Jessica Sand Peterson — Co-Founder/Director — Woodbury, Minnesota

Jessica and ParisWhen 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.

Devon Thomas Treadwell — Co-Founder/Director — Faribault, Minnesota

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.

Natalie Wicker — Director — Hugo, Minnesota Natalie

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.

Shortly after the capture of Zoey and Sage, the stray Golden Retrievers in Talmoon, MN.

Jennifer Cadigan — Proctor, Minnesota

I was a fan of the Retrievers for about a year, and I was blown away by their work.  I become Facebook friends with a member of the team, and when a dog from the Duluth area was lost, she asked if I could join the search. I said yes.

We never found that dog, but during the search, we were able to reunite two other dogs with their families.

I learned so much from working on that dog and met some amazing people. When The Retrievers started looking for volunteers to join the team, I was excited to give it a shot. I’m so happy I did.

I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful this group of people is and how much I have learned from each of them. It’s hard work but the rewards are worth it. Nothing beats seeing a family reunited with their dog.