CREATED Aug. 31, 2013
Omaha, NE - She travels the country on a hunt for lost friends. The missing loved ones generally have four legs, a tail and lots of hair. Arizona resident, Deborah Cooke, is a pet detective. It's not the life pictured in the film, 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective', but Cooke wouldn't live her life any other way. She's been hired to find dogs, cats and other more exotic animals. Cooke doesn't care what kind of a missing pet she's searching for, her only goal is to get it home.
Her latest job is in west Omaha. The search is for a dog on the lam. She's hired by a California couple who lost their terrier mix while traveling through Omaha. The dog, Kuzya has been missing since July 29. More than a month has passed since his family saw him last and Cooke hopes to safely find Kuzya and get him back to the west coast.
It may seem farfetched but to her clients, Kuzya is their son. Multiple people have sighted the terrier around the area he disappeared so Cooke has hoped his story will have a happy ending.
In the heat, Cooke and her dogs trekked for miles, hours at a time, on Saturday. "The job isn't easy but it's awesome, it's what I do," said Cooke, four miles into her long day. "We do what we need to do, it's often grubby and frequently demanding both physically and emotionally but it's a good job." The self-employed detective has a system that's proven to work.
Cooke starts the day with lots of water and one of her two sniffing helpers. She starts where Kuzya was last spotted, and then she lets her own dogs take over the search. "We're using his scent and his alone, there is another dog in the family but we managed to find something with his scent," Cooke had Kuzya's family FedEx a blanket overnight so she could start the hunt Saturday morning. "We just took the scent off his blanket and transferred it to cotton balls and that's what we're using." Her German short haired pointers, Lucas and Riley, take turns following Kuzya's scent. It winds the search team up and down highway 370.
Through weed and tick infested grasses, her dogs lead her through pollen and dirt and Cooke doesn't take any shortcuts. She dresses in long pants and a thick shirt, even though temps quickly reached the 90s. "How long we go depends on how long the dogs are up for it. It varies with the heat and the terrain and many things," a decision left up to her dogs. "99 degrees is for wusses, in Arizona the temperature reaches 115 degrees, that's hot."
Towards the end of their day, the search brings them to the spot where Kuzya originally escaped from his family. A sign he's back and looking to go home. "Finding him is probably not in the cards but we may find enough information to refresh the search and get some leads on him, that's a more realistic thought." Those leads will help local rescue groups' search the area where they know Kuyza's visited. "There's no other way to find an animal that's lost in the middle of nowhere. Search dogs are not necessarily the answer, but they can do a lot of amazing things, they can get you information that you cannot get any other way." Kuzya was not found Saturday, but searches take time. With the help of local rescue groups, Cooke is confident Kuzya will be reunited with his pet parents.
Kuzya was lost in the Wal-Mart plaza in Gretna and has since been spotted in the area. He is microchipped, and all the local animal shelters have been notified about his disappearance. The terrier mix is beige in color with a pink nose and is wearing a blue-multi-colored collar. Cooke asks folks to not chase him if they see the terrier. He is scarred and approaching him might cause him to run off further. Kuzya responds well to woman, if he is caught, bring him to the nearest vet or shelter. Rescuers can also call 402-659-9033 or 818-404-5774.