Miami New Times 05-05-2016 : Page 16

miaminewtimes.com miaminewtimes.com Jamie Katz, Pet Detective from p14 M ay 5-M ay 11, 2016 M ONTH XX–M ONTH XX, 2008 B cage. He demanded $750 to divulge the address where the dog was being held. For Katz, it was like negotiating with a ter-rorist. To give in and pay would be to reward extortionist behavior. It could be a ruse that led them nowhere. But not paying meant the family might never see its dog again. She sug-gested wiring money through Western Union so they could insist the tipster provide a real name and address in order to collect the funds. The family sent the money. The per-son received the money — then stopped responding. Katz gave the man’s name to police, but they were unable to find him. There is still no sign of Choco. Occasionally, pet owners get revenge. In March, Grant White’s $2,500 white-and-black French bulldog, Dallas, escaped from his Fort Lauderdale backyard. Two broth-ers in Miramar found him wandering the streets. White grew suspicious when they asked him questions like “Do the surveil-lance cameras work in your neighborhood?” Katz did some sleuthing and discovered they run a dog sales business. She advised White to call police. When the brothers agreed to fork over Dallas in exchange for the reward money, White paid by check. Dog in hand, he quickly canceled the check before it could be cashed. Fort Lauderdale Police determined that doing so was permissible, writing in a re-port that “since there were no official services or purchases made or rendered, any action taken regarding the check would be legal.” Sometimes outcomes are just sad. Once, an owner thought his talking green par-rot, Toby, was stolen from his cage. Katz posted fliers. But then, while searching the property, she spotted green feathers on the ground. A family member confessed to leaving the cage unlatched. The parrot was believed to have been eaten by a hawk. Another time, Katz got a call about a cat that had stepped on a car’s electric button that lowered the window. She was swept out as the car was going 70 mph on the highway. There was nothing Katz could do. A diabetic poodle named Clyde was missing for 60 days, but when Katz found him, it was too late. He had gone too long without insulin and had to be put down. “His owner was an elderly woman. Clyde was all she had.” In March, Katz got a call from Miami-Dade Animal Services about a red-nosed pit bull she had been looking for. A landscaper had shot him. Sometimes Katz has done everything possible — searched every database, done a reverse lookup on each number, sent her dogs tracking — yet the case goes cold. Link, the 4-month-old Chihuahua, is still missing in Hallandale Beach, and calls are coming in less frequently now that the city’s code enforce-ment department removed Katz’s fliers. “These are the cases that kill me. They make me crazy,” she says, us-ing a tissue to dab tears from her eyes. “They haunt me and keep me up at night. I’m always still looking for them.” ecause of Jamie Katz’s big heart, even routine trips to the store are punctuated with drama. One time, Katz noticed a boxer trapped in a car in the Best Buy parking lot. It’s illegal to leave pets and children unattended in cars. It was hot, and Katz worried. She opened the unlocked door and let the dog out, then waited for its owner in her air-conditioned SUV. When the owner finally arrived, he called police, ac-cusing her of a break-in. Ultimately, though, he decided against pressing charges. Katz is never not working. She constantly answers calls, reads texts, responds to mes-sages, and checks Facebook. If she’s not on her phone, she’s jonesing for a peek. This phone dependency has made in-depth con-versations and steady eye contact — and thus dating — nearly impossible. “For me, it’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle,” she says. Though some of her prices may seem high, Katz has raked in only $27,360 since September, surviving on microwave din-ners. She hopes to one day earn more, hire additional staff, and move into a larger home with a big backyard for her dogs. When the phone rings, Katz tries to tell herself it will be good news — a tip or excitement that a dog has been found. But deep down, she knows it’s 50/50 — a call could be happy or devastating. This past February 25, the phone rang. It was Mancha’s owner, Jenna Baggio. Katz had all but given up on the Dachshund. Seventy-two days had passed without any sighting. Huge fliers with Mancha’s photo were posted everywhere within a five-mile radius of her disappearance. The reward was upped to $500. Every tip was fruitless. Katz took Gable and Fletcher tracking. Zilch. Baggio was losing hope of seeing Man-cha again. So was Katz, who was out of leads. Still, Baggio called once a week to check in. So Katz thought nothing of it when Baggio’s number popped up. “Jamie, I think I found her!” Baggio shouted. She explained that a Spanish-speaking woman recognized Mancha from Katz’s signs. She said she had bought Mancha at a Walmart in Kendall for $200. “Tell her to send a photo,” Katz advised cautiously. Within minutes, the photo arrived. Baggio studied the brown splotches on the dog’s head. The ones on her belly. Her snaggletooth. They matched. “It’s Mancha, Jamie!” Baggio yelled. Fifteen minutes later, the woman dropped Mancha off at the Kendall Starbucks where Baggio works. Mancha squealed in Bag-gio’s arms. She licked her face. Baggio broke down in tears. Everyone in Starbucks applauded. Some snapped pictures. The woman declined the $500 re-ward. All she wanted was to be reim-bursed for the $200 she had paid for Mancha. Baggio paid Katz less than a total of $300 for signs and tracking. “It’s like Mancha never left! I couldn’t believe my baby is finally home,” Baggio said. “I never lost hope. I never doubted Jamie. My only regret was not hiring her sooner.” At home, Katz asked Baggio to send a selfie with Mancha. Katz posted it to show her Facebook followers. “Breaking News!!! Just got the phone call...Mancha has been missing from Miami/Kendall area for 72 days and is now SAFE & HOME!!!” “Likes” pour in. Katz sits at her desk and relishes this small victory. “This is why I do it,” she says. “It’s my dream job.” Jess.Swanson@BrowardPalmBeach.com | music | cafe | film | art | stage | Night+Day | metro | riptiDe | letters | coNteNts | 16 16 MiaMi New TiMes MIAMI NEW TIMES | MUSIC | CAFE | FILM | ART | STAGE | NIGHT+DAY | METRO | RIPTIDE | LETTERS | CONTENTS |

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