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PET TRACKER by Kat Albrecht
Chapter 1, Pt 1 - One Silver Puppy
You are reading (and enjoying, I hope) the memoir Pet Tracker by Kat Albrecht. It was originally published and in bookstores in 2004 under the title The Lost Pet Chronicles (Kat’s co-author was Jana Murphy). It went out of print in 2015 and has as since been updated with new stories and renamed Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel The K-9 Pet Detective. It is posted here as a free gift to all of Kat’s subscribers. Here are two reviews of the original manuscript (from 2004):
In this thoroughly engaging book, Albrecht narrates, with deadpan humor and Grisham-like suspense, the story of how she came to create an entirely new career: lost pet search and rescue. As a police dispatcher and later a police officer in California, Albrecht was duty bound to give human emergencies priority over animal crises, but it wasn't until her Eeyore-like bloodhound, A.J., went missing that Albrecht saw the need for sophisticated detective and scent trail work to find pets. With humor and fascinating insight into search-and-rescue work, Albrecht continues to find innovative ways to help animals and the humans who love them, and inspires readers with her dramatic career changes. This is a must-read for animal lovers and sleuths alike. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The book, which recounts several of her cases, is downright engrossing. Readers who think "pet detective" is a silly name for a profession will be impressed with the skill and dedication it takes to locate a missing animal. David Pitt, © American Library Association. All rights reserved.
When I was a child, my heroes were a kid named Danny and his beautiful Irish setter, Red. They were the main characters of Big Red and Irish Red, outdoor adventure books set along the Smokey Creek and amid the beech woods and brambles of a northeastern wilderness by author Jim Kjelgaard. I was raised in Fresno, California, a large industrial city surrounded by plush agricultural land. Even though the closest creek to our house was a cement-lined irrigation canal, and the only brambles I’d ever seen were in our weedy flower bed, when I read those books, it was easy to imagine that it was me living in the mountains, going on adventures, and leading my smart, loyal hunting dog through it all.
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In the end, it wasn’t the Irish setter that I set my sights on. And it wasn’t the adorable pocket-sized dogs many of my friends favored, either. It was the Weimaraner, an ancient breed, famed for its steadfast work, legendary for their distinctive looks and catlike skills.
Weimaraners are known as “gray ghosts.” Tall, sleek, smart, and graceful—the ultimate dog breed as far as I’m concerned—they earned their nickname in part because of their smoky gray coats and in part because of their swift, silent work in the field. They have a reputation for being hardworking, loyal, loving pets that makes some people think the breed is almost robotically well-behaved. The photographs William Wegman has been circulating for the past fifty years of his Weimies dressed to the nines and posing for the camera have added to the perception that these dogs are docile. But the truth is they have big, independent personalities.
My first glimpse of a future working with dogs happened in 1981 when I watched a TV documentary in which a marine biologist talked about his lifelong love for sharks. I call this my “shark man moment.” The producer asked the biologist if he loved his job. The biologist said, “When I was a child, I swam in a pool and pretended I was a shark. I read shark books, watched shark movies, played with toy sharks, and went to see the sharks at SeaWorld.” He ended the interview by saying, “I love sharks. So, for me to do what you call ‘work’ isn’t really work at all. If you ever have a chance to be paid for your passion, you’ll truly be blessed.”
The shark man’s words resonated with me. At the time, I was trapped in a job (as a 911 dispatcher) that I hated. I asked myself, “What is my passion and how could I be paid for it?” I knew the answer was “working with dogs” but my heart sank as reality set in. I was twenty-one, I did not have the knowledge or experience to become a paid dog trainer, and I couldn’t envision any dog-related career that I was qualified for or that I sensed I would enjoy. That dream melted away, but it returned eight years later in 1989 with just one magazine article.
The article was in Dog World magazine, and it was about the new, innovative concept of training and using cadaver dogs (now called “HRD” or “Human Remains Detection” dogs) to find human remains. I was hooked. I didn’t actually believe that I’d ever be paid to work a cadaver dog, but the thought that I could become a search dog handler and help solve law enforcement cases felt to me like the birth of my passion. My volunteer, so-not-paid passion.
I think the most pressing thought that kept coming back to me, over and over again, was why was it that I loved my “hobby” of training my dog Katie in dog sports (flyball racing and agility) but I hated my job? Why couldn’t I find a career, like the shark man had found, where I loved my job, looked forward to going to work, and where my Mondays felt like Fridays?
I wasn’t in a good place spiritually in my life and it would be a lie to say that I “prayed” about this decision back then. But I had given the idea months of thought and decided that obtaining and then training a search dog was the next step for me.
How to Read to PET TRACKER from the Start of the Book
To read previous PET TRACKER chapter / episodes or to start reading this book from the very beginning, go to my Substack homepage at armedrobbers2airedales.substack.com, click on the PET TRACKER by Kat Albrecht tab on top, scroll down to the very bottom and start reading my very first post titled Dedication & Introduction Pt 1.
TIP: Since you can’t put a “book mark” in my Substack, I suggest that you keep a record (i.e. journal, spreadsheet, whatever) of the chapter and part numbers that you’ve already read so far. This will help you easily pick up reading where you last left off.
How to Listen to Recordings of me Reading PET TRACKER
To LISTEN to me reading these chapter sections, simply scroll to the top of each post page, look for the gray box that says ARTICLE VOICE OVER, and click on the blue-sideways-triangle-thingy and WAH LAH, its ME reading PET TRACKER so that you can listen as you drive, do the dishes, whatever. BTW, with the audio version I sometimes add tiny details that expand on the text version.