Last Update: 10/14/2013 2:20:00 PM
When you need to find a missing cat, use a dog
Abby put her dark, wet nose to the edge of the plastic bag, sniffing at the bits of fur inside.
Trainer Sam Connelly of Pure Gold Pet Trackers held the bag of cat hair from missing cat Jo Jo for her golden retriever. Abby got the scent in seconds and put her nose to the ground, circling the house then plowing through the brush along the street.
Connelly trailed behind Abby on Saturday with Tunkhannock Township resident Jennifer Iannaco, on the scent trail. Iannaco's cat has been missing from her Allegheny Drive home since Aug. 23, and she called in the special trackers at a cost of more than $1,000 to aid her search.
The bright-blue-eyed male cat, who is 3 years old with medium to long hair and a long bushy tail, has his front paws declawed. Iannaco said he is very shy around people and has a feral background.
"We were rehabilitating him," she said.
Connelly arrived with her three golden retrievers from Virginia, after a multi-hour drive. She said she started with human search and rescue years ago, but a diagnosis of osteoporosis meant she was no longer insurable on the team.
But since the switch, Connelly said she has traveled as far as Maine to rescue pets. Abby is named after "NCIS" character Abby Sciuto and is her cat specialist, with a more than 90 percent success rate.
For her time Saturday, Connelly charged $900 for the travel from Virginia plus another $100 per hour during the search. But Iannaco said it was worth it.
"There's no one in this area that does this," she said.
Iannaco said none of her cats typically goes outside, and all are declawed in the front because one cat that had a previous owner is declawed.
She said the cats often play on the deck, and Jo Jo disappeared after falling through a slat while looking at a chipmunk. She thought the slats were too narrow for any of them to get through.
"I said, 'Oh my God,'" she said.
Once before, Jo Jo disappeared in April and she caught him six months later. Back home, he rubbed against the familiar objects and meowed.
"He was happy to come home," she said.
The search canvassed the neighborhood and took the pair into the woods, with Connelly tracking the route on her wristband GPS.
"Which way?" Connelly asked Abby as she paused to consider two possible trails. "Where'd he go from here?"
"Where's your kitty?" she added throughout the search.
Connelly said she has made 74 recoveries this year and has 20 open cases. She only stops looking after owners call her off, but even then she checks shelters continually.
At the end of the day, the search team did not find Jo Jo, but did locate a shed with a strong, fresh scent that may be his hideout. Iannaco said she will watch the area closely and set up a trail camera to catch him moving.
Eventually she hopes to catch him like she did last time, as he is very shy and cautious with people.
"He's a food junkie," she said. "Lunch meat will get him every time."
Contact Iannaco with any information on Jo Jo's location at 570-216-6194 but do not approach him to try to catch him.
?2013 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.
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