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Friday, July 30, 2010

"Gideon", Tuxedo, DSH, San Mateo - Found!


First Letter of Recommendation for Gideon's dad:

"I've used Jackie's (and Dino's) services twice.  Both times the pets were found.  If you really love your pet AND YOU HAVE a really good scent article, it's worth a try.  My suggestion is one person can accompany them, but hang back and don't be a presence so you don't disturb what is an unfathomable process by the dog.

The first time I called Jackie, our big, male orange tabby disappeared after 15 years of always being there.  Hundreds of color fliers later, and two weeks or whistling and walking.  Nothing.  Lots of calls from well-meaning people though.  Part of a bonded pair, the remaining cat was clearly in pain, sitting and watching out to the west all day.

Jackie and Dino came, listened and decided to head off into the steep and wooded open space preserve by our house.  The wind was blowing pretty strongly and, this being my first time hiring a tracker dog, I'm wondering what the heck I'm doing (crazy?  fool?).  Searching isn't organized and it was so steep, I was helping Jackie hold the lead while she scrambled, then I scrambled.  The dog, having four wheel drive, didn't care.

Long story short, after 20 minutes of scrambling, the dog made some gesture and Jackie reversed course and let the dog take its lead.  Heading DOWNWIND, the dog disappeared into a huge thicket that we couldn't go through.  I told her to let the lead go and I went to the other side about 75 ft away and crawled in.  A couple feet in, Dino had found the remains of our cat (coyote).  This isn't a happy ending, but when you read about closure, well, I can tell you it's important.  I brought the remains home and buried him in our yard.   I have no idea how the dog could smell that from upwind, but you could see he had a mission and he knew.  They smell like we see, I guess.  There's zero zero chance it was luck.

The second time, I was away traveling and my wife called and said our one year old cat had disappeared.  When I got home, on Day 6, I called Jackie and she came over.  We had an excellent scent article (EXTREMELY important).   Because this cat loved to go in a cloth shopping bag to hide, we set it up for him and the other cat never went near it... When my wife called to tell me the cat was missing, I told her to get a fresh ziplock bag and grab the shopping bag with a paper towel and seal it in the ziplock bag.

Long story short, we slogged down a long road and I called and clapped every block.  Jackie thought by the trail that someone had picked up the cat.  I never would have looked in that direction.  When I got home the cat was dragging up the hill itself.  He had heard me and backtracked my scent home.

Hiring a tracker is an article of faith, but if you're nutty about your pet, and have a good scent article (and can be a calm presence on the hunt), you increase your chances.  I don't believe success is guaranteed, but I'm a very rational person (engineer by training), and I've seen the dog do amazing things with my own eyes.
Darrell Strickler
San Mateo


Gideon is an almost two year old tuxedo DSH cat. He had been missing for a week when I was called. He is the housemate of another cat from a past search, Malcolm, who was found deceased.

The last time Gideon was seen was around 6 PM on a Friday when his person brought him in, but he immediately left again by a side window. Unfortunately, the GPS tracking was not working properly, so I will do my best to describe the track.

Basically, it appeared that Gideon had been picked up and carried away from almost in front of his house. The track was clearly a human track and not a loose cat walking. It went for several miles down along Alameda de las Pulgas, a major blvd running from town to town in the area. After several miles it went into a local high school and appeared the person was taking a rest in a corner of the baseball field. From it the track went back out of the school and eventually went back onto Alameda.

Where Alameda dead-ended at Crystal Springs Road, the track went east and then north again into Hillsborough, along another major road. Here is where his person decided to stop the track. We still had to walk all the way back.

Gideon's person walks very fast, so he walked ahead of me and made it home before I did. On my way back, I received a phone call from him that Gideon was at home. I hurried back as quickly as I could.

It appeared that Gideon had lost a couple of pounds and was very hungry and tired. Since he had been missing for one week, I believe that he was carried a long ways away (many, many miles), and then had made it back all the way to home. Gideon's person was 100% certain that Gideon was not near home when we left that morning on the search, so he was convinced that Gideon did start to make it home and may have heard him calling Gideon along the way and following his scent.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Pepper", Chihuahua, Redwood City/Woodside

Pepper is a four year old two pound, tri-colored  Chihuahua. She has a collar on without an ID tag. She escaped from the home where she was being boarded.

Search #1:

View Pepper in a larger map

Total Distance: 25.41 km (15.8 mi)
Total Time: 4:28:45
Moving Time: 2:43:28
Average Pace: 10.58 min/km (17.0 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 6.43 min/km (10.4 min/mi)
Min Pace: 0.95 min/km (1.5 min/mi)
Min Elevation: 47 m (153 ft)
Max Elevation: 172 m (566 ft)
Elevation Gain: 858 m (2815 ft)
Max Grade: 10 %
Min Grade: -9 %
Recorded: Sat Jul 17 14:52:45 PDT 2010

Search #2:

View Pepper 2 in a larger map

Total Distance: 28.60 km (17.8 mi)
Total Time: 4:43:52
Moving Time: 2:35:41
Average Pace: 9.93 min/km (16.0 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 5.44 min/km (8.8 min/mi)
Min Pace: 0.87 min/km (1.4 min/mi)
Min Elevation: 374 m (1226 ft)
Max Elevation: 562 m (1844 ft)
Elevation Gain: 1072 m (3517 ft)
Max Grade: 11 %
Min Grade: -15 %
Recorded: Sun Jul 18 15:42:32 PDT 2010

Search #3:

View Pepper 3 in a larger map

Total Distance: 41.78 km (26.0 mi)
Total Time: 4:14:09
Moving Time: 2:16:28
Average Pace: 6.08 min/km (9.8 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 3.27 min/km (5.3 min/mi)
Min Pace: 0.67 min/km (1.1 min/mi)
Min Elevation: 12 m (39 ft)
Max Elevation: 442 m (1449 ft)
Elevation Gain: 1263 m (4144 ft)
Max Grade: 30 %
Min Grade: -6 %
Recorded: Mon Jul 19 16:13:54 PDT 2010

Search #4:

We stopped the search today at the Windy Hill Open Preserve. We followed the track all the way to the entrance to the preserve on Alpine Road in Woodside. There were signs saying we could not go farther on that road. We found the other end of the preserve off of Skyline. However, it was almost dark and close to 9 PM. We did see signs on Alpine that we were near the Razerback Trail. According to the map, the Razerback trail is the furtherest south near the winery. 

View Pepper 4 in a larger map

Total Distance: 34.71 km (21.6 mi)
Total Time: 5:10:18
Moving Time: 3:11:20
Average Pace: 8.94 min/km (14.4 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 5.51 min/km (8.9 min/mi)
Min Pace: 0.93 min/km (1.5 min/mi)
Min Elevation: 80 m (262 ft)
Max Elevation: 505 m (1656 ft)
Elevation Gain: 1049 m (3442 ft)
Max Grade: 19 %
Min Grade: -17 %
Recorded: Wed Jul 21 14:26:25 PDT 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Winstina", Box Turtle, San Jose

Winstina is a box turtle that is approximately 65 to 70 years old. She has been with her current person for over 25 years. She would spend most of her time on the front enclosed patio that had a gate to the front of the house. The gate should be self-closing, but sometimes would not close all the way. In the past, Winstina would be found on the sidewalk or driveway or backyard or hiding in the bushes. When I started the search, Winstina had been missing for a month when we started the search. This was not unusual since she would not be seen for days, weeks as she would go and hide somewhere in the bushes or dig into the dirt.

I learned a lot about turtles today. Mainly that box turtles do not need to be in water, like I thought all turtles needed to be. The red eared slider is the type of turtle that people most think of when they think of turtle, and they do need to be in water. This is the type of turtle that people see in creeks and ponds. Winstina's person said that if a box turtle is put into water, they should float.

The GPS tracking was not working today, so I will do my best to describe the track. The track we found led away from the house and down the street and continued for several blocks. We eventually went all the way to a local park and then to the creek that runs through the park. The track went all the way to the creek, but did not lead away from it, which means that she was taken to the creek and dropped off there.

On the other side of the creek was another well worn path down to the creek, so we went around the creek to the other side and checked for a track leading away. We did find her scent leading away from the creek. The track continued away from the park and through some neighborhoods. It did go directly into an apartment complex and then back out and through the neighborhood again.

At this point Winstina's person stopped the track since she had to be home for an appointment.

What we discovered was that it looked like Winstina got onto the sidewalk or driveway and then somebody passing by saw her, thought she was lost and took her to the creek, which they thought all turtles might need. From there another person found her in the creek and picked her up and brought her home.

I recommended that they use the automated phone message services and flyer distribution service to get the word out to their neighborhood and the area where we tracked her to to find out who might know where she is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Maddie", Shih Tzu, adult, San Bruno

Maddie is a spayed adult Shih Tzu. She is wearing a collar with an ID, but she is not microchipped. She was staying with a pet sitter/friend and got loose while at a park. They followed her around the park and then lost track of her. We picked up her track at the same spot and then followed her around he park and then for another four hours when her people stopped at the search at four hours. They are continuing to look for her.

View Maddie in a larger map

Total Distance: 8.97 km (5.6 mi)
Total Time: 3:33:19
Moving Time: 1:18:26
Average Pace: 12.88 min/km (20.7 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 8.75 min/km (14.1 min/mi)
Min Pace: 2.15 min/km (3.5 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -27 m (-87 ft)
Max Elevation: 115 m (378 ft)
Elevation Gain: 397 m (1304 ft)
Max Grade: -1 %
Min Grade: -5 %
Recorded: Tue Jul 13 08:30:57 PDT 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Quila", Yorkshire Terrier, Oakland - Found!

On July 28, 2010, I received an email from Quilla's person that Quilla had been found. To summarize, Quilla had been found on the street by a person who thought Quilla was a stray. This person took Quilla to a private rescue group. Unfortunately, Quilla had an injury to one of her eyes, and the eye had to be removed. This group adopted Quilla out to a person. This person checked on Craigslist to see if anybody was looking for a Yorkie, and she saw the ad posted by Quilla's people. She called them and they were there the next day to put up Quilla.

Quila is an unspayed three year old Yorkshire Terrier. She does not have a collar on or a microchip. She got out by accident from her side/back yard. Based on her search, it appears she is on her own. Her people will continue to look for her.

View Quila in a larger map

Total Distance: 13.45 km (8.4 mi)
Total Time: 3:19:25
Moving Time: 1:53:15
Average Pace: 14.74 min/km (23.7 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 8.42 min/km (13.6 min/mi)
Min Pace: 6.19 min/km (10.0 min/mi)
Min Elevation: 11 m (36 ft)
Max Elevation: 69 m (225 ft)
Elevation Gain: 524 m (1719 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Sat Jul 10 10:31:07 PDT 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Scaredy", DSH, Grey Tabby with white, Alameda

Scaredy is a neutered nine year old grey tabby with white on chest and feet. He is wearing a collar with ID tags and is microchipped. He had been missing for three weeks when I arrived. Flyers had been put out as far as about three to four blocks from where he went missing. He was very reliable with his schedule, and was last seen around 9 AM on his front steps on the day he went missing. My best guess is that he was chased out of the area. A couple of bully cats do exist in the area and also a regular number of raccoons.
Since he has his ID on, my best guess is that he is still loose on the street and hiding and traveling at night. After the search I recommended that they use an automated phone service to cover the island and just outside, which is Oakland. I have tracked animals back and forth on the bridges.

Day #1 search:

View Scaredy in a larger map

Total Distance: 10.26 km (6.4 mi)
Total Time: 2:25:13
Moving Time: 1:27:13
Average Pace: 14.15 min/km (22.8 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 8.50 min/km (13.7 min/mi)
Min Pace: 4.17 min/km (6.7 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -63 m (-207 ft)
Max Elevation: -6 m (-21 ft)
Elevation Gain: 456 m (1496 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Tue Jul 06 10:06:41 PDT 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Kee Kee", Hairless Cat, Capitola/Santa Cruz - Found!

Kee Kee is an indoor only hairless cat who was let out by accident by the pet sitter. She is microchipped, but not wearing a collar. The pet sitter did not know that Kee Kee got out, and closed the door and left without checking Kee Kee was inside.

The GPS tracking system was sporadic that day, so no permanent track exists. Kee Kee's person said that cell phones do not work a lot, and I have also had previous problems when doing searches right on the ocean, which is where we were for the whole track.

Directly from their home, it looked like Kee Kee was picked up from her home or in the yard. She probably was making noise to try to get back into the house, but nobody was home. Somebody passing by the home probably heard her and checked to see what the noise was. Their home is right on the corner of a very busy main street which leads right down to the beach. This person may have tried to knock on the door, but nobody answered, and they didn't feel right leaving her there, especially since she is hairless, the person may have thought something was wrong.

The track went right down to the beach and onto the beach, and from there it continued all along the main E. Cliff road, making jutts back and forth to the beach. Kee Kee's person eventually  stopped the track at the four hour minimum. We had traveled over 10 miles  through Capitola and eventually into Santa Cruz. The weather was very hot (probably 85) and the roads and beaches were packed.

On my way home, I received a voicemail that Kee Kee suddenly appeared in their front yard and driveway about two hours after I left. She said that Kee Kee was not hungry or thirsty, but she was very dirty and very sunburned. My guess is that somebody had her and saw my van in the driveway. Once it was gone, they dropped Kee Kee back home, not wanting to be discovered.

See "Moula" the British Shorthair for a similar story when an animal suddenly appears after I leave, wanting to drop the animal off without being detected.