Volunteers dedicate time, passion to 'Missing Pets' Facebook page
If Jodi Carlson of Cloquet finds a lost dog, she'll invite the missing pet into her home while she tries to track down the animal's guardian. The same goes for loose chickens.
It's the veterinary technician in her, she said.
"I've seen way too many dogs and animals who have been hit by a car and then I've had to either put them to sleep or help put to sleep," said Carlton, who works at the Duluth Veterinary Hospital.
More than two years ago, Carlson's passion for helping lost pets led her to co-found a Facebook page dedicated to reconnecting people with their pets. The page, "Missing Pets in the Northland," began two years ago, and managing it is basically a second full-time job, except for the fact it doesn't pay a dime.
The "Missing Pets" page evolved out of a page called "Retrieving Lilly," which was launched to help bring a Cloquet beagle home. After Lilly was found, Carlson took over the page, which had grown a large following. She rebranded it to help all lost pets in the area — something she believed the region was missing.
Jennifer Cadigan of Proctor and Jessica Parvi, who recently moved from the area to Lakeville, Minn., have also been with the page since the beginning.
Amy Addy of Twig only recently joined the team. She became an administrator on the "Missing Pets" page in April, but has followed the page closely since its start.
"I would keep sending them lost dog posts from all the other pages," Addy said, "and they were like, 'Why don't you just join because you keep sending us stuff?'"
Addy's loved animals her entire life and she likes a good mission. She recently left a holiday party early to help search for a lost dog and has stopped traffic for a duck. This is just one of the reasons why her husband likes her to keep a reflective safety vest in her vehicle.
"He said, 'If you're going to be out running around in the middle of traffic with signs and dead animals, the least you can do is wear a vest,'" Addy said. "So I promised I will wear it."
Between the two of them, Addy and Carlson said their vehicles are usually equipped with kennels, blankets, slip leashes, treats, sign material, cat food and bags for deceased animals. They never know when someone might need their help.
"We'll pretty much drop whatever we're doing," Carlson said.
This commitment to finding other people's animals and maintaining the Facebook page, which constantly needs updates about missing and found animals, can come at a cost in other areas of their life.
For Addy, it might mean trouble resting until a missing animal is found. When she spoke with the Pine Journal, there were two dogs she said she constantly dreamt about.
As for Carlson, she spends her entire lunch break doing work for the Facebook page.
"I don't relax at all," she said.
Still, they don't seem to mind. They take pride in the work they are able to do through their page.
"We have a very good return rate," Addy said. "Whether we physically do it or not."
And they don't just try to find pets; they also educate animal caretakers on a variety of subjects ranging from microchipping, to approaching a missing animal, which often are skittish and in survival mode.
"There are so many people whose first instinct is to yell," Carlson said. "That's the worst thing you can do to a dog that's bolted and is scared."
Instead, people first need to build the animal's trust, which should be done by getting down on the ground with smelly food and waiting for the dog to approach, according to the Facebook page.
In order to rescue one of the dogs Carlson temporarily kept at her home, Addy had to lie in the snow for three hours on a Carlton farm hand-feeding hot dogs to the scared pup.
These are the sort of tips and special touches that connect people like Pam Peterson with their beloved animals.
Peterson, of Duluth, had never heard of "Missing Pets in the Northland" when her 15-pound Shih Tzu/poodle mix named Max went missing in the subfreezing temperatures last March.
She was out of town with her husband when a spooked Max hopped the fence of her Woodland neighborhood home while a relative was letting him out. They looked everywhere for Max when they got home, and posted his picture on Facebook when he still hadn't turned up.
Then someone recommended she get in touch with the "Missing Pets" Facebook page.
So she reached out, and a photo of Max was promptly posted with his last known location and tips on how to get him home. It took 10 days before Max was found by someone who recognized him from the postings and signs, but in the meantime, Carlson said Peterson was there whenever she needed her, giving advice and answering questions.
"She was my person the whole 10 days," Peterson said of Carlson. "I would have been lost without her."
Just a couple weeks ago, she was visiting her mother's nursing home when her other Shih Tzu/poodle, Sunny, snuck out of the facility through automatic doors. She couldn't find him, but knew just what to do — call Jodi.
Ten minutes later, Peterson said Carlson sent her a photo of Sunny from a camera that was set up to help track another missing dog.