Using a Cat-Detection Dog to Find a Lost Feline

After plastering flyers around the neighborhood, posting on all the state’s lost pet forums and Craigslist, setting out a humane cat trap, updating my contact information with Home Again microchip, and going on daily walks with my dog through the area, I decided to hire a cat detection canine to look for Lomé.

Cat Detection Dog

Because 10 days had passed since Lomé was lost, his scent wasn’t strong enough for a sniffing dog to track. Instead, we used a dog trained to point at any cat or cat-related scents in the area. For $250 and three hours of service, Mu-the-Cat-Detection-Dog combed the vast ravine into which Lomé bolted two weeks ago. There are no trails through this ravine, which made slogging through it unpleasant. Western Washington is a beautiful place to hike on groomed trails, but its dense underbrush consists of thorny blackberry bushes, rotting tree limbs, ferns galore, dense ivy and ankle-turning holes made by mountain beavers. I love hiking and camping, but wading through this mossy jungle for hours was not a blast.

After more than an hour of searching, Mu led us to an open area with flattened vegetation that had lots of white fur on it. Mu’s human handler said it looked like Lomé may have taken a recent nap at this spot. He also said it was possible that a coyote had consumed Lomé as a meal here, but we couldn’t be sure until the area is sprayed with Luminol, which detects trace amounts of blood as it reacts with iron found in hemoglobin. The tricky part of luminol is that it must be sprayed in pitch black darkness. This ravine was difficult enough to navigate in broad daylight – I’m not looking forward to clambering through the thicket in darkness to test for the presence of blood on this patch of Lomé’s fur.

Cat detection dog

Mu finds a patch of white fur in the ravine!

On the northeast side of the ravine is a new neighborhood with nice homes. Mu indicated that there was cat activity in this neighborhood, so we emerged filthy from the forest to inspect people’s yards. I awkwardly knocked on a door and asked an elderly man holding a white poodle if we could comb his yard for a lost cat. He seemed skeptical of me, which made sense given my disheveled, ravine-ravaged appearance. Mu inspected this home’s fire wood pile and under the deck, but no sign of Lomé.

Down a small street, behind two large, luxurious homes was what appeared to be a hoarder’s house. It backed into a stream at the bottom of the ravine, and had a yard overflowing with toilets, firewood, sandblasted 80’s-era cars on cinder blocks, aluminum ladders in abundance, copious cans of paint, and myriad other dilapidated items I can’t imagine anyone being able to use up in a lifetime.

Cat Detection Dog

Using a flashlight to look for eye shine under a porch.

Mu indicated that this pseudo trash heap was a treasure trove of cat smells, so I nervously knocked on the door. No answer. I wandered around looking for the homeowner to request permission for Mu to inspect. I finally found him and he said we could look around, although he warned me that the ravine’s ravenous coyote population probably ate Lomé. I told him that Mu was trained to find both living and dead cats – I was just seeking closure, even if that meant finding Lomé’s remains.

We did not find Lomé’s remains, but Mu did find an open area full of bones. Most were very old as evidenced by their white porousness, but a few femur bones seemed somewhat “fresh”. Based on their length – approximately 8 inches – we determined that they couldn’t be Lomé’s. Nonetheless, it seemed obvious that a predator had been using this area as a dining room.


After more than three hours of trolling the ravine and the neighborhood, Mu seemed tired – I certainly was – so we called it quits. The next step will be spraying Luminol on the patch of white fur Mu found – it should arrive later this week.

Despite the fact that Mu didn’t locate Lomé on this outing, it was helpful to know that a cat-detection dog didn’t didn’t see him stuck in a tree or find his remains. I need to feel like I’m doing everything possible to make sure Lome isn’t hiding or hurt somewhere nearby. The flyers we put up haven’t resulted in any calls to report sightings of Lomé, which is odd considering how obvious he is as a white cat. 

If you live in on Seattle’s Eastside (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah) and have seen a solid-white cat, please contact He was last seen at 16200 SE Eastgate Way.

lome missing cat

White Cat Lost in Bellevue, Washington – $300 Reward for His Return

I adopted Lomé-the-Cat in August 2005. Exactly ten years later, August 2015, he disappeared.

Lomé was my first friend in Austin. I adopted him a few weeks after moving to the city for grad school at UT. It was my first time renting a place alone, and I was excited about adopting my own cat from the shelter. Animal Control picked up Lomé as a stray without a microchip, but the fact that he was front declawed and gregarious indicated he had previously lived indoors.

Despite having considerable experience with cats, I’d never met one as overbearingly affectionate as Lomé. When I was “sleeping”, he would endlessly rub his face all over mine. When I was reclining on the couch reading, he would insist on reclining next to me or try to curl up on my book. I couldn’t sit down to play guitar without him snuggled into my lap behind the guitar. If I sat near him on the couch, he insisted on reaching out a paw to touch me. Most adorably, he liked to “hold hands” by placing his paw in my palm.

During our ten years together, Lomé and I moved six times. The last move involved a 2,200-mile road trip from Austin to Seattle, which he seemed to love – so much to see from his car window. Lomé appeared to long for adventure despite his indoors-only lifestyle. He was curious about the outdoors, yet rarely tried to venture out. But on the morning of August 23, 2015, he shot out the door and into the thick greenbelt behind our Bellevue, Washington, home. He hasn’t been seen since.

We’ve scoured the greenbelt, plastered signs throughout the neighborhood, gotten to know neighbors by asking if they’ve seen him, checked with local vets and shelters, and set out a humane trap with stinky tuna. Nothing. The hardest part is not knowing. If he had been ill and a vet had put him down, that would be sad but would at least offer some closure. Instead, I’m left wondering if he’s lying injured somewhere, became coyote caviar, or found a new family to take him in.

If you live in the greater Seattle area (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah) and have seen this solid-white, slim, green-eyed, neutered cat, please contact He was last seen at 16200 SE Eastgate Way.

lomelome missing cat

Feline Longhorns fan.

Feline Longhorns fan.

Adopt This Rad Running Buddy from Austin Animal Center

This oreo-colored cutie is Roscoe, who was recently featured in the Huffington Post for his extremely-long stay at Austin Animal Center (AAC). Despite being stunning, sweet, healthy and happy, Roscoe has been a shelter inmate for more than 500 days! He’s managed to maintain his mental health despite limited potty breaks, playtime or walks during the excessive amount of life he’s spent in a concrete kennel.


Get fit with a friend!

Today is National Running Day, and we would like to recommend Roscoe as your running buddy. Shelter dogs have helped us get and stay in shape, and they can do the same for you! There is nothing more motivating than a Canine Fitness Coach smiling enthusiastically while you exercise together. Roscoe hopes you’ll visit him at AAC’s Town Lake Animal Center location (1156 Cesar Chavez), fall in love and become running buddies!

Tips for Air Travel with Pets

**This guest post is by Allison Luxenberg, also known as The Austin Optimist, whose much-loved Rottweilers we’ve watched for years. We also want to mention that Delta now offers a GPS tracking device for pets on flights so human travelers can be aware of the location, temperature and condition of their pets during the journey. Read more here.**

Five years ago I flew my Rottweiler from Los Angeles to Florida for a dog show. I was so terrified; there was no amount of Bloody Mary at LAX to numb my fears.  At the special animal check-in they had to scan my dog to make sure he was not smuggling in any drugs; treats were alright though. Then they sent him on his merry way, in his crate, down a conveyor belt into the cargo holding area. I lost it. I cried so much the attendant felt so bad she actually let me back in the area to see where he would stay until he boarded and let me meet the people who were handling him so I could tell them he was a nice boy and ask them to handle with care.

On top of the dog crate I taped a bag of dog cookies in a Ziploc bag and wrote a note that has his name and said “I am a nice dog, but please don’t open my gate so I can’t run away. You can give me a cookie though. Thank you.” When we landed the bag was empty. It probably didn’t hurt that I also had a bag full of $10 Starbucks cards with me and handed them to every person I saw had contact with my dog and taped 2 extra on his crate for people I couldn’t see.

When I boarded the plane the flight attendant came to my seat with a note that was signed off from the ground and said “Your dog is on board too.”  Upon landing we headed to the oversized luggage area and between golf bags and skis, there was my dog in his crate and happier than ever to see me on the other side. Overall, even though I am very unlikely to fly my dogs again, the experience turned out to be alright.

If money is no option, there are private charter planes that can transport your pet in a much more comfortable way. However, if commercial airlines are your only option, below are some safety tips from the ASPCA.

1. Make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a checkup, and make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of departure. For travel outside of the continental United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary. Contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.

2. Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and is wearing a collar and ID tag. The collar should also include destination information in case your pet escapes.

3. Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel.

4. Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate that is large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. Shipping crates can be purchased from many pet supply stores and airlines.

5. Write the words “Live Animal” in letters at least one inch tall on top of and at least one side of the crate. Use arrows to prominently indicate the upright position of the crate. On the top of the crate, write the name, address and telephone number of your pet’s destination point, and whether you will be accompanying him or if someone else is picking him up. Make sure that the door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in case of an emergency. Line the crate bottom with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels—to absorb accidents.

6. Affix a current photograph of your pet to the top of the crate for identification purposes. Should your pet escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver. You should also carry a photograph of your pet.

7. The night before you leave, make sure you’ve frozen a small dish or tray of water for your pet. This way, it can’t spill during loading, and will melt by the time he’s thirsty. Tape a small pouch, preferably cloth, of dried food outside the crate. Airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he gets hungry on long-distance flights or a layover.

8. Tranquilizing your pet is generally not recommended, as it could hamper his breathing. Check with your veterinarian first.

9. Tell every airline employee you encounter, on the ground and in the air, that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. This way, they’ll be ready if any additional considerations or attention is needed.

10. If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and deplaneing may be warranted.

Pet Care in Dripping Springs!

Do you live in Dripping Springs, TX, and need a daytime dog walker or potty pal for your pup? Catherine O’Donnell, CPDT-KA, can help! Catherine is Director of Training and Behavior at The Ranch for Canine Training and Behavior, so your pet will be in incredibly skilled hands, which you can read about here. Email us at to book Catherine today!

Pet Care in Dripping Springs

Tips for Road Trips with Pets

In June, I embarked on a 2,300-mile road trip from Austin to Seattle. I filled my mid-size SUV (Toyota Rav4) with most of my earthly goods, including my three favorite “goods” – my dog, Felix, and two cats, Lome and Tiny.

Felix frolics in Texas wildflowers.

Felix likes to frolic in Texas wildflowers.

Cats are notoriously terrible travelers, famous for moaning and acting like they’re in a vehicular torture chamber. This is obviously unpleasant for both your ears and your heart, as it’s easy to feel like a jerk when your cat seems so miserable.

Prior to embarking on our trip, I “practiced” taking short drives with each cat in the car – I didn’t drive them together because they feed off each other’s fear and the screeching rapidly reaches a horrific decibel level. The first two “practice trips” involved each cat engaging in prolonged shrieking while digging claws into my abdomen as we walked from my condo to the car.

Tiny (fluffy black cat) was so terrified on her first ten-minute trip around the neighborhood that she panted like a dog and peed.

Tiny prefers sleep to leaning in.

Tiny prefers lying around to leaning in.

Lome (white cat) has the vocal chords of Pavarotti and “yelled” for the full ten minute drive. Trying to associate the experience with something positive, I gave them wet food in the car. Lome ate it up; Tiny – not normally one to turn down any form of food – was too stressed to eat – but at least she could now associate car rides with the pungent scent of salmon.

Lome loves baskets.

Lome loves baskets.

At the end of our third traumatic ten-minute trip around the neighborhood, the moaning had dramatically died down for both cats. Lome seemed especially enthralled when it dawned on him that the windows offered an excellent view of squirrels and birds. By our fourth practice drive, the cats seemed genuinely desensitized to car trips, realizing we weren’t headed anywhere awful such as the vet where they would be poked and prodded.

When we left Austin for our first 12-hour day of driving, the cats were both quiet in the car – no more moaning, peeing or other unpleasant theatrics.

Cats aren’t “den animals”, so I didn’t want to make them ride in a kennel all day. Instead, they were outfitted with cat-specific harnesses. My mother accompanied us on this journey, and held the cats’ leashes so they didn’t make poor choices in terms of where to perch, but in general they just sat and gazed out the window.

Grand Canyon grandeur.

Felix felt like the Grand Canyon was a parching version of Mars.

Felix was a perfect passenger. We would stop every two hours to let Felix stretch his legs and do his business. I would also take him on one-hour jogs in the mornings before heading out on the road to “wear him out” (although Felix is actually incapable of tiring – see this post). This exercise also helped me to relax before marathon sessions of driving.

I was surprised at how many motels allow pets, and had no weight or breed restrictions. They don’t allow you to leave pets alone in the room, but that was easy to manage since there were two humans on the trip – one to run errands and fetch food and the other to pet nanny.

Tiny and Lome make themselves at home.

Tiny and Lome make themselves at home.

In the four years I’ve had Felix, I’ve only heard him bark three times. He’s never been much of a guard dog – he gets happily excited when someone knocks on the door, but has never seemed nervous when there are noises outside. On this trip, however, he acted very protective and alert to every sound outside the motel door, and frequently barked or growled while the humans were trying to sleep. It was a new, loud side of him.

Felix thought Jackson Hole, WY, was pretty but overpriced.

Felix thought Jackson Hole was pretty and pricey.

We arrived in Seattle less than two weeks after leaving Austin, having visited some of America’s most scenic sites. They included alien tourism in Roswell, the gorgeous Grand Canyon, arid awesomeness at Carlsbad Canyon National Park, Martian-like loveliness at Zion National Park, majestic mountains at Grand Teton National Park, a pet-lovers paradise at Best Friends Animal Society, and a close encounter with a wild bison in Yellowstone National Park.

The glorious Grand Tetons.

The glorious Grand Tetons.

The trip was far less difficult to take with pets – especially the cats – than I expected. They seemed to enjoy the togetherness and adventure of it all, and I look forward to our next road warrior experience.

Honoring the Lovely Life of Oscar-the-Dog

A year ago today, one of our most memorable pet-sitting pups passed away. We first met Oscar when he was a homeless resident of Austin Animal Center in 2009. His serene presence was impressive considering how stressed and energetic the shelter tends to turn dogs. Oscar was extremely fortunate to be adopted by Sarah Herman, who helped him become a rockstar therapy dog with Divine Canines. Oscar’s peaceful presence and fluffy face blessed the lives of the elderly, abandoned kids and others in need of the healing power of a gentle dog. He had a unique way of making people feel special because of his big, enthusiastic smile and the way he bonded with his human companions. Oscar’s hips weren’t as hardy as his heart, and complications with a surgery resulted in Oscar exiting the world too soon. He left behind a huge hole in the hearts of his human friends, but also left a legacy of kindness and a reminder that animal shelters are full of jewels just waiting for a committed adopter to let them shine.