MEET THE TEAM
CO-FOUNDERS & DIRECTORS
Jessica Sand Peterson — Co-Founder/Director — Woodbury, Minnesota
When I was first married our family became whole with our first “kids,” Bear and Moose, both Golden Retrievers that we could not have loved more if they were two-legged kids rather than four-legged. We then added to our family and adopted the sweetest little girl, Paris, from Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM). It was love at first sight. She was a puppy mill dog and of course came with her own adjustment issues (though don’t we all?).
On a very cold fall night, she did her “great escape” and somehow found her way out of our backyard. You never think this will happen to you, and I was immediately overwhelmed with what to do, who to notify, and how to go about finding her. I contacted the RAGOM Lost Dog Rapid Response (LDRR [which later become the Retrievers]) team, who immediately gave me tools and information. They assisted with guidance on what to look for, how to get awareness out and ultimately with setting a live humane trap to catch her.
After five very long days, we were able to capture her in a golf course not far from where she first ran. It was one of my happiest days. The above picture was taken seconds after finding her. She continues to teach me so much everyday. I am forever thankful to the LDRRT, for without them, my family would not have been reunited. It is because of this that I have a new passion and understanding for assisting other families with searching and hopefully reuniting them with their lost four-legged family member.
I’m a night owl. A few years ago, I got into the habit of browsing the Lost & Found ads on Craigslist late at night, just to see what people had lost. Once, I noticed that a found Golden Retriever looked exactly like a lost Golden in another ad on the same Craigslist page. Somehow the owner and finder hadn’t connected. So I sent an email to both, and that’s all it took to get that dog back home.
That simple act of reuniting a dog with the family who was frantically searching for him was powerful, and I’ve been hooked on lost dog searches ever since.
As a volunteer for Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota, I proposed the formation of the Lost Dog Rapid Response team and helped develop the team’s organizational structure and processes.
Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in many boots-on-the-ground searches for missing dogs. I’m always struck by how intense they can be—days of persistence, planning, pursuit, sweat, doubt, faith, blood, tears, coffee and Google maps. And then, suddenly, unpredictably, I hear that the dog is found, or I see it in a trap, and the search is over in an instant. I heave a sigh of relief and, if possible, at last meet this dog I’ve been focused on for so long.
And as we’re mopping up from that search by pulling up signs and taking down flyers, and I’m finally getting back to my own dogs and house and laundry, I get the itch to find the next lost dog.
Growing up my family always had pets. I enjoyed their companionship quite a bit. But, it really wasn’t until I met my wife, Cassandra, that I truly realized my adoration for man’s best friend. My wife got me involved in helping out at the local animal shelter, helping strays, and fostering.
Then, mid December 2014 my wife asked me to go with her to the small town of McIntosh MN to look for a lost dog that she read about on Facebook. They were organizing a search party! It took a little coaxing before agreed to go search for Jemma, but in the end I decided to go.
That is where I met a Case Manager for The Retrievers. She educated us in how lost dogs behave, how to find them, and how to capture them. In the cold months to follow I would have never guessed just how exciting and rewarding it was to spend the night sitting watch on a humane live trap, waiting for Jemma to show up. Had I not indulged my wife that day, I would not have found this great team of volunteers, or realized my fervor for helping lost dogs get reunited with their owners.
Outside of The Retrievers organization I also volunteer with The Boy Scouts of America. I was very active in Boy Scouts as a youth. It taught me much about respecting wildlife and wilderness skills as well as leadership and good citizenship. Nothing in life feels better than spending your time in the service and selfless devotion to others.
In 2010 I adopted my first dog, Wendel, who was the catalyst for my involvement in helping the underdog. I became involved in rescue and fostered for a couple local rescues. I consider Wendel to be a therapy dog for other dogs, and he has helped me rehab many dogs that came from horrid situations.But every time one would be adopted, he would go into a depressive state missing his new buddy. So it was time to get him a forever friend.
I adopted Winnie in 2013 and the two immediately became a tightly bonded pair. I continued to foster but both my dogs had developed IVDD, which seemed to flare up when there were fosters in the home, likely due to both physical and emotional stress. Our vet said it was time to be done with fostering for the health of my babies.
But I just could not imagine not paying it forward for dogs in need. I knew I was meant to leverage my passion but just wasn’t sure how I would do this if not fostering.
In Fall 2014 I took in my final foster. Bella was a pregnant Italian Greyhound/Dachshund mix. It was a bucket list item for me to see puppies born, and I thought it was a perfect way to end my fostering journey. I wanted to go out with a bang… and boy did I. Bella had a complicated birth that required emergency medical intervention but despite her physical pain was an incredible mother. Nine weeks later, the puppies and Bella were adopted on the same day. It was very bittersweet for me.
Not one hour after Bella went to her new home, I got a call that she had bolted before they even got her into the house. My heart sank. This was not how her story was going to end. This is how I came into contact with the Retrievers. I had never heard of them before, but they were truly angels sent to me during a very difficult time. I had been through lost dog searches before, but never one quite so organized. They equipped me with more tools and techniques and most importantly, kept me “calm.” Jessica Peterson and Jen Eidbo successfully trapped Bella and I was there to witness it. It’s a moment and a feeling I will never forget. It was then that I realized this was my calling.