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Reader’s report: Clever ID tag idea for traveling dogs

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 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.


  • Bentree's Momma

    I did something similar, though not as sophisticated, when we flew with our dog last month. Since we were moving and needed a new dog tag anyway, I ordered one that allowed 3 lines of text. First line was dog’s name, second line was our new local number (works if you have a number already) and last was an email address I created for the dog. I went with yahoo because it required less less letters to create an address and because I had to cut off the “.com” part.
    I love their idea above with the auto response, especially helpful when traveling.

  • Ice Pony Girl

    Thanks for this tip! I just ordered the ID tags and set up the gmail email account. Great idea!

  • Roberta

    new to the site and getting lots of great info!
    Just wanted to share a thought about what to put on an ID tag –

    all I put on my dogs tag is

    and my cell phone number

    I hope it will motivate whoever found her to return her rather than keep her (because she is so adorable, of course!)

  • Spies flybilletter

    Traveling is definitely risky with pets, but I have to admit this is really smart. I like the way you can change all your info quickly so people don’t go looking for your in one city when you are in another. It makes so much sense. Very smart.

  • Galahad and Yvaine

    What with the advent of smartphones, Sarah’s method becomes more and more workable. If I have any reception at all, I’ll get texts and emails, even if calls can’t come through. The next time I have to replace tags, I’ll add the dogs’ email address, and the auto-responder makes tremendous sense.

    For now, the phone number on their tags is my Google Voice number, which has an insane amount of configuration options, including, for example, a different outgoing message for known numbers and unknown numbers (so you could change the “unknown numbers” message to “If you’ve found my dog, please […]”)–and you can change the forwarding of the GV number to ring on ANY phone, including any local phones if you’re traveling. [Mine currently just rings my cell and my land line, for example, while the spouse has his GV number ring home, cell, and work…but only during working hours. Like I said, _insane_ amount of configuration options.] And you can change the options by calling your GV number through a voice menu, or from a web browser on any computer, so if you have net access, you can do it in a hurry. You can pre-record any number of outgoing messages and set them as you please. The control you get over your phone number is just incredible.

    …all you have to do is hope that, if your precious sweetheart somehow gets loose from you, that he stays safe until someone does grab him, and that the someone does call you. We do everything we can to make sure that the “getting loose” first step NEVER happens, but, well, bizarre accidents can occur.

    We walk them in harnesses, always, after the time my first dog accidentally backed out of a collar in the middle of a Petsmart parking lot next to the busiest road in the county. We keep them leashed unless they’re well-fenced. We check the fencing and anywhere there might be gaps or “diggable” areas we fix them: anchor the fence with spiral stakes, dig a trench and put a 6×6 post in so the top is near-flush with the bottom of a gate so they can’t dig or squirm under, embed concrete pavers in shallow openings, etc.

    When our most clever dog learned to _climb_the_fence_ we put an inward-leaning “roof” over the fence.

    Everyone has microchips, of course. Even if they lose their collar and ID we can still be reached.

    But really, accidents CAN happen (and dogs can be too clever for their own good), and then you must depend upon the kindness of strangers…

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