Still Missing as of August 24, 2013
This letter was posted 2/9/2010:
In October, 2009, our standard poodle Raven escaped from our friend's backyard and became lost in the West San Jose, CA area. Frantic to recover her, we spend the first several days of her disappearance postering the area near where Raven had escaped to no avail. An acquaintance suggested that we look into hiring a pet detective, and through that query we contacted and hired Jackie Philips, and her search dogs Dino and Dot. Jackie arrived promptly the next day as arranged and immediately turned our search around in a positive direction. She and her team were able to pick up Raven's scent trail and track her progress through a twisting routes taking her many miles from her origin. Along this route, we met multiple people who told us they had seen her several days before. After hearing these sightings, our initial skepticism regarding whether Jackie's dogs were truly able to track Raven evaporated; we were sure that we were actually following her path.
As Raven never stopped moving, it was necessary to work with Jackie over multiple days in order to continue the tracking process. We covered quite varied terrain including freeways, apartment buildings, fences, mud, wild open space and creek beds as Raven traversed San Jose and then entered the Los Gatos Creek heading south. Jackie and her team worked extremely hard on our behalf. Several times the track was lost and then recovered again, because Jackie did not give up, or balk at getting dirty. Her tenacity, and the amazing tracking abilities of Dino and Dot were impressive to watch; We very much felt like we had a capable ally in our time of need.
Beyond her tracking assistance, Jackie helped us set up feeding stations with the idea that Raven might come to them and we'd be able to recover her. She also arranged for an animal communication session with a prominent communicator as she thought that would help the process along. It was obvious that she was deeply invested in helping us to recover our dog, and that for her, being a pet detective was a vocation and calling, and not just a source of income.
Though we searched over a period of six weeks, we were not ever able to recover Raven. We tracked her to the Lexington Reservoir and then, at our request, we stopped the tracking process. Though it has been a terrible loss to no longer have Raven in our lives, we feel at peace that we did all we possibly could do to try to bring her home. Jackie's assistance was instrumental and central to that effort. Without her providing us with scent tracking services and advice, we would not have gotten out of the gate. Raven's disappearance would have been a total mystery, instead of only a partial one. We are extremely grateful to her for her help.
Take a look at this blogspot. This is being updated daily by Raven's people. This is much more detailed than I could ever be.
My own comments are that this is what an ideal missing pet search should be like. I wish all people put as much effort, creativity, passion and focus into their searches as these people are doing for Raven. The highs and lows are real and completely understandable. The frustrations are unbearable and the support from others are rejuvenating, to say the least.
They have clear color photos of Raven, so it is easy for the public to know what she looks like. So many people have shadowy and sketchy photos of their animals that come right off cell phones and this makes it very difficult to clearly understand what their pet really looks like.
They know what it feels like to not find her immediately, yet still have the intense desire to keep looking and put the search into a "long term" mode. I have found many people want instant gratification in locating their missing pet, and barely go beyond putting up posters and checking shelters.
They are using technology to their advantage. I love the idea of a blog to focus all efforts and feelings and frustrations as the risk of publicly displaying their emotions and love for their dog. I like the downloadable flyer directly from the blog so others can assist in the search once they know where Raven is being spotted. Now they have a Yahoo group. Brilliant! I will include that idea on my Finding Lost Pets Checklist. They are using voicemail, Iphones, email and the Internet to the fullest advantage.
Raven is a very lucky dog, though it might not feel that way at this point because she is not home. But many, many, many missing pets never get this amount of attention to their searches, but not for lack of desire by their people to find them. Even though the Bay Area is a very affluent area, many people lack basic resources to find their pets. Many people don't have computers or even a general understanding of the Internet and how to navigate it. I have had people say "well, they can just go to the library to search for their pets." How many libraries have limited hours and when they are open, the computers with Internet access are all full? If you don't know how to make your way around the Internet and get email, then how will that change if you go to a library?
Many people don't have cars to get to the library and many people have strict work schedules and don't have understanding bosses, work multiple jobs or go to school so doing a full and complete search for their missing pet is prohibitive.
And money! Who has the large chucks of money to make all the posters and flyers and create the ads or hire a pet detective or animal communicator to help them out.
When Chessie, my six year old pit bull, became lost in 1992 while I was living by myself in Santa Rosa, I was working full time as an administrative assistant in Novato and going to the local junior college part time to complete my degree. My resources were beyond stretched already. Half way through the semester in April 1992 Chessie was stolen from my backyard in the middle of the night. I failed all my classes that semester to spend every spare moment to find her and to conduct what I thought was an extensive search throughout the county and Bay Area. Even though she had a sturdy collar with a full set of updated tags and a tattoo (this as before microchips) she was never found. I felt so outgunned and outresourced. I felt that if I had only this and that and all these other things to help me I could find her. Nothing ever felt enough.
Unfortunately, Chessie's and Raven's stories are not unique. Thousands of pets, including dogs, cats, small animals and large animals, go missing or get stolen every year. Some are found. Most never are. That is why I became a pet detective. To aid in the massive problem in whatever way possible. I am only one person in the small group of people who do this throughout the country. More trained people are desperately needed. However, it far from glamorous. It can be dirty (cobwebs and spiders, jumping over and climbing under fences), frightening (scaling hillsides and climbing rocks), exhausting (10 to 12 hour hot and emotional days), frustrating (loose dogs and unsympathetic people) and can take a long time to train a dog to track animals (12 to 15 months), especially if a person is new to dog training. What makes it all worthwhile is the gratitude of a single person who you help in any way, even if that means authenticating how they feel about their pet and their intense desire to find them, and not just "to go get a new one."