Lost a dog? Found a ferret? Two local Web sites help animal lovers deal with the horror of having a pet disappear or the heart-tug of finding someone else’s strayed companion. One enables pet owners to immediately announce a lost or found animal free of charge; another offers step-by-step instructions for maximizing one’s chances of recovering a missing animal.
Connie Morris created her self-serve Web site, http://lostpetswnc.org, after moving to Asheville three years ago. For Morris, it was the realization of a longtime goal inspired by her former cat, Speck. A foundling who lived to age 21, Speck was “a really wonderful, affectionate cat that I felt had been close with someone who must have missed him,” says Morris. “I never found anyone looking for him.”
But this was pre-Internet, and although Morris (who lived in Greensboro then) tried to establish a phone-based lost-and-found service, it proved too expensive, and she dropped the idea. Now, however, Lost Pets provides a simple, no-fee way to immediately post descriptions and pictures of missing or found animals that will be accessible across a wide area.
“A prompt reaction is essential in finding a lost pet,” stresses Morris. “The faster someone checks with vets, shelters and neighbors, posts fliers—and, of course, lists at Lost Pets—the better.”
The site covers all of Western North Carolina, aiming to provide “information and resources that will shorten the time between loss and reunion.”
Simple in design, it enables users to easily post descriptions, contact information, potential rewards and photos (optional); search by species, breed, color and location; browse recent sightings (with contact information); and access a wealth of helpful information.
Morris lists animal-adoption groups, shelters, health services, lost-and-found sites and other pet-oriented contacts in 18 WNC counties: Buncombe, Burke, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania and Yancey.
One site Morris particularly recommends is http://fetch-my-pet.com, which she calls “a wonderful resource by Millie Sharpe of Arden … [with] step-by-step guidelines to assist in a quick recovery.” The site, which provides information and advice rather than actual listings, addresses both how to prevent pet loss and what steps to take when it does happen.
Sharpe, who also searches for lost animals professionally, has compiled separate lists of species-specific tips for finding lost cats and dogs. She spells out the most effective way to conduct your own search—from making and posting fliers to checking shelters (go every other day, the site advises), looking for evidence, and setting up a feeding station to lure roaming pets back home.
Using the ‘human Internet’: pet psychics
But some pet owners go beyond the kind of concrete information these two Web sites offer, turning to animal psychics/communicators for help.
Mary Hourihan, proprietor of Asheville Pet Supply, enlisted Virginia psychic Patty Summers to assist her in finding a missing pet. Hourihan took in a German shepherd when his owner moved to a nursing home, but he disappeared from her back yard. So she called Summers, the author of Talking With the Animals (Hampton Roads Publishing Co., 1998). “She told me what he was looking at, and I knew exactly where to find him,” Hourihan reports.
Nonetheless, she sounds a note of caution about pet psychics. “I would say probably 50 percent are pure frauds; another 30 percent are sincere. There are a lot of people that mean so well.” But for the remaining 20 percent, says Hourihan, “It’s a gift.”
“You just have to go with your gut feeling,” she advises.
Ellen Frost, who owns the Bed & Biscuit pet spa in Black Mountain and serves on the board of the Mimi Paige Foundation (a local animal-welfare group), sees deeper issues concerning human/animal communicators. “We rescue a lot of dogs from shelters,” she says, which often means dealing with behavioral problems. And while using a psychic or animal communicator can “perhaps be helpful,” says Frost, “We have enough trouble in our society making dogs into little people. You can really cross some lines that are not helpful for the dog.”
But Joan Colburn, co-owner of Crystal Visions bookstore in Naples, says she regularly consults Cathy Easterbrook of Hendersonville (see “Hear Spot Talk” and “Tips for Animal/Human Relations,” March 18, 1998 Xpress).
“I have absolutely been amazed at the information she is able to get from an animal,” says Colburn, describing Easterbrook—whose other enterprise is designing houses—as “very helpful, very professional.”
Angela Moore, who’s based in Marion, formerly hosted a call-in show on local radio station WNCW. When working with missing pets, says Moore, she usually gets a feeling of what the animal is experiencing. “Pets are not always going to be found,” she warns. “Sometimes you have to just accept that.”