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A lost pet is a traumatic experience, especially when the outcome does not bring the dog or cat home. A South Lake Tahoe woman and her team of volunteers are trying to change that, one pet at a time.
On November 16, 2020, Jon Berg was driving on I-580 from Reno to the Carson Valley when he was involved in a rollover crash. Inside the car were Berg’s two five-year-old dachshunds Katie and Brandie. Both were spooked and they took off and ended up separated. One was chased into Voltaire Canyon and the other up Spooner Summit.
Called to the scene were Wendy Jones, her team of volunteers with TLC 4 Furry Friends, and bag of animal tracking tools. They made flyers and posters, plastering them throughout the community, encouraging people to take photos of the flyers with their phones so they can refer to it if a pet is later spotted.
While Berg recuperated, Jones was out placing traps, feeding stations and game cameras in the areas the two dogs were last seen.
“Never chase a dog or call his name,” Jones said when looking for a lost dog. They go into survival mode and will leave the area, even if it is the pet’s owner who is doing the calling or chasing. “You never follow or chase, it’s counterproductive,” she added.
For eight days Jones and other volunteers worked the hills above Carson City, moving the gear to areas the dogs were spotted.
Jones remembers that day. She had been in Mono County helping with animals displaced in the Mountain View Fire near Walker. She then headed back to Tahoe to assist with another missing dog when she got the call – Katie was in someone’s yard at the base of Voltaire Canyon. Jones and a trained volunteer went and caught her. Eight days of being in a strange area and she was okay.
Jones said Katie being found is the reason a trained expert needs to be involved when looking for a missing pet.
Berg, who lives on the Central Coast as well as on his boat in San Francisco Bay, was reunited with Katie, but Brandie was still missing.
The missing dachshund was seen in eastern Carson City, so Jones and the team of volunteers moved cameras, feeding stations and traps over to the area around the Korean Memorial at Riverview Park.
Berg traveled to Carson City a dozen times to aid in the search. He said there were 25 to 30 volunteers out sometimes, searching for his dog.
“I cannot believe the time and effort the volunteers did,” said Berg of the countless hours spent looking for both Katie and Brandie.
Jones spent many nights, including the Christmas holidays in the cold, covering fields and hills, tracking Brandie. The cameras feed into her cell phone, so she was constantly monitoring them, moving and adjusting the equipment and watching from nearby. Weeks later, Margie with the Facebook page Missing Pets of Carson City page, saw a posting on the Lost and Found Pets of Northern Nevada Facebook page that showed a dachshund that looked like Brandie, 75 miles away in Portola. On February 9, 2021 It was confirmed the found dog was indeed the five-year-old dog from the car accident in Carson City. So, after 85 days of Brandie missing, Berg drove to Reno and met Jones who had picked her up in Portola, and his family was together once again.
“She did a hell of a job,” said Berg of Jones. Now he is back on his boat, cuddling with his dogs. On Wednesday he said, “It feels really great, I’m extremely happy and delighted to have them back.”
While we will never know what Brandie was up to for almost three months, it goes to show what is possible with a trained animal search and rescue team on the job. It is also a reminder to never give up.
Another recent missing search took place near Emerald Bay. A family’s cat had to travel with them due to a recent hip surgery. The cat got out of the car, and local resident and volunteer, Leona Allen, called Jones who guided her on what to do. The family did all they were supposed to do, followed Allen’s directions and almost two weeks later Allen was able to trap the cat in the middle of the night in a dangerous area. The cat had been through two snow storms and out in unfamiliar territory with a healing hip.
“If families do what they are supposed to do, we are usually successful,” said Jones.
Not all rescues are successful though, mainly due to what pet owners think they are supposed to do – head out, call their pet’s name, search the areas and spread their scent all over. By then, the pet is in survival mode and stopped being a pet, and are pushed further away.
“Don’t chase, don’t call”, said Jones.
Humans can be the biggest enemy in being successful in a search for pets, said Jones. They follow instinct and not what needs to be done for the dog or cat.
In another recent missing dog situation, Jones, Allen and Michelle Turner tried to help find a dog who got out from a local motel and guided the owners on what to do. Just as the volunteers tracked the dog, who had been from Lake Village to Van Sickle Park, the owners got involved and the confused dog was hit by a car.
“Thankfully there are more happy endings or I would not be so passionate about doing this work,” said Jones.
“I have seen miracles over and over and over again,” she added. “Dogs can travel far, they are smart, and they are quick. Sometimes the dogs travel with the coyotes, just as Brandie and Katie did. Missing dogs being caught by coyotes happens less than what people think.”
While TLC 4 Furry Friends has a Facebook page, Jones says people need to call or text her in case of an emergency as she rarely has time to check the page. Contacting Jones as soon as your pet goes missing, so mistakes are not made will help with a successful reunion. She can be reached at 775-721-3647 (DOGS)
How to Help
“It takes a tribe, a team of volunteers, people paying attention to find pets,” said Jones. “It also takes experience.”
While she does this out of the goodness of her heart, doing the volunteer work she does in finding pets is an expensive process. She does not charge for her services, but must spend money on the game cameras, batteries, SD cards, the monthly camera app fee for the phone, food, fencing, traps, gasoline and other expenses. Besides donations o these items she could also use a trailer to cart around a newly donated four-wheeler.
Jones has started a nonprofit, Tahoe PAWS, to help with the two focuses of what she does – animal search and rescue, and Community Animal Response Team (CART) for emergencies and natural disasters. Donations can be made to Tahoe Paws at P.O. Box 8292, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158 or thru Venmo @Tahoe Paws. Some of those she has helped have made donations, which Jones says she appreciates.
The Tahoe Paws EIN number is 84-4305155.
Volunteers are also needed. Jones could use someone to help with grant writing, social media, promotion, fundraising campaigns, and other things that do not cost money but would help her immensely.
More information can be found on Tahoe PAWS website, https://tahoepaws.org/.