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Norwich Bulletin - 6/14/2009

Dogs Who Are Heroes To Cats

Doctor Nicholas Dodman, noted veterinarian and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, states that dogs, based on their amazing and superior senses, can be trained to find anything. And that seems to hold true, because the dogs in this column, find cats! These are cat loving dogs who have an especially nurturing nature and tend to practice concaveation, which is when an experienced mother animal “adopts” another’s babies when she doesn’t have any of her own to care for.

Kathy “Kat” Albrecht is a former police bloodhound handler, crime scene investigator, who traded in her badge to become an investigative pet detective. Since 1997, she has been solving lost pet investigations by using her law enforcement knowledge and techniques that are normally used to find humans. Kat has pioneered the use of “search probability theory” and deductive reasoning for missing cats and Feline Behavioral Profiling, similar to how the FPI profiles criminal behavior.

She is credited as the first pet investigator to utilize proper application of search dogs for lost pets. Kat first utilizes special cats, like Cheeto. Cheeto is called a target cat. He is used to train cat detection dogs who are being trained to find lost cats. Once a week Cheeto is placed in a cat carrier and stashed away hidden under brush while the trainees look for him, one by one. Cheeto loves this game – when he is found, he insists on coming out of his carrier to great each dog and personally thank them with head rubbing and love bites. Myron is another working cat and while he doesn’t love the dogs, will tolerate them. All of Kat’s cats, like some of her search and rescue dogs, come from shelters.

Her first dog was originally her blood hound tracking police dog, AJ. When AJ retired from police work, his very first search, without any previous training on tracking dogs or cats, was the search for a missing diabetic cat named Marmalade who he found in less than eight minutes! One of Kat’s present working dogs is Susie, who was adopted from a local shelter. A Jack Russell terrier that loves cats (which of course is a highly desired quality in a cat detection dog), she is trained not for scent tracking but for cat detection. You can read about Kat Albrecht and her cats and dogs by ordering her book, The Lost Pet Chronicles.

International K9 Search and Rescue Services in Portland, Oregon finds both people and pets. These dogs are trained to scent. Scent is what humans and animals both shed as we walk along, and, after falling to the ground, the scent will not fully dissipate until a year later! A trained search dog can track a scent that is up to a year old, even in the rain. Search team members are not allowed to smoke as cigarette smoke contains nicotine, an anesthetizing agent that can numb up a search dogs scent receptors and make the dogs basically useless.

That is probably the one thing that really hurts scent trackers, besides constant heavy rains. Valerie is a small Border Collie mix who belongs to Harry Oakes, found and President of the organization. She was found at the Willamette Valley Dog Pound in Portland and at the age of ten, in 2004, Valerie had completed 2,912 missions! International K9Search and Rescue physically finds about 35% of their cats during the initial search, and have a 95% success rate in getting them all back home eventually. Those are great odds

My next cat rescuer is my personal favorite because I was lucky enough to meet her and have her as my guest many years ago at an adoption marathon I hosted at Madison Square Garden. She was 11 months old and the mother of three puppies when Philip Gonzales found her in 1990 at the Long Island Animal Shelter in New York.

A little Schnauzer mix, Ginny stole his heart and her brought her home. On their very first walk together, Ginny tugged at the leash and began heading toward the bushes where she found a little lost cat. That was the beginning of a very long career that ended a few years ago when Ginny crossed the Rainbow Bridge at seventeen years of age, surrounded by her cats, who were then taking care of her.

Ginny was never trained to find cats – she just did. Abandoned, hurt or sick – Ginny found them all. She loved cats and they loved her. During her career, she found over 1,000 cats. Every one of those cats were tested, altered and treated for any diseases. Many found homes, others stayed with Philip and Ginny.

In alleys and condemned buildings on Long Island, there were many nights one might see a lone man with a small, funny looking little dog walking the street with bags of cat food with them. Ginny always led Philip to the cats who were in desperate need of immediate care – cats who were very close to death when Ginny found them. To learn more about Ginny’s amazing life, order his two books, Ginny the Dog who Rescues Cats and The Blessing of the Animals.

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