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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.