National Examiner Tabloid

21 August2001

U. S. NAVY SECURITY GUARD QUITS JOB

TO BECOME

REAL-LIFE PET DETECTIVE

Actor Jim Carrey netted big laughs in two movies as pet detective Ace Ventura. But Melody Pugh takes tracking people’s wayward critters seriously.

Pugh, 45 of Navy Yard City , Wash. , has reunited 400 animals with their families over the past three years working as a real-life pet private eye.

“It’s my calling,” says Pugh. “I get a euphoric feeling when I know those families are reunited. It’s a feeling you never forget.”

When beloved creatures go on the lam, the savvy zoological Sherlock prowls the Kitsap Peninsula for up to 12 hours a day in her red pickup. Finding a lost pet can take weeks or months. But she’s no bounty hunter. Clients can toss a donation into the kitty, or not. The good deed is her best reward.

“She’s an angel,” says retiree Timothy Sayan, whom Pugh reunited with his basset hound Sherman .

The softhearted shamus’s tail-tracking days began when her own grey tabby Norman went AWOL. She quit her job as a U. S. Navy Security Guard and pursued the missing feline with dogged determination until she collared the fur ball 95 days later. Now, the animal lover shares lessons she’s learned with other people whose pets have strayed. She has her own Web site, www.pet-detective.com, and folks as far away as South Africa have taken her advice.

Disturbances are usually when send pets packing, says Pugh.

“This can be anything from a vehicle backfiring to remodeling, a fire, earthquake or an occasional babysitter who leaves the door open,” she explains. “Animals can also be provoked by a new dog in the area or a recent move.”

Sit, stay and read some tips on recovering a vanished animal pal:

Don’t give up. Finding Fido can take months.

Become a tracker. Check out nearby wooded areas, parks and vacant lots. Look for paw prints, fur caught on branches or fences. Be on the lookout for spider webs woven less than 18 inches from the ground. A torn web probably means an animal passed through it.

Call with a gentle voice. “Pets are afraid they’re in trouble if they hear a loud voice,” says Pugh.

Cats become especially reclusive when frightened. Carry a flashlight and look under the crawlspaces of all nearby homes. Bend down and call them. Listen carefully for an answer. A scared cat uses a tiny mew.

Use posters as far and wide as possible. Make sure the flier includes the animal’s name, it’s picture and both your work and home phone numbers. Always offer a reward. After all, you’re asking someone to take time and trouble.

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