Real-life pet detective is one of a kind

Kat Albrecht could return your missing dog to his empty houseNot only does Kat Albrecht have the perfect name for her job; she's got the ideal background as well. Featured in a Baltimore Sun piece by Parella Lewis, Albrecht – who calls herself the only pet detective in the U.S. – is a former police officer who's been applying what she learned on the force to tracking down missing and lost animal companions since 1997.

We're not sure she's the only pet detective; Animal Planet's "Pet Detectives" is all about various animal mysteries, and the show's info page mentions other pet PIs who sound pretty legit. But Albrecht may be the only pet tracker who graduated from the police academy – and there's no doubt she loves both aspects of her work, saying that "it's very much like working law enforcement investigation." And she uses some of the same tools – psychological techniques, the latest technology, even an animal-tracking dog. She actually specialized in training tracking/search dogs during her time as an officer, but she didn't feel like her methods were appreciated on the job; on the side, she started training her retired Weimaraner, Rachel, to track lost animals. Albrecht got such great results that she decided to make lost-pet retrieval her full-time job.

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What other tools does Albrecht have in her, um, "kit"? She often profiles lost or escaped pets, to try to predict their movements. On one case featured by Seattle's Q13 FOX News recently, Albrecht was on the hunt for Timmy, a female feline who went on walkabout over a month ago. Owner Abbie Deleers hasn't given up hope, saying that experts told her "kitties can be gone for one month, two months" at times. Albrecht concurs that patience is key, but in Timmy's case, a psychological profile could help pinpoint her location; since Timmy is shy, she may not have gone far. (Albrecht thinks she's probably within a two-block radius of Deleers's house.)

Albrecht also employs the detective techniques we see on crime shows, collecting physical evidence such as fibers, or talking to witnesses who may have seen the animal. And wildlife cameras can watch an area where a pet's been spotted even when Albrecht can't: she's set up cams to look for cats who only come out in the wee hours of the morning.

According to the Sun profile, Albrecht can sometimes find a lost animal "even if it's no longer living" – not the ending anyone hopes for, but at least, Albrecht says, the owner "can move on" once the pet is found. (Timmy is, as of this writing, still at large.) But Albrecht has furnished more than 1,700 happy outcomes (or at least closure) and trained more than 125 pet detectives from around the world.

And she could train you, too! If you want to reunite pets and families and bring hope to pet owners – or apply Albrecht's expertise on behalf of your local shelter or TNR program –the goal is totally within reach. Albrecht is launching a volunteer pet-detective academy this June; it lasts five days, and will teach trainees to track missing pets on their own. Hit Albrecht's website or follow her on Twitter for more information.

Have you ever turned up a lost pet using a neat trick? Do you think you'd make a good pet detective yourself? Planning to go to Albrecht's clinic in June? Let us know in the comments.

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