I called an animal communicator today. She has helped others in the collie community to find their lost dogs. It was sad for me, because she had a feeling that my dog may not still be alive. Normally, she can communicate with an animal. With Collie, there was nothing. She said it could also mean that maybe Collie had “turned her back” on us for some reason. She suggested that I try to talk to Collie myself, and told me some things that I can say.
There was an article on the front page of the local newspaper on Sunday about my search for my dog. I found a tracker who was featured in Bark Magazine, thanks to my Aunt Lucy. I called him, and the next day he was here (Thursday). This is the article (the name of my dog is misspelled):
Dog Tracer Helps Track Missing Pets
BY JOHN CHAPPELL: Staff Writer
Beth Morgan has searched everywhere for her lost dog, Collee.
Last week, she got another dog to help.
Collee, who looks like the Lassie everybody knows from the television series, disappeared through a poorly latched door during last month’s ice storm.
Morgan called Jim Pitts of Sanford. He’s been successful at tracking other missing animals. Morgan was desperate.
When she read about Pitts in Bark magazine, he looked like her last hope.
“I got Collee from Collie Rescue of the Carolinas about three years ago,” Morgan says. “She had been shot and God knows whatever. I got her from her foster family in Charlotte. She is a very gentle, nice dog who loves kids, cats, dogs and people in general. But it looks like she has a tendency to roam.”
The anguish of a lost pet can be devastating. Such loss and wondering is worse when the missing pet happens to be the cherished companion of a young woman facing incurable cancer.
Morgan is battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell — which is a treatable, but so far incurable disease. Some 50,000 people in the United States are currently living with multiple myeloma. An estimated 14,600 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
“Multiple myeloma comprises about one percent of all cancers,” Morgan says. “Geraldine Ferraro has it. About 12,000 people in the United States die of it every year.”
She’s about to start on a new, experimental drug-based treatment.
Friend and Companion
Collee has been her friend and companion. Morgan was away in Florida attending an International Myeloma Foundation seminar last month when snow and ice struck Moore County.
A power outage at her home forced her brother to take Collee to their mother’s home instead.
“This place has gas heat,” she said. “Unfortunately, he left the door open, and she walked out.”
Ads in The Pilot and notices on every bulletin board she could find brought no response. Morgan called Pitts for help.
Pitts finds missing dogs, horses, cats and just about any other animal. His partner is Sabre, a red Doberman, whose educated nose can tell one smell from another well enough to follow old scent trails across fields, creeks and concrete patios.
“She’s done about 15 of these,” Pitts says. “She found most of them. She found a horse, two cats and about eight or nine dogs.”
Pitts and Sabre stood in the hallway near the back door Collee had nosed open before disappearing into the snow.
“This one didn’t get found,” Morgan says. “That’s why she’s here.”
Sabre sat calmly, as working dogs do, waiting be shown the job at hand.
“She loves doing it,” Pitts said. “She is just really a good dog.”
Sabre’s career began with a call for help.
“One guy called me, a cousin of mine in Sanford,” he says. “He was away in Chicago at a dog show.”
Back home, the man’s son left a door open. Their Burmese show dog escaped and was nowhere to be found.
“I had never done anything with her, ever,” Pitts says, stroking Sabre, who appeared to be listening carefully. “He showed me the house, where the dog had been. We went out — searched that morning, that evening — and we got the dog the next morning.”
Thursday morning, Pitts and Sabre met Morgan at her mother’s home on Fairway Drive in Southern Pines, the last place Collee had been seen.
Morgan brought Collee’s chew bones and her dog brush. At Pitts’ request, Morgan had these scent sources in plastic bags to keep off confusing scents such as hers from contaminating Collee’s own.
“Usually what we do, whoever the owner is, we find an article the dog was sleeping with, chewing, whatever, to get the scent of the dog,” he says. “We find the last known area where the dog was, where the scent was left, and pick it up. Of course, the human mind says, ‘Well — three weeks — there’s been a lot of other pets, other people.’ Unlike humans, dogs have discriminatory scent.”
Finding the Scent
A dog can distinguish today’s scent from yesterday’s, this cat from that, one dog from another.
“With a discriminatory scent, we will get a good start,” Pitts says. “She will note the scent. She will go pick up the message how she can, and we will have to follow.”
No trail is a straight line.
“Scent goes down and spreads,” he said. “You will see the dog go through a door, then look around. There is always some there. It is amazing. If they cross a stream, it is kind of nice. Moisture holds a scent better than dry.”
He crouched, opening one bag and then another. Sabre checked out the brush. She checked the bones. They looked particularly interesting.
“No, we are not going to chew them,” Pitts told her. “Just get the scent.”
Back and forth a time or two she sniffed the bones and the brush, then suddenly seemed to lose all interest in them. Pitts held out a sample, and Sabre turned up her nose and looked away.
“She’s telling us she has the scent,” Pitts said. “She doesn’t need any more.”
The dog was ready for Collee’s trail.
“OK, I got it,” Sabre was saying. “Let’s go to work now.”
She followed Collee’s spoor through the back door and onto a concrete rear patio, then stopped suddenly.
Frozen in place, Sabre stood stock still. Only one part of the tracking dog was moving.
The tip of the great red dog’s nose wrinkled and twisted this way and that, like some olfactory telescope gazing at a world of scents invisible to Pitts and Morgan who were behind her.
Then, deciding on a course, she moved quickly across the hard surface to pine-needled forest carpet beyond.
The hunt is on.
It took two hours, but ended on the doorstep of a house several blocks away on Becky Branch Road. Nobody was home, but Sabre was sure. Efforts to reach the family continue.
This was where Collee came the day she left, Pitts told Morgan. This is where her journey ended. She may not be here now, but she didn’t leave here on foot.
“That was what Sabre was telling us,” Morgan says.