Tracey is a naturally gifted pet detective, mentor, and friend. Her passion for locating missing animals is evident when you work with her. She is motivated, driven, and focused on the MAR techniques essential to successfully and humanely recovering beloved missing pets.
Recently, we worked together to capture a male mixed breed hound named Fred (who supposedly jumped the fence at a boarding facility no less than an hour after being dropped off). His family was leaving for an extended vacation to Europe and although saddened to leave the country without knowing if their beloved Fred was safe – they boarded their flight to Europe 24 hours later. Frantic neighbors of Fred’s owners jumped into action with an active search. Although, there were many possible sightings – sadly, none were confirmed. Connected to one of the neighbors on Facebook I offered to help. And, all of the sudden I was connected to a group of 10 women via text that I had never met. Neighbors saw him but, when they called his name and/or tried to approach he ran every time. None of the ideas sat right with me.
The next day I swung by McDonalds, purchased plain cheeseburgers, and drove to the location with the most sightings. I sat quietly with my dog Zoey waiting for Fred. Burgers and fries laid out in a huge semicircle around my car. The bag was on my roof. I had no idea what I was doing but I prayed my plan would work.
It was an extremely hot and muggy day. I was getting incredibly bored. After, an hour I pulled out my iPad and started to read. Three and half hours later I looked up from my iPad saw Fred 50 feet away eating the cheeseburger I swallowed the lump in my throat and pulled out my iPhone. I began taking pictures of Fred as he ate. I sent pictures to the group text. Harmoniously, all 10 responses were “Fred!” I now had a positive ID. He had his eyes solidly fixed on my car. Fred slowly walked to the next cheeseburger which was 50 feet away from my side doors. Zoey stared at him, sniffed, and watched. I could tell by her body language Fred would bolt if my feet ever touched the ground. Very softly I said, “hi buddy.” Then, Fred walked back into the woods.
A woman named Tracey texted me to call her. As soon as she answered the phone she asked, “Are you MAR trained?” Not sure what MAR was I replied, “No.” She then asked a series of investigative questions: “Was this your first sighting?”, “Where have your sightings been?”, “What date/time of day was the sighting?”, “Do you know if Fred has any food allergies?”, “What is Fred’s temperament?” I answered Tracey’s questions as best I could. She then asked me what my schedule was like and we agreed to meet 2 days later at location I took the pictures of Fred.
Two days later, I met Tracey. She was so informative, helpful, and focused. She pointed me to the MAR website and recommended I buy window markers to “tag” my car so neighbors knew why I was there. She also recommended I purchase bug spray, sun screen, pheromone spray, a cooling towel, and a battery operated fan. But, in the meantime she loaned all of these items to me while we laid out a plan.
While standing by a chain link fence the homeowner came to speak with us. We learned Fred most often came up the path from the creek in between her and her neighbor’s yard. This had been a daily occurrence for the last couple of days and was most often between 6:00 – 9:00 PM. The homeowner agreed to let us use her fenced in yard and we strategized our next steps. We first needed to see if Fred would come through the open gate into her fenced in back yard. We laid out a couple of cheeseburgers about 12 feet within the fence line and waited. Fred did not show. An hour later, a false report came in that there was a sighting 3 miles south. Everyone became concerned because Fred appeared to have left his current radius. Another hour later, the neighbor texts Tracey and I that Fred came for the burger and is inside the fence line. What a relief. Tracey instructed the homeowner to throw some meat on the grill to keep him in the area. Fred returned to the neighbor’s yard several times that night.
The next day Tracey and I met up early in the day. I pulled my camping grill out of my SUV and set it up in the neighbor’s backyard. It was July 4th weekend and we were competing with the smell of burgers coming from the Falls Lake Recreation Area about a mile from the neighbor’s house. So, when the boiling water was ready I broke apart raw venison dog food patties and hotdogs and put them into the boiling water. Within 30 minutes the smell of venison was permeating the air. Tracey moved the neighbor’s canoe to a location in the yard that would prevent Fred from running by it. Then we cleaned up our gear and put it inside as not to distract Fred. I was originally planning to go back home to get Zoey since we knew Fred was dog friendly – we were going to use her to lure Fred into the yard if the food didn’t work. But, Tracey felt Fred would come earlier that day so we took our positions. Tracey was by the front fence holding on lead that would pull the side fence gate shut when I gave the signal. I took shelter in the basement. We waited.
I picked up my phone and was about to text Tracey that sometimes Fred comes up through the front fence when I noticed someone was composing a text. “I hear something coming. Get ready.” I continued to wait. Then another text, “OMG … he’s staring right at me.” What?! “He’s sniffing me,” the text continued. A big sigh left my body. Tracey, knowing that Fred was a runner sat quietly while Fred sniffed her. She slowly turned her head away from Fred and looked up the street. She was ignoring him. Fred lost interest and walked down the hill to the side gate. I watched him through the basement window. He was slowly eating the food we set out “Hansel and Gretel” style just outside the gate. A breeze picked up carrying the odor of venison and hotdogs through the air. We placed a large plate of the boiled meat on a rope swing in a tree by the gate. I was praying this plan would work.
It felt like hours had passed by the time Fred approached the gate. “Get ready,” Tracey texted. I stood up and walked to the basement door. It was open. I sat in the doorway watching Fred. Once he was a good twenty feet inside the fenced in back yard I slowly stepped forward onto the back deck. I wanted Fred to focus on me. I text Tracey, “NOW!” I watched the gate slowly close behind Fred and Tracey quietly snuck down the hill as I slowly continued to walk forward on the deck. Fred was gazing at me the whole time.
I stepped off the porch toward Fred. He picked his head up looked toward the gate and saw Tracey. He darted to the back right corner of the yard. I walked straight down to the fence line blocking Fred’s path. He ran up the hill. Tracey was to Fred’s left and I was to his right. He stopped to go to the bathroom. I squatted as best I could with a bad knee, reached out to pet him with my left hand with my slip lead in the other. He darted to the front left corner of the fenced in yard. I walked diagonally toward Fred and stopped right in front of the neighbor’s chicken coop. I was on the low portion of the hill in the middle of the yard. Tracey grabbed her snappy snare and stood just out of sight of Fred by the basement deck. Fred bolted again. He ran diagonally across the yard in front of me. I yelled, “Tracey here he comes … closer … closer … NOW!” Swoosh. Tracey had him in the snappy snare. He yelped with freight and tried to run. He jumped on the porch and tried to go right. I jumped in front of him. He tried to go straight. I jumped in front of him again … waving my arms. He put his head down and walked into the neighbor’s basement.
Once inside Tracey removed the snare from around Fred’s neck. He quickly rolled over on his back and stretched with his bright pink belly sticking straight up into the air. We gave Fred food and water and he gulped everything down. Shortly after Fred had the hiccups and we noticed he was having trouble swallowing. I quickly checked his collar. Tracey had him double leashed with slip leads, the basement door was now closed, so I took his collar off. Fed continued to relax. He licked us. Lay on us. Rubbed his nose against us tail wagging the whole time.
After Fred had some time to decompress we invited the neighbor and her children downstairs to meet Fred. He crawled up into the neighbor’s lap and gave her great big wet sloppy kisses as way of thanking her for letting us use her basement. We loaded Fred up. Stopped by Walgreens on the way home to pick up some electrolytes and took him to a neighbor’s house for the night.
Tracey sat with Fred in makeshift fencing that was attached to a crate. He nuzzled her, licked her, and nudged her. Once another neighbor arrived we left to get Tracey’s car. We parted ways and both headed for home. It was a 10 hour event. I was exhausted.
Tracey recommended MAR training to me. Although I was hesitant at first I glanced at the MAR site for several hours. Trying to determine which course was for me. I had a lot of questions. Tracey got the answers I needed and I was ready to dive deeper. So, I listened to Kat’s book on audible. Wow! Was all I could think. I need to learn more about this MAR training. So, the next day I listened to another book on the site’s reading list called “Cormac.” Wow!
I felt so misinformed about what really happens in a dog’s life when they go missing. I wanted to help any way I could.
More recently, there was a case that tugged at my conscience. The details are cryptic so I won’t try to explain it. Tracey had already determined there wasn’t much more we could for the missing dog. There weren’t any confirmed sightings, pertinent information was difficult to decipher from the owner, family members weren’t helping with the search, there was no supporting physical evidence, and local volunteers were lying to us about what had and had not been done as part of the search. As a rookie, I felt like I needed to go look one last time. Tracey encouraged me to follow my instincts. When nothing new resulted from my search I felt defeated. Certainly there was something I could do. But the reality was – there wasn’t. Tracey guided me through some investigative questions to get me to realize we were too close to this case to see the truth. She pointed out that making mistakes is how we learn and grow. And, that over time … with MAR training I would have the tools I needed to be successful.
In closing, I would like to thank both Tracey and Kat for changing my life. I cannot tell you both how grateful that I am that God enabled us to cross paths. Your insight, honesty, knowledge, and grace have made me realize there truly are animal heroes out there — and they are doing everything they can to educate people and make the world a better place for our pets.
God Bless you both,