ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Time was running out in more ways than one for Micah.
The yellow Lab puppy with the blue collar was lost somewhere in the East Mountains, a rugged expanse of forest and farmland where domesticated animals are easy prey for their wilder brethren and the bite of a cold November night.
He was also one sick puppy, terminally so, and in need of medication every three hours.
So Joyce Lewis got busy.
Which is to say she issued an email alert to members of her East Mountain Pet Alert, a volunteer “pet project” she has funded and run since 2006 when she had little more than her home computer, a handful of neighbors’ email addresses and a retiree’s time to help locate lost dogs and cats in her neighborhood.
Pet Alert now has 194 members, many of whom forward the alerts to others.
“There’s no telling how many people actually receive the alerts,” said Lewis, 74.
To grateful pet owners from Sandia Park to Chilili, she has become their last best hope, a one-woman megaphone, an angel among us.
|Calling all angels
Nominate that unsung someone who deserves recognition for doing good deeds for the community. Deadline is Dec. 12.
Send nominations to email@example.com; 505-823-3603; or c/o Joline Gutierrez Krueger, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.
Our third annual Angels Among Us column will feature the winners and will run on or near Christmas.Calling all lost pets, owners Contact or join the East Mountain Pet Alert at eastmountainpetalert.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(Which reminds me: It’s that time again to solicit your nominations for those deserving angels among us who do good work, often with little or no recognition. I’ll write about the best ones you suggest to me sometime Christmas week. You have until Dec. 12 to submit your suggestions, so get cracking.)
Lewis put out the alert for Micah on Nov. 3, 2010. Gretchen Haukereid, who had only recently joined the Pet Alert list, glanced at the email about the lost puppy that morning, then headed off to work.
That night, she noticed she had also received a text message from her neighbor, Tanya Lowry, about finding a puppy in the neighborhood.
The puppy was a yellow Lab with a blue collar.
Lowry was not a Pet Alert member then – but she is now.
That’s one of the success stories Lewis likes to call a “Happy Tail,” and since April 2010 when Pet Alert took off, she’s had about 20 of them.
“I began to think of it as almost a roll call of all my children,” she said, ticking off the pets who came home thanks to Pet Alert. “Simone, Hershey, Treasure, Micah, Iggy, Max, Ari, Noulli, Hank and about a dozen others.”
Lewis’ idea to use the Internet to spread the word about a lost or found pet was simple – and certainly better than plastering posters across the more than 208 square miles of the East Mountains, not counting the Cibola National Forest that borders much of the region.
“We just have a different situation up here,” said Lewis, who has lived with her husband, Jim, in their mountain home since 1990. “Putting up posters is so important, but those little guys can travel. I felt if I could spread the word a little faster than that, then maybe we could have some success that way.”
She remembers Iggy, for example, a little Italian greyhound who ran off from a pet sitter’s home.
“This poor owner had plastered posters everywhere in that neighborhood, he loved that little dog so much,” Lewis said.
Iggy, though, had run far from the neighborhood.
A Pet Alert member sighted the dog about 10 miles east. Lewis suggested the owner set up a “comfort station” with food, water and a familiar item such as an item of his clothing near the site – a technique she picked up from other pet locator services and books.
“The owner started sleeping in his truck at night near the comfort station,” she said. “On that 10th day, he was putting down fresh food, and here comes Iggy running toward him like you see in the movies.”
Lewis, whose three children are grown and gone, spends much of her time keeping up with emails and perusing the Mountain View Telegraph for classified ads concerning lost or found animals.
“I contact them and ask whether they think Pet Alert might help,” she said.
She’s also been known to gently nag Telegraph Editor Rory McClannahan and his staff to run stories about missing pets.
Last week, Lewis asked me to write a column about four dogs believed to have been stolen during a break-in at a home near Holli Loop off N.M. 217. Two of the dogs were Italian greyhounds; the other two were rare silken windhounds.
Last week, hikers found the ravaged remains of one greyhound and one windhound in a nearby wooded area.
“The bodies were greatly disturbed by coyotes,” Lewis said. “It’s very sad. It leaves the question of whether or not the other two met the same fate.”
She hopes not. She always hopes not.
“I have been surprised to realize how much I care about these lost animals,” she said. “I feel a connection. I do get emotionally involved, I guess you would say. I’ve shed some tears. But when we find a pet, we celebrate. You’d think we had won the lottery.”
Recently, Lewis has begun to see the fruition of another dream. With the help of a few Pet Alert volunteers, training has begun with a bloodhound named Genghis to track the scent of missing pets.
It will be a way, she thinks, to ensure a few more Happy Tails.
That’s angel’s work.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline Gutierrez Krueger at 823-3603, email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal