If terriers could talk then maybe I’d solve the mystery of what happened to Cutie, a Jack Russell Terrier who went missing from her home in Federal Way, Washington. On April 5, 2010 the perky terrier darted out of her house and vanished into the night. I became involved in her disappearance the next day when I happened to spot one of the lost dog flyers that her family had posted. Of course, like most flyers, I couldn’t read any important details while driving on the busy roadway where it was posted. So I pulled over, walked up to the flyer, and then called the owner.
I was afraid they would think I was a nut if I told them I was a “pet detective.” Instead, I told them that I was a volunteer with Missing Pet Partnership, a nonprofit organization, and that we wanted to offer our assistance to help them create more visible posters. I knew that their 8 1/2 X 11 flyers were fine to hand out to people, but for posting a notice along a major roadway they needed to use Missing Pet Partnerhsip’s 5+5+55 MPH method for posters– using five words (LOST WHITE TERRIER POINTY EARS) that people could read in five seconds when traveling 55 MPH. Normally, we use the left portion of the poster to describe the animal (BLACK POODLE, BLUE COLLAR) and use the right portion of the poster to insert an 8 1/2 X 11 color photograph of the dog. But the family didn’t have a clear picture of Cutie that we could use so I just used the space to add more details (stub tail; tan around both eyes).
I had only planned to assist with creating giant, florescent posters (which I did) but when I interviewed them I learned the Cutie had been missing less than 24 hours. I also learned that they never took Cutie for walks in her own neighborhood. The weather was cool (50’s). These three conditions (dog only lost a few hours, one single scent trail for our dogs to follow, cool and calm weather) meant that it was a perfect scenario to work our MAR (missing animal response) K9 tracking dogs. I was itching to work Zeke on a lost dog scent trail!
I got on the phone right away and called Brian Newsham, one of the MPP’s volunteer pet detectives. Brian owns Lucy, a yellow Labrador who is trained to track lost dogs. By three that afternoon we had assembled at Cutie’s home with two tracking dogs (Lucy the Lab and my bloodhound Zeke), two dog handlers, and one backup / communications volunteer (Ryan Gamache).
Brian worked Lucy, Ryan ran behind the team as backup to protect them from traffic and charging dogs (and worked the radio), and I followed in my SUV. After sniffing Cutie’s bedding, Lucy beelined from the front lawn directly into the woods. After tracking around in there for about five minutes, she then worked out of the woods and into a business complex just south of Cutie’s home along a major roadway (320th). Lucy kept covering the same ground, circling around the area and ultimately she went back to Cutie’s home.
Next, we brought out Zeke. I scented him on Cutie’s rope toy in the front yard and he took off. He dragged me east from the house and then cut north, working deliberately through the neighborhood, zigging and zagging on the roads until he came out onto 312th, a major roadway. Zeke ultimately lost the scent trail along the sidewalk in front of a church (Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church).
So. Was Lucy right? Had Cutie traveled into the woods and south onto 320th where she was picked up? Or was Zeke right? Had Cutie traveled north through the neighborhood onto 312th where she was picked up? Or were both of our search dogs right and Cutie simply did what most Jack Russell’s do – ran south, ran north, ran east, ran west and bascially ran all over the area until someone picked her up? We will never know.
What we do know is that after seven days, Cutie was back home. An elderly woman found her running loose in Renton, Washington, a good 18 miles away from her home. Cutie was actually found in Renton two days after she disappeared, so we suspect she was picked up by someone, transported to Renton, and she likely darted out of their house and became lost a second time. The finder’s daughter happened to live in Federal Way and saw one of our florescent REWARD LOST DOG posters that I had posted. Because of the distance the woman didn’t think it could be the same dog, but she called the number on our poster. She talked to Cutie’s family who described her and by the end of the night, Cutie was back home! When I received the call that Cutie was recovered I couldn’t get to her house fast enough to learn more details and to get a photograph of her with her family. It was great to share in their joy (and to discuss the importance of collars, tags, and microchips).
Here’s how the Kim family thanked Missing Pet Partnership on our Testimonials page for helping them recover Cutie:
“Over a week later, on 4-14-10 a woman called us saying her mother had found a terrier a week earlier. She wasn’t too sure if it was Cutie because we lost her in Federal Way and her mother found the terrier in Renton. She said she had seen the bright, neon posters put up by Missing Pet Partnership while driving in Federal Way. So she e-mailed us a picture of the terrier they’d found & it turned out to be our Cutie! Those neon posters helped us bring our baby back almost a week later. If it wasn’t for Missing Pet Partnership, I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten Cutie back. Thank you so much & keep up the good work!”
Seriously, pet detective work just doesn’t get any better than this!
Kat & Dogs