Miami New Times 05-05-2016 : Page 12

miaminewtimes.com miaminewtimes.com | music | cafe | film | art | stage | Night+Day | metro | riptiDe | letters | coNteNts | | MUSIC | CAFE | FILM | ART | STAGE | NIGHT+DAY | METRO | RIPTIDE | LETTERS | CONTENTS | Jamie Katz, Pet Detective from p11 MiaMi New TiMes MIAMI NEW TIMES 12 12 M ay 5-M ay 11, 2016 M ONTH XX–M ONTH XX, 2008 K For Vale, Katz’s first step was to run background checks on him and his wife to determine they weren’t criminals. Noth-ing. She skimmed through the missing-pet Facebook pages and groups in South Florida and posted Sheppie’s photo on her own Facebook page, which has 1,651 fol-lowers. Then she scoured Craigslist. She couldn’t find a single Sheppie sighting. Next, Katz called shelters such as the Humane Society of Greater Miami and Miami-Dade County’s Animal Control to check whether any dogs matching Sheppie’s description were there — or had been euthanized. Nope. Then, on a hunch, Katz searched news stories from the time Sheppie went miss-ing. She stumbled upon an article about a terrible incident at the Crandon golf course. Armed with the story, Vale confronted his wife, whom he says confessed through tears and apologies. (She said she was still too distraught to talk for this story.) Sheppie had been blissfully trotting be-hind her on that November afternoon. She and the dog wandered farther north on Key Biscayne than usual — through the beach, onto the golf course, and past three signs (which Vale’s wife admitted to not having seen) that warned of a resident crocodile. At the fifth hole, Sheppie spotted a team of ducks and darted toward them. They dove into a nearby pond in a loud, quacking panic. The sound woke a six-foot American crocodile. It slithered closer to shore and snatched Shep-pie. The dog let out one long, guttural wail. Vale’s wife looked back, but it was too late: Sheppie’s body was bisected in the reptile’s pointy snout. Miami-Dade Parks and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conserva-tion Commission officials rushed to the scene. She was hyperventilating and chok-ing on her tears. Paramedics were called to treat her. She refused help. Fearing how Vale would react, she alledgedly con-cocted her story about the dog abductor. A week after coming to terms with Sheppie’s fate, Vale visited the golf course. He made his way to the fifth hole and sat at the pond’s shore. He called out Sheppie’s name three times and walked away. He finally said goodbye. His relationship with his wife is now strained. But Vale thanks Katz for un-covering the truth about Sheppie. “If it weren’t for Jamie Katz, I would’ve never gotten closure,” he says. “I don’t know how she does it, but she has her ways.” Photos courtesy of Jamie Katz Katz’s investigation revealed that this American crocodile (top left) attacked Sheppie (top right), a boxer-shepherd mix that went missing in Key Biscayne. Thanks to Katz’s fliers, Jenna Baggio (bottom left) was reunited with her dog Mancha after the Dachshund was lost for 72 days. atz’s tiny one-bedroom apartment in Sailboat Bend can feel like a big, spruced up, air-conditioned dog house. She shares it with her four dogs: two specially trained to track scents — Gable, a Brittany span-iel; and Fletcher, a terrier — plus a pair of shy sibling mutts, Arabella and Vega, that she res-cued on vacation in Aruba. Four kennels, dog beds, and a full-size mattress belong to them. For herself, Katz has modestly carved out a shelf for her files and a row of spi-ral notebooks arranged chronologically. Her dining room table doubles as a desk, weighed down with piles of papers and a printer. There’s no art on her walls, just a collection of framed photos of family members posing with dogs and cats. On December 28, the call came in for Mancha, a 2-year-old black Dachshund with brown splotches. Katz, wearing a hands-free device, paced on the sidewalk outside her home. She listened to Man-cha’s owner, Jenna Baggio, who explained that a pool man had accidentally left the gate open. Baggio, a 22-year-old Starbucks barista, scoured her Kendall neighborhood by bike. Nothing. She posted 300 fliers with Mancha’s photo and her number. Still noth-ing. Ten days had passed, and Baggio was losing hope of ever seeing Mancha again. “Jamie was my last resort,” Bag-gio remembers. “I don’t know what it is about Jamie. She has this confi-dence about what to do in a crisis.” First, as usual, Katz ran a background check on her client and combed social media. She called the shelters. It was crucial to act fast, because in Miami-Dade, strays — or lost pets believed to be strays — that are taken to the county facility are held only three days before being euthanized. Every year, Miami-Dade Animal Services euthanizes ap-proximately 7,200 dogs and cats. In Broward, there’s no set time limit before animals are eu-thanized, but each year, about 6,000 dogs and cats are put down because of overcrowding. Next, Katz designed massive yellow and red fliers. A good sign campaign is crucial, she says. “Everyone needs to know your dog is missing. A little piece of printer paper won’t make people look. You need to make it so that no one can enter or leave your neigh-borhood without seeing your dog’s face.” For Baggio, Katz created a flier advertis-ing Mancha’s photo, a $250 reward, and Baggio’s phone number. She sent the pa-per to Staples to be printed 60 times and emailed Baggio a list of supplies to buy from the hardware store to post them: duct tape, wooden spikes, and nails. The following day, Katz gave Baggio coordinates of key inter-sections and local stores where the fliers should go. They were up within 24 hours. “I’ll offer any service that I think will bring back your pet,” Katz promises. “I’ll hold your hand the entire way.” Katz charges $95 per hour. Creat-ing signs can cost as much as $285 and tracking with her dogs as much as $500. However, in many cases, she low-ers prices or even works for free. Katz grew up in the quaint city of Sharon, Massachusetts, on the outskirts of Boston. Her father, Gene, was a photographer for the New England Patriots football team and her mother, Debra, was a phleboto-mist. Katz was the rambunctious middle child, wedged between two brothers. In the classroom, she struggled with paying attention and reading comprehension. She was placed in special education classes. Around the neighborhood, Katz became known as an animal lover. Her earliest memo-ries are of helping a neighbor deliver a litter of kittens. In the summer, she volunteered at the vet’s office, filing paperwork for animals’ ra-bies licenses. Katz was a tomboy, but to make money, she pedaled around town on a frilly pink bike she hated, hurling newspapers. “Wherever we went, Jamie was al-ways around animals,” Katz’s mother recalls. “She always volunteered and never collected a dime of it. She just did it because her heart told her to.” She idolized her pets: a towering Great Dane named Rexx and a fat black-and-white long-haired cat named Blackjack. When Jamie was 8, Blackjack went missing. She rode around the streets and interrogated neighbors, but he was never found. “It must’ve been a coyote,” Katz surmises now. When Katz was 14, her parents di-vorced. Her father moved to Baltimore, and Katz followed. In the notoriously bad parts of town, stray dogs and cats roamed the streets. Katz couldn’t help herself. In high school, she ventured out late at night, taking them in one by one. “I never understood that there were ani-mals that didn’t have homes, that people weren’t out looking for them,” Katz says. Until she could find them homes, the strays stayed with Katz and her father. At one point, they housed five cats and three dogs. Landlords in Baltimore didn’t share her compassion. By the time Katz gradu-ated, she and her father had been evicted from three apartments. “Jamie couldn’t walk away from an animal that needed help,” her father says. “My lease allowed one or maybe two cats, and Jamie couldn’t just put them back on the streets. So we moved.”

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here