On the tree hangs the announcement of the missing puppy. (Photo: iStock)
This longtime animal lover is a real-life “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”
“I’ve been rescuing animals since I was old enough to fit them in my pocket, much to my mother’s dismay,” says West Coast-based pet detective Babs Fry.
But unlike Jim Carrey’s kooky screen comedy character, she’s a serious investigator, inspired by a shocking statistic: The ASPCA estimates that of the 3.3 million dogs that come through animal shelters nationwide, only 620,000 of them are reunited with their owners. That leaves potentially millions of dogs who may never see home again, and frantic pet parents to worry about their beloved companions.
Fry knows what it feels like to lose a dog. When she lost a rescue dog, Prada, five years ago, she says she tried everything, such as scouring the neighborhood and putting up fliers, before she called in an expert — who taught her how to “think like a dog.”
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“I was, at that point, desperate enough to listen,” says Fry, who lives in San Diego, where she’s earned the nickname “Bring ‘Em Home Babs.”
Now, the pet recovery specialist is known for taking calls from panicky pet owners at all hours of the night, and it’s not unusual for her to travel hundreds of miles to conduct a search. She estimates she gets between six and a dozen or so calls and questions a day, plus hundreds of tags on her Facebook page.
And she often helps people locate their lost pooches by doling out simple advice.
Homeless dog standing on red wood bridge and looking out in empty clear sky. (Photo: iStock)
First, she says, “Get home and get those doors open.” Our furry friends are “bonded” to a family’s scent, and they’ll go where they smell you — which can complicate things outdoors. “When you go out looking, you’re spreading your scent around,” which may lead them down the wrong trail. She also warns neighbors to not approach a lost dog, as this could make them fearful and run farther away. Instead, call the owner to find out what they want to do next.
When in doubt, try setting a trap with irresistible rotisserie chicken or bacon.
“If a dog’s around either of those smells, there’s no denying it,” explains Fry.
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All of her cases, she says, “take up a part of me emotionally,” but there are some animals she’ll go above and beyond to reunite with their families. A cattle dog named Shelby was one of them.
Shelby’s dad had lost her while camping in a remote area of the Eastern Sierra after she was spooked by fireworks. Fry will do just about anything for her clients, but this particular pooch owner — a paramedic who had recently lost his wife while working together on the job — compelled her to push just a little harder for a man who told her he’d “saved a dog to save himself.”
For weeks, Fry and the man returned to the region to look for Shelby, posting flyers and consulting with park rangers. The detective exhausted all of her delicious tricks to lure the dog into her trap.
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Unfortunately, bears like those things, too, and it was hard to keep them from simply tossing the pup traps and going in on the greasy morsels. That made Fry fear the worst, but she stayed on the case, studying the bears’ schedules so she would be sure to set traps while they slept.
For days she slept in a trailer. “I had not showered in a week and [was] covered in chicken grease and liquid smoke,” said Fry. Then, one day, the trap finally worked.
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“It’s a gift,” she says of her successful rescue missions. “It’s a blessing I can’t put into words.”
One of the most crucial aspects of her job, she says, is being a sort of “therapist” and “coaching” her clients not to give up hope.
“We don’t quit on our dogs,” says Fry.
This story was originally published by the New York Post.