Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pet Finder

It’s easy to either not know, or to forget how painful and frightening it is to have a pet get lost.  My girlfriend’s mother lost hers yesterday afternoon around 5:30pm.  We found out when her brother called us about 8:00pm saying that their mom was frantic and sobbing because the 1 year-old Shih Tzu, which I adopted for her, had somehow quietly sneaked out the kitchen door when her mom was over talking with a neighbor.

Did the wind blow the door opened and closed?  Did the elderly and somewhat unthinking ex-husband go out to his truck, rummaging around, and forget that the door had been opened?  Who knows, and at that time, it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was that Molly, a sweet, black and white Shih Tzu, had gotten out into this small rural town of 30,000, mostly immigrant farm-workers and was either roaming into nowhere, gotten by a family, or dead.

What a feeling of helpless dread.  And, again, I am not even the owner, but rather the donating adoptor.  I felt such fury last night, not only at someone letting the dog go, but also at the fact that I had promised to give this dog a good home, and as it seemed, I had really sentenced her to death or the unknown.  Also, finding out that my girlfriend’s mother, other than driving around a little with her ex-husband, was not putting out an all-force effort, but was back in the house by 8:30pm, really got me irate.

And the fact that she didn't call anyone when it happened to get a search party going; not either of her two daughters, nor her other son.  The son she called was the only one working and completely unavailable at the time.  I think in her effort to hide her shame, she sacrificed that critical window of time you have to round up a lost pet before their roaming circumference widens to an impossible area.  I felt the dog deserved a lot more than a half-assed search by her owner.

It sounds insane, but I decided to do something about it. I created three types of fliers on my computer with pictures on the dog with her description. At 10:00pm last night, my girlfriend and I left Burbank, CA and headed 2 hours North (122 miles) to her town and drove the streets looking for the dog and taping up fliers.  We arrived at 11:45pm and looked until 12:30am, at which time we drove the 122 miles back to Burbank getting home at 2:30am, and not to sleep until about 3:15am.  And we had not found her.

Then, my girlfriend woke up this morning, got into her car and then drove back up to the town and searched the streets all day, putting up fliers in public places and businesses with her mother at her side.  I did my work groggy all day in Burbank while keeping updated on their efforts.

When I got home tonight, I created slightly updated fliers and was going to print up 150 of them as I contemplated the drive back up there to give my girlfriend better fliers for tomorrow’s search.  I was and am still completely tired from last night and wasn’t sure how I would hold up through another 244 mile round trip.

I printed the last of the three templates when my cell phone rang.  I generally don’t answer blocked ID calls, so when I checked the message, it was Home Again pet tracking company.  When I adopted my own dog and cat, I had them put one of these chips inside their skin, and an identification tag on their collar should the ever get lost.  If they are scanned at a pet shelter or if someone reads the tag, they can connect back with the owner through the pet tracking company.  When I adopted Molly for my girlfriend's mother, I had one implanted on her too.

Well, that’s who had called me; the pet finder company.  My heart lifted.  I felt great that Molly was found, and also that I wouldn't have to do the drive there and back again tonight.  But I was also a little conflicted about the dog going back into the same environment that had just let it escape.

I phoned the pet tracking company back, and after a brief identification check on me, they connected me with the person who had found Molly in good shape, save a bit of dirt on her here and there.  It was a nice Latino man, Mr. Diaz and his 8 year-old daughter, Jasmine, who found my girlfriend’s mother’s dog.  I got the feeling that they were a poor, field-working family who lived a few miles outside of the city limits, probably because they are able to stay on someone's land at a discount by working on the farm.  It was actually the little girl who insisted her father stop for the dog which was walking in a farm field on the way to 50 miles of no-where; just my nightmare.

He said that the dog had wandered about 5 miles North of the town, walking through farmland passing a nearby rural seldom-used airstrip.  He had found Molly roaming with two other dogs; I remember now that dogs tend to find packs when they are lost.  He and his daughter had only found her tonight at about 5:00pm; just about 24 hours after she was lost.  I shutter to think of the Big-Rig-infested highway that Molly crossed on her own.  I really can’t think of it without wanting to cry.

I called my girlfriend and told her that Molly was found.  This has been one of those things where you throw your energy in each direction and hope that a miracle happens.  Tonight it did.

They all reunited at a Taco Bell in the little town.  My girlfriend's brother gave Mr. Diaz and his daughter a very thoughtful reward.  I happened to call in the middle of the reunion and I asked my girlfriend to hand the phone to Mr. Diaz.  I told him that what he had just done for our family had made all the difference to each of us and that there was really no way of thanking him enough.  He said that the best way for me to pay it back would be to help someone like this in the future.  He’s right.  It is the best way.

But I also asked him for his address and the name of his daughter; there is an eight year-old girl and a couple of parents who are going to get some very nice Christmas presents this year from me.  I want to show my appreciation to them in my own way.

Now it's back to the how's and why's.  The truth is that I am still concerned about the dog living there in my girlfriend’s mother’s house.  But it’s her dog now, not mine.  All I can offer is that if she feels she can’t keep the dog in a perfectly safe environment, I am 100% willing to give the dog our home.  We’ll see.  Pets deserve only the best from us; they rely on us, trust us and love us.  We should never fail them.