similar features (and more elaborate features, too — blanketID, source of the tag Chloe wears, will also notify local shelters and help you create a poster when you report your pet lost), but Sarah prefers her system because she is contacted first when her pet is found, not the ID tag company.
A dog, with a tag, who’s been tagged! How could I resist? (Photo by James Saper)
Playing devil’s advocate for the moment, I’ll say that it’s my impression that the ID tag companies promptly pass along the found-pet message to the worrying owners; that the expense of a tag like a blanketID and its related services ($24.99) might soon be matched by the purchase of a number of tags, even inexpensive ones from loveyourpets; and that features Sarah’s system doesn’t offer but systems like blanketID do, especially automatic notification of local rescue resources (U.S. and Canada only, at the moment) and the easy creation of a lost pet poster, are very desirable.
That said, Sarah’s system is neat and inexpensive, and gives her direct control over what a finder sees. She’s not restricted by the structure a system like blanketID imposes, and that’s appealing.
Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing the details of how to set up the e-mail address and the automatic notification system! Thank you, too, for letting me send a test message to you to see for myself how it works.