For a few hours this weekend, search dogs and volunteers spread out in a Franklin neighborhood.
The dogs were given a scent and went off to search, volunteers went around the neighborhood talking with residents, and they posted fliers. The subject of their search: an orange and white cat whose owners have been searching for weeks.
Unfortunately, Marmalade wasn’t found, but a man who calls himself the pet detective still is hopeful.
“I always tell them not to be upset if we don’t find the pet that day,” said Jim Berns, who has been doing pet searches for eight years. “Sometimes there is residual effect from all the searches.”
Andy Cummins and Diane Trout-Cummins contacted the Pet Detective after their own searches couldn’t find Marmalade, who got out of their Jefferson Meadows home Jan. 16.
The couple already had spent days searching the neighborhood, handed out 500 flyers and put up posters. They contacted area veterinarians and shelters looking for Marmalade, who does have a microchip that can be scanned if she is turned in. After exhausting those methods, they sought outside help.
The search is an example of the lengths pet owners will go to for their animals. For the Franklin couple, their cats are like their children, so they will do whatever they can to bring Marmalade back home, they said.
Trout-Cummins’ sister learned about the Pet Search and Rescue company, which was founded by Berns’ daughter in San Diego. The pet detective gig is a side job for Berns, who has managed the wood shop for the University of Cincinnati’s architecture department. Berns also has run unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress in Ohio 1st Congressional District four times.
Berns conducts four or five searches a month primarily in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The pets are mostly cats and dogs.
“But we’ve searched for three turtles and got all three back,” Berns said.
Unfortunately, Berns and his search team of three dogs were not able to find Marmalade, but the dogs had three positive hits and the group set two traps Saturday night to lure Marmalade out of her hiding spot.
“There are a couple of tight areas that Jim Berns felt Marmalade could be at, but she was so far under a deck that we couldn’t see her,” Cummins said. “We’re trying to coax her out with food and live trap. It’s about two blocks away from our house.”
Berns used three dogs — a bloodhound, a bluetick coonhound and hound/mastiff mix — on the three-hour search of the Jefferson Meadows neighborhood. The dogs were given a scent of Marmalade’s favorite items like her pillow. Each dog goes 15 to 20 minutes before taking a rest.
Berns also had volunteers ahead of the search team putting up signs with a reward offered. Berns and other volunteers passed out flyers to people outside or driving in the area.
“We’re not sure which of those are going to work. We throw as much mud at the wall as we can, and more than half of the time it does lead to getting the pet back,” Berns said.
“We’ve had cases, the cat is missing for two days and it sounds easy and we come up with nothing. We’ve had cases where we’ve been out and pets are missing for several weeks and we do get them back.”
The Cummins declined to discuss the price they paid for Berns to come out, but said the money is worth it since Marmalade is a member of their family.
“We don’t have any kids, so our cats are like our babies,” Trout-Cummins said.
They first met Marmalade as a sickly kitten living in a relative’s Bartholomew County barn.
“She didn’t think it would survive so we went over and Diane fell in love with her after sight,” Cummins said. “She became ours overnight.”
Cummins works for Cummins Engine’s Fuel Systems division. His grandfather and great-uncle started the company. Trout-Cummins works from home and has stayed near the back door in case Marmalade returned.
“She’s really a sweetheart,” Trout-Cummins said. “The other cats miss her, too. They’re older and at first they didn’t like having a kitten move in, then they got attached to her. She’s very social.”