May 16, 2004 in Features

Book offers helpful tips on finding lost cats, dogs

Marty Becker Knight Ridder
 
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Statistically, one out of two pets will be lost sometime in their lifetime. If your dog or cat got lost tomorrow, what would you do to get it back?

Most pet owners have no idea.

“In a world where pets have their own day care centers, ultrasound machines and massage parlors, it’s frustrating that the main method used to search when they’re lost is the same one we use to advertise a garage sale,” says Kat Albrecht, a real-life pet detective and author of the new book “The Lost Pet Chronicles.”

There’s always the possibility that posting fliers in your neighborhood can help get your lost dog or cat back, but Albrecht, who has helped more than 1,800 people locate their pets, says there are better ways — and even a correct way to make a “Lost Pet” poster that will work.

Albrecht’s story is one of a woman who has a passion for pets that has truly changed her life — and has touched the lives of many others.

Albrecht used to be a police bloodhound handler in Santa Cruz, Calif. At that time, her dogs were responsible for helping solve crimes and finding missing persons. But when one of her own dogs ran away and had to be tracked by a search dog, Albrecht started thinking about how many pets are lost and never recovered every day.

She had taken calls from desperate pet owners at the police station and had to tell them that there was nothing she could do for them. As a lifelong animal lover, though, the idea of pet owners and lost pets with nowhere to turn weighed on Albrecht until she decided to try to do something to help.

“The Lost Pet Chronicles” tells the remarkable story of Albrecht’s transition from police officer to pet detective. Along the way, Albrecht, her lovable bloodhound A.J. and graceful, equally lovable Weimaraner Rachel inadvertently did more research into the behavior of missing pets than anyone had ever done before. Albrecht applied her police training, equipment, profiling expertise and even probability theories to figure out where lost dogs and cats might be found. With each case, she gained a better understanding of how missing pets behave.

Albrecht learned, for instance, that missing cats rarely venture far from home — and seldom meow in answer when they are called. She discovered that once you understand lost-cat behavior, it’s possible to survey an area and hazard a very good guess about where that cat will be found. Albrecht also realized that a significant percentage of cats can be recovered by using a simple, harmless humane trap many shelters use to trap feral cats.

In cases of missing dogs, Albrecht learned that many well-meaning pet lovers inadvertently prevent lost dogs from being united with their owners.

“There’s a very common misconception that a dog who acts skittish when you find it has been abused,” Albrecht explains. “It’s rarely the truth. Lost dogs are skittish because they’re hungry, confused, afraid — and sometimes because that’s just their temperament.”

Unfortunately, that behavior prompts far too many people to decide not to notify animal shelters or make an effort to reunite the dog with its owner.

Albrecht came up with a dog-search system that helps maximize owners’ chances of getting their beloved pets back. One of her clients even went one better than Albrecht’s recommendations, postering the entire city of Sacramento and determinedly doing radio interviews and announcements until she was finally reunited with her golden retriever — weeks after the dog had disappeared.

“The Lost Pet Chronicles” has been getting rave reviews, and with good reason. This is a book that will pull at your heartstrings and make you laugh, but it will also enable readers to quickly, effectively search for missing pets if, heaven forbid, they ever have to.

The epilogue to this book, which includes detailed instructions on how to find a lost dog and how to find a lost cat, should be required reading for every pet owner.

One woman who received an advance copy of “The Lost Pet Chronicles” put the book down when she finished it, got in touch with a neighbor whose cat had been missing for eight days, and had the cat home, safe and sound, within twelve hours.

“It was one of the most gratifying moments of my life!” says Albrecht. “I always hoped that this book would help bring lost pets and their owners back together. To hear that it had actually happened is like a dream come true.”

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