A lost pet can be a trying and challenging experience for any animal owner. Many lost pet stories end in heartbreak, but the story of Ginny proves that a combination of luck, hard work, and determination can lead to a happy resolution.
Virginia, Ginny for short, was named after the home state of George Washington. Ginny was abandoned
by the creek in Valley Forge National Park and her sweet and shy demeanor immediately caught the
attention of the staff. Ginny spent her time snuggling into a pile of navy wool blankets inside a lifeguard
hut behind Washington’s headquarters. The park staff is full of animal lovers, including Kate, who cares
for and re-homes pets whenever possible. After taking in several strays and needing help, Kate reached
out to her friend Dona for assistance. Dona volunteered to babysit Ginny for a few days and their bond
was instantaneous. Ginny seemed standoffish at first, but became affectionate and loving and would
excitedly meet Dona at the door when she returned home each day. Ginny soon became a member of
the family and settled into her new home.
One rainy Monday in November 2014, Ginny greeted Dona and her mother Janice upon their arrival from
a weekend away. Ginny paced, walking back and forth as luggage went into the house. When Dona
called Ginny to come back inside, she bumped her head twice on the storm door and ran off. The
strenuous search for Ginny began immediately. Valley Forge National Park’s slogan reads “determined
to persevere”–which is exactly what Dona and her family did. Dona spoke to everyone she could, asking
for advice on how to find a lost pet and vowed to stop at nothing until she came home. In a stroke of
good fortune, she contacted a private investigator who happened to be nearby and agreed to come out
and help. Jamie Katz specializes in reuniting lost, missing and stolen pets with their families with the aid
of her scent specific tracking dogs, Fletcher and Gable.
They created scent packs using objects with Dona’s scent, and left food, beds and litter boxes around the
neighborhood. The community came together in the search– the local Staples printed signs and posters
at a discounted price, neighborhood children volunteered to help after school, Dona created a Facebook
page titled “Bring Ginny Home” and Jamie sent out a pet Amber Alert. Fletcher, the smallest of Jamie’s
scent dogs, played a crucial role in Ginny’s return. While most cats typically work in a triangular or star
pattern, Ginny functioned more like a dog, walking up and back alongside the creek at the edge of the
neighborhood. “Water is home for her. She was dumped where the Valley Creek met the Schuylkill, so I
know the creek seemed familiar to her” said Dona. Fletcher stopped at a small bush near the water and
was confident that Ginny had been there. Once the dog picks up the scent, Jamie asks the property
owner if they can take a look around for clues. Her neighbors agreed for the most part. “There were two
people that wouldn’t let us on their property. One just didn’t want to and the other was feeding strays and
didn’t want us to scare them off”, Dona explained. Jamie and Dona came up with a plan to set 3 traps
around the neighborhood. Due to the weather and circumstance, the traps needed to be checked every 2
hours. A few neighbors kindly agreed to check them for her and report back.
The investigation continued for weeks. Dona’s wedding was scheduled during the middle of the
heartbreaking search. “You’ve never seen a couple more sad on their wedding day. Of course we were
happy to be getting married, but we felt sad and lost without Ginny”, Dona explained. As time passed,
Dona got a call from her neighbor Jill stating that she had seen strays and a Ginny look-alike roaming her
nearby farm. Jill agreed to set up traps around her property and Dona put food, a litter box, and a bed in
the barn in the hopes of attracting Ginny. She also purchased a night vision camera to record the night’s
events and snapped a photo that would change everything. The footage provided a sense of relief, but
the next few nights proved to be discouraging for all. “Ginny would go into the trap to grab the food, but
managed to escape before it closed her in”, Dona frustratingly explained. After further devising a plan
and continuous days of trial and error, Dona’s hard work paid off.
54 days after getting lost, Ginny was caught and finally reunited with her family. At less than half her
weight, Ginny was famished, scared, and came to Valley Veterinary Hospital to recover. The doctors
and staff quickly stepped in to provide the necessary care and attention. Ginny received fluids, vaccines,
blood work testing, and medicine to stimulate her appetite and increase her weight.
Dona, her husband and her mother were ecstatic to have Ginny back home. “It was a long sad time
without her, and we are so thankful she is safe.” Since then, Ginny has settled back into her routine, but
has started creating unusual patterns with her toys. “She takes these styrofoam balls of various sizes and
puts them into deliberate patterns and shapes. It’s like a work in progress. She will work on them for
days at a time then leave them around the house for us to enjoy. She will mess them up if she catches
me taking a picture but sometimes I am lucky enough to capture them” says Dona.