Written by Katrina Daniel Wednesday, August 04 2010
Five million Fidos and Fluffies get lost, run away from home, or somehow become separated from their owners every year.
Recently, I became a statistic.
There’s truth to the old saying: Let no good deed go unpunished. I volunteered to take care of a friend’s cat – Robbie, a large, black-and-white neutered male who looks like he is wearing a tuxedo.
I offered to baby-sit him while his owners, a young couple who couldn’t afford the $1,600 to put the cat in a pet hotel, went to Europe to study. So Robbie went from South Miami and the confines of a townhouse to the foothills of Western North Carolina where he saw chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and leaves for the first time.
He seemed to settle in OK, and after he got over the shock of four dogs and another cat living in the same space, he even slept with me.
Hey, I thought we were getting along great.
Then Robbie disappeared.
After three days of searching the neighborhood (I even left a lost-cat flyer on the seat of a tractor that was mowing in the neighborhood), the animal shelter, and calling local vets to be on the look out, I sucked it up and told his owners that I had lost their cat.
They were hysterical. They wanted to abandon their studies and come back immediately to search for their Robbie.
They went online from Spain and devoted themselves to finding the best way to get Robbie back, and this is what introduced me to the, shall we say interesting, world of pet detectives, pet psychics, and the sometimes amazing things they do to help people find lost animals.
When I mentioned to people that Robbie’s owners had hired a pet detective and a pet psychic to try to find the little devil, they looked at me funny, then, as soon as they could, they took me aside to ask for more information about the psychic and the pet detective. So, here it is.
Turns out there is a whole world of pet detectives and pet psychics out there, and cyberspace is your gateway to finding someone who may help you get your lost pet back.
Lisa Bukowczyk of Little Rock, Ark., was the pet detective with whom Robbie’s owners hooked me up via the internet. She herself is the doting owner of 11 cats and five dogs, all rescued. She has been a pet detective since 2006 when she lost her own beloved cat.
“I searched constantly for Vegas for a week, “she says, “then I hired a pet detective with search dogs. The search dogs were able to pick up the scent trail that led us to a wooded area where it appeared coyotes had been traveling. So the conclusion was that Vegas had been taken by a predator. This killed me, but this is when I realized I could possibly help others by becoming a pet detective.”
Bukowczyk took a course in finding lost and missing pets. The Missing Animal Response Technician seminar is sponsored by the Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their owners. Bukowczyk now specializes in finding lost cats. She works with two search dogs trained to follow the scent of the lost pet. She used those dogs to try to help Theresa Johnson find her lost cat, Bandit, in Jonesboro, Ark.
“They basically picked up Bandit’s tracks from the house,” Johnson says. “He had zigzagged all over the place into the woods near my house. Unfortunately we never found him; still I found it very useful, very helpful to use the pet detective because it made me feel like I had done everything I could to try to find Bandit.”
Using trained pet detectives, Greg Wong of Laramie, Wyo., found his dogs. Tragically, his wife, Susan, was killed when her SUV rolled over outside of Casper, Wyo., last year. She was traveling with their two small dogs, Sammie and Maddie, both terriers.
The dogs apparently were ejected when the car rolled over.
Their owner dead, the dogs were left on the highway and ran away from the crash site. When Wong realized that his wife’s dogs could still be alive, he tried everything he could to find them.
“I was thinking my last connection to my wife was those dogs,” he says. He began walking the highway area of the crash for miles, carrying the dogs’ favorite toys and food. He was not successful. Then someone one told him to hire Cold Nose Investigators, a pet detective agency run by Cathy and Curt Orde. They brought along their specially trained sniffer dog, Zoe, a golden retriever. Zoe tracked the terriers through ravines and culverts, around the highway. She found dog poop and terrier tracks in the prairie and shortly afterward, Zoe found both small dogs, uninjured, each in a separate location.
Wong told the local newspaper, “It was just the most amazing thing. It made my wife’s death a little easier to take.”
Wong took all the right actions to find his pets: He acted fast, he recruited trained help, and he got his dogs back.
Pet detective Lisa Bukowczyk offers these tips:
- The No. 1 thing to do is to post bright large posters with a large picture of the cat on it. Put these in high traffic areas: at intersections, on the street where the cat went missing.
- Go door to door in your neighborhood and hand out fliers to everyone.
- Put out a smelly kitty buffet to possibly lure the cat back into its own territory.
- Invest in humane traps and use these.
Bukowczyk says the most common mistake people make is to assume that the cat will just find its way back. While it’s true in some cases that make the evening news – Cat returns to California home after trip to Europe in airplane cargo section – Bukowczyk says, “We have about a 55-percent success rate at figuring out either where the cat is hiding or trapped, or what most likely happened to the cat and what it experienced.
“My most unusual case would have to be when an indoor-only cat that slipped out the door was found four houses down, built into a staircase in a new construction home,” she says. “The cat was recovered safely after the pet owners tore down the staircase.”
Many pet owners – although they might be reluctant to admit it – turn to pet psychics, or animal communicators, as they prefer to be called, like Olympia Freeman of soulsmidwife.com and Kate Pittman of dowseit.org.
Larry and Natalie Wassong of Tryon, N.C., used a psychic to try to find their missing dog, Powder, a “wander-in” dog they rescued and loved dearly.
“It was amazing,” Larry says. “Natalie talked to the psychic who was in Texas or California or someplace else, and I just listened in on the conversation. Powder had always been afraid, downright neurotic, about getting near a car or truck. The psychic told us he had been thrown out of a truck and that’s why he was scared of them. She also told us Powder was alive, but hurt and lost. Then, about six weeks later, on Christmas Day, he turned up, starving, and with a broken leg. But we had him back.”
Kate Pittman of Columbus, N.C., is an intuitive and dowser. A dowser uses a curved stick called a divining rod to find water or metal underground. Pittman uses a pendulum in a similar manner.
”After years of practice, increasing bits of information – including images, sounds, smells, ideas, and other sensations – began to come to me intuitively,” she says. Pittman checks the accuracy of these intuitive “hits” by dowsing with a pendulum.
A pendulum used for dowsing can be quartz or a slightly heavier small object hung from the end of a string or chain. You stand with your feet square on the ground, anchored to the earth, holding the pendulum between your thumb and forefinger. Remaining steady, close your eyes, breathe deeply, clear your mind, and ask a yes or no question.
If the pendulum swings back and forth, that is forward and backward, then the answer is yes. If it swings from side to side, that is left to right or right to left, then the answer is no.
If the pendulum swings in circles, then you’re not supposed to know the answer.
After trying her skills on a friend’s difficult pony and helping change that animal’s behavior, Pittman embarked on a life trip to help other people and their animals.
“Animals are direct,” she says. “I always ask them if they want to chat. I believe that this work cannot be accomplished without an attitude of mutual respect. If they prefer not to communicate with me, I thank them, pick up other intuitive clues, confirm those with my dowsing, and look for a different source of information.
“Critters will provide a psychic knock on the door if they want to communicate. If we are in the same location, there is often a physical cue, such as sitting and staring at me,” she says. “If I’m on the phone with their person, sometimes unexplainable barking, meowing, whining, or physical activity erupts in the background, which stops immediately when I ask if they need to say something to their person or to me.”
Back to the missing Robbie: His owners consulted pet psychic – wait no, animal communicator – Olympia Freeman.
Since I was the last person to see Robbie alive, I spoke with her. She told me she contacted Robbie, that he was alive, surviving nicely without humans, thank you very much and wasn’t interested in coming back to live with me as part of my “pack” of other animals, even for a short while. She said Robbie told her he felt “abandoned” by his owners who went to Europe, and, while he liked me, he didn’t want to live with me (The person who fed you Whiskas, and gave you catnip, and who let you sleep with her! You’ve got a lot of nerve, Robbie.).
I just got a call from a gentleman who has seen one of the many fliers I posted with Robbie’s picture on it. He believes it’s the same cat that he’s been feeding for about six weeks. The timing is right. I am going to check it out, but first I will ask the pet psychic to tell Robbie to stay put until I come to get him.
Katrina Daniel is an award-winning journalist and broadcast reporter/anchor. She has worked in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and as a national correspondent for several networks. She commutes between Miami and the Carolinas, writing for magazines and news organizations. She lives with one horse, four dogs, and a cat.