Blue Heeler mix Oreo can barely stand to watch during nail trimming session with veteranary assistans Katie Moench, left, and Lindsay Whittaker at Vale Park Animal Hospital in Valparaiso Monday April 22, 2013. The hospital began a online progam in February designed to reunite lost pets with their owners. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
For more on Vale Park Animal Hospital’s Hound and Found program, go to www.valeparkanimalhospital.com/hound-and-found.php.
Updated: May 24, 2013 6:01AM
Carol St. Germain was heartbroken when her gray cat, Bart, wandered off and didn’t come back.
She took the stray in five years ago, when it was hanging out in the parking lot of Portage hospital, where she worked. At the time, Bart was “a skinny, scrawny little kitten.” She was going to drop the cat off at the shelter and ended up keeping him.
At home, Bart would go out in the family’s large back yard. If the weather was good, the cat would stay outside for awhile before coming back in. On Feb. 18, St. Germain let Bart out, but the cat didn’t come back before she left for the evening.
Bart didn’t return the next day, either.
“By that time, I was in full panic,” St. Germain said, adding Bart doesn’t like to be wet or cold.
She put up posters in her neighborhood on Valparaiso’s north side and at the local grocery store and posted it on her Facebook page. Even though she doesn’t take her cats there, St. Germain contacted Vale Park Animal Hospital, because it was close by.
That happened to coincide with a start-up project offered by the animal hospital called Lost and Hound. Offered free of charge to folks looking for lost pets, the clinic sends out “lost pet alerts” to everybody on its email list, as well as listing them on the clinic’s website.
“Gone are the days when people are putting posters up in a neighborhood,” said Jamie Ellis, the clinic’s hospital manager.
At first, Vale Park was putting lost pets on its Facebook page, but, with the help of a drug company representative who offered to put up half the cost of a website, the effort expanded to the email alerts.
Four families have already been reunited with their lost pets, Ellis said, adding she has been in contact with the Calumet Area Veterinary Medical Association to get other clinics involved.
“I hope it takes off,” Ellis said.
Bart eventually wandered home, six days after disappearing. St. Germain ended up adopting a gray cat that looks similar to Bart and is partially blind because she got so many calls from people who thought the stray was hers.
“He’s on house arrest now,” she said of Bart, adding she is looking into getting a microchip for Bart and exploring ways to keep the cat from leaving her yard.