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Zekeless in Seattle

How do you measure love? Last week, my husband and I euthanized our bloodhound Zeke who fought a long battle with lymphoma. What has surprised me is that I have not felt this level of grief in sometime. Although I had euthanized two of my other pets over the past two years, my grief over those losses just did not rise to the level of what I’ve experienced this week. To the point where I now truly understand when people say that they “love” dogs or cats but just can’t get another one because the loss and pain they felt when that pet died was just “too hard.”

Zeke

Zeke was a working dog, one I had trained for Missing Pet Partnership to track the scent of lost dogs. You can watch a video here at one of our MPP K9 training sessions where I worked Zeke. Although I only used Zeke on just a few cases (he was forced into early retirement), he captivated my heart and lived out his happy life as an incredible friend. In fact, the novel (Bloodhound Love) that I’m preparing to sell is based mostly on Zeke and his characteristics. It had become my goal to see Bloodhound Love published while Zeke was still alive. Sometimes we never reach our goals. And that’s the point of my blog today–to encourage those of you who’ve set goals and dreamed dreams that were never reached.

God knows your heart. He knows your thoughts, your dreams, and your passions. Psalm 139:13-14 puts it this way: “You formed my inward parts. You wove me in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works. And my soul knows it very well.” God created me with a passion for dogs and cats. Years ago, back when I was still a police bloodhound handler who spent nearly all of my “off duty” hours in training my police bloodhounds, I began to feel like I was not living my life as a “good Christian” probably should. While people from my church were out praying for the sick and feeding the poor, I was out running behind bloodhounds. I finally came to the place where I said, “God, if you would rather that I give up my bloodhounds and stop focusing on tracking work, I’m willing to give them up for You. I just want you to use my life for Your glory.” What is amazing is that just a few months after I prayed that prayer, my life dramatically changed. In the spring of 1996, my police bloodhound A.J. dug out from my yard and was lost in the woods. I used another search-and-rescue dog to track him down and I had my “ah ha” moment–that dogs could and should be trained to find lost pets. That incident was what set the course of my life on fire for developing what was to ultimately become Missing Pet Partnership and most recently, my new pet detective training academy, K-9 Pet Trackers. In His great Mercy, God changed the trajectory of my life so that I not only continued to work my bloodhounds (and my cadaver dog, Rachel) but I was able to start a new career as a pet detective. This work ultimately led to my switching my focus from ME being one of only 2 other pet detectives out there (this was in early 1997) to my focus on training many, many other people and their dogs to offer pet detective services.

A double blow for me this month has been that in addition to the pain of losing Zeke, there’s now a financial crisis looming in the wings. Because of the recession, our stability at MPP has been threatened by a recent slowdown in financial support. Some of you receive this newsletter because at one time you lost a dog or cat and you contacted Missing Pet Partnership for help, so you’ve experienced the pain of losing (and perhaps never finding) a pet that you loved. Some of you reading this blog have already made a recent donation to Missing Pet Partnership and I am SO thankful for that. But for those of you who haven’t donated recently, I encourage you to make a tax deductible donation “In memory of Zeke” thus supporting the mission of MPP (which to reunite lost companion animals with their owners/guardians). You can either snail mail a donation check to “Missing Pet Partnership, P.O. Box 3085, Federal Way, WA 98063″ or you can use the PayPal button on the top of the MPP homepage here. Even a small gift adds up and would be greatly appreciated.

Me and Zeke (1 month before he was gone)

THANK YOU for supporting my dream and the memory of Zeke. I am deeply sad that Zeke won’t be alive when Bloodhound Love is ultimately published. But the great news is that he lives within my heart and in my memories. I know that some day (when I can afford it!) it will be time to bring a new dog into my life again, creating new joy, new laughter, and new trailing stories to tell. For now I will continue on my quest to get Zeke’s (fictional) story published. Sometimes it takes losing someone special in your life to kick you into gear!

Grace for Gracie

Catching a skittish, displaced cat is usually a straightforward operation. After several days, an indoor-only cat that has escaped outside will typically be hungry enough to enter a humane trap baited with yummy cat food. But once in a while, a cat comes along who simply will not show interest in food. When this happens, volunteer “pet detectives” trained by Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) must become creative in their recovery methods. This is the story of one such creative recovery method and one very stubborn cat!

Gracie

On August 23, 2013 MPP volunteer Chris Duvall learned that a cat named Gracie was displaced from her apartment in Federal Way, WA. Gracie’s owner, an elderly woman, had passed away inside of her apartment but her body was not discovered for two weeks. When emergency personnel responded, a door was apparently left open and Gracie bolted outside.

A week later, family members (who had no interest in adopting their Mom’s cat) had not seen Gracie and speculated that the skittish cat was now “gone.” When Chris learned that Gracie had a xenophobic (skittish) temperament, she knew (from her MPP training) that cats like Gracie don’t just “runaway” and that Gracie was likely still nearby. Chris responded and set up a baited humane trap and a digital wildlife camera on the back porch of Gracie’s apartment. On August 25th, Gracie was captured on camera on the back porch of her apartment, confirming that she was still in the immediate area. However, Gracie did not show any interest in the food left inside of the trap. It was presumed that she simply was not hungry enough yet and that it was only a matter of time before she was captured.

Gracie Wants In Back Door of Her Apartment

On August 27th 6:15 a.m., Gracie showed up on the back porch again (on camera). She still did not eat food. Instead, this time she stood at the back sliding glass door of her apartment (which was now under renovation) as if she wanted to go inside. Under normal circumstances, MPP volunteers would’ve coached the owner in how to use the “House as Trap” method. House as Trap is a technique where cat (and sometimes skittish dog) owners use bait to lure a scared animal into a house (or garage) when a door is propped open and once the animal is detected (using a baby monitor or driveway alarm) upon entry, the door is closed, thus capturing the animal without having to use a humane trap. However, when we asked the management for permission for our volunteers to sit inside of the vacant apartment to conduct a stakeout, they denied permission. It became apparent that we needed to use another method to trap this wary cat.

On August 31st when it became obvious that Gracie was just not going to enter a humane trap, Chris set up a drop trap and propped up under buckets, placing food under the trap to hopefully entice Gracie to start going underneath the trap for food. A drop trap is often used for cats that refuse to enter a standard metal humane trap. In addition to placing plenty of food under the drop trap, Chris spread cat nip on a rug that she placed in front of the trap. That first night, our camera showed that plenty of raccoons helped themselves to the pile of food and one very happy white cat enjoyed rolling around on the cat nip rug!

Happy White Cat Rolls in Cat Nip!

Although raccoons and the white cat ate well that week, Gracie did not show up on camera for three days. When she finally returned to the back porch, she did not go under the drop trap and she did not eat any food (that was left near the side of the drop trap). Gracie only went up to the back sliding glass door of the apartment, still wanting to go inside. Over the next several weeks, our efforts continued. Chris noticed a pattern of behavior in the hours that Gracie was showing up, usually around 6:00 a.m. To avoid feeding raccoons, Chris began responding to the apartment at 5:00 a.m. to put food out for Gracie. By September 14th, it was clear that Gracie was just not going to respond to food. Chris and her small group of volunteers (Jody, Debbie, Joannie, Shirley and Teresa) had tried every cat-bait under the sun—wet cat food, dry cat food, cat nip, Feliway (cat pheromone), fried chicken, you name it. The only thing that Gracie wanted was to enter that apartment, but because the apartment complex management would not give us access, we set up a new plan. If the new tenant who moved in (on October 1st) was cat friendly, we’d find a way to get their permission to let us into their apartment in the middle of the night and use the House as Trap method. And if that didn’t work (which knew it likely wouldn’t), we’d somehow convince one of the nearby cat loving neighbor’s to help us entice Gracie inside their apartment. We were truly grasping for straws!

By September 17th, Chris came up with a new idea. She used an unlocked storage closet on the back patio of Gracie’s apartment to set up a second humane trap. But instead of baiting this trap with food, Chris created a “comfort trap.” This was a humane trap placed inside the dark closet and tucked under a table (then covered with an American flag towel). Gracie’s bedding was placed at the base of the trap so that Gracie’s own sent would be inside the room and soft bedding was placed inside the set trap. Then the bedding was sprayed with Feliway. The door to this closet was left propped open. Chris hoped that Gracie would enter the trap not for food, but in search of a warm place to curl up. I personally didn’t hold out much hope for this method, but it was worth a try.

Closet with Table (Covered in Towel) Where Trap Was Placed

Initially, Gracie showed zero interest in the closet. To her credit, Chris did not give up hope. Day after day, Chris or her volunteers showed up before dawn to put out food, to check the trap(s), to pull the SD card from the camera, and to record the results of what they’d captured on camera from the day before. Chris had learned to persevere in tough cat recovery cases, especially since she was the same MPP volunteer who persistently worked to capture Bebe, a displaced cat that took 4 months to capture.

On September 28th, Chris tried something new. She placed a Sentry “Good Behavior” lavender chamomile calming cat collar in the back of the comfort trap on the soft towels. Chris had seen remarkable results in using these collars on stressed cats and hoped that by placing it inside of the comfort trap, it might help to calm Gracie down and attract her into the trap. Because of stormy weather, Gracie didn’t show up on the 28th. However, the next day she showed up (at 11:53 p.m.), and went through the open closet door into the room with the comfort trap! This was the first time she entered the room with the comfort trap. Although she didn’t enter the trap, it was a step in the right direction!

Gracie Enters Storage Room Where Comfort Trap is Set

On September 30th, at 6:21 a.m., Gracie walked by the food baited humane trap on the patio, entered the closet door, and entered the comfort trap where she was finally captured! The Sentry collar, it seems, is what made the difference in this case. Having gone nearly 2 months with limited food, Gracie lost weight. Chris rushed her to the vet where they discovered that she was jaundiced, emaciated, dehydrated, was down to 7.1 pounds, and had no desire to eat. While the vet was concerned about her liver and kidneys, Gracie slowly recovered. After several weeks of care by Chris, Gracie is now ready to find a new “forever” home!

Gracie at Vet (immediately after her capture)

The Gracie case is a prime example that while some lost cats can be recovered with a physical search of a neighbor’s yard or a properly placed neon lost cat poster, other cases are more complicated and require the time and dedication of trained resources. Lost cats not found are a major contributing factor to the extremely high euthanasia rates at animal shelters. Training resources (like Chris) in how to strategically recover displaced cats like Gracie is the mission of Missing Pet Partnership. The next on-line 8-week “pet detective” training course offered by MPP starts on November 15th. If you’d like more info on how you can be trained by MPP to do what Chris did and help capture elusive cats (and skittish dogs) in your community, visit this page here.

Toilet Paper Problems

“Excuse me Ma’am, we have a toilet paper problem.”

Um...Houston, We Have a Problem!

I turned to look at the Burger King employee standing beside me who’d just tapped me on the shoulder. I looked at her with a blank face, not sure what she was talking about. Problems? Did she know anything about problems? I was in the midst of several major problems in my life. They say it comes in threes and I was walking through my third loss in a matter of three months.  It all started in May when my best friend and fishing buddy Hardin Weaver passed away from lung cancer.

My Friend Hardin

I praise God that I had had the opportunity to fly back to Clovis, California to see Hardin in the hospital the day before he died. He was concious and was able to smile as I laughed and cried and prayed with him. Hardin was one of our first Missing Pet Partnership volunteers in the early stages of our development. He became a close friend and a father figure to me. The plan I had for my upcoming wedding was to have Hardin walk me down the isle and give me away. Sometimes our plans just don’t work out. Losing Hardin cut like a knife.

MPP Volunteers Capture Stray Hard-to-Catch Dog

A few months later, the primary program of Missing Pet Partnership came to a sudden and unexpected end. After helping hundreds of pet owners over the past three years, MPP was forced to suspend our services that involved responding (in the Seattle area) on physical searches with search dogs and equipment to help families search for their lost pets. Until we get the funding to hire a staff to oversee this program it will likely remain in limbo.

Sadie

I had not quite worked through my grief of losing the MPP program when I was forced to euthanize Sadie, my elderly cat detection dog. In fact, I had just put Sadie down on Monday and was traveling through Ellensburg, Washington on Wednesday (after being consoled by family in Idaho) when I stopped at Burger King. I had used the restroom first and then walked out to place my order when the employee tapped me on my shoulder.

“What?” I asked the woman. She repeated her words again. “We have a toilet paper problem” only this time she was smiling.

I was thinking to myself that this woman knew nothing about “problems” based on what I was going through. And besides, there was no “toilet paper problem.” I had just been in the women’s restroom and there had been plenty of toilet paper. But as the smile appeared on her face, I realized that the “we” of this problem meant that I was some how involved in this. And then the lightbulb came on and my worst nightmare came true.

“No!” I said as I looked down at my feet to see if I was trailing a stream of toilet paper, only there was nothing clinging to my shoe. “Where?” I asked.

She pointed to my butt. I reached back behind me and sure enough, I’d been trailing a 4 foot long piece of toilet paper that was tucked neatly into the back of my pants. I turned red and excused myself as I scurried to the women’s restroom.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. I realized that I was faced with a choice. The easiest thing to do would’ve been to wash my hands and then slip outside without even going back for my burger, avoiding more embarrassment. But as I washed my hands, I noticed they had the best kind of hand drying apparatus around. Instead of one of those cheap blowy machines that leaves you with wet hands, Burger King had installed one of those brown paper towel dispensers with the Pavlov-like-lever that enables you to make one single, giant paper towel. I pushed that lever at least 15 times and created a 7 foot long paper towel train and stuck it in the back of my pants. And like a bride trailing a beautiful train from her lavish wedding gown (which I’ll need one for this December, just in case anyone has one laying around that they want to donate!) I proudly walked out of that bathroom with my head held high.

You should’ve seen the look on faces of the customers in line! I walked right up to that Burger King employee who was still standing at the counter. I laid a hand on her shoulder to make sure she looked at me, thanked her for telling me about the toilet paper problem, and then proudly walked away so she could observe my paper train. She, and everyone else standing there, broke out in laughter.  It’s times like these that I thank God for His lovingkindness. He knew exactly how to bless me with a good belly laugh during my season of grief! I have a quirky hobby of collecting “most embarrassing moment” stories and so far, my own most embarrassing moment had only involved driving off from a fuel pump with the gas nozzel still attached to my police car gas tank. Now I have a coveted toilet paper story of my own to share around the campfire.

Life is too short to be embarrassed and to run out of Burger Kings in shame. As depressing as things can get, we all need to hang paper trains from our butts and bring a little laughter into this world!