As a team, Amanda Guarascio and Dylan Parkinson are part-time pet detectives, part-time animal psychologists and full-time animal enthusiasts.
In the two years they’ve been together, the Enumclaw partners have run down a lost goat and searched for a hedgehog, a ferret and a 50-year-old tortoise. Their mission is to find any lost animal and return it to its owner.
Guarascio is the lunatic — racing onto freeways in pursuit of wayward dogs, for instance — while Parkinson tries to ward off traffic with their Toyota pickup.
“She scares me to death, but that’s her,” Parkinson said.
A few weeks ago, they were checking Facebook and saw a post about a rail-thin dog, probably starving, that hikers had been seeing for weeks. No one had been able to catch the frightened animal.
Guarascio and Parkinson got into their truck and drove more than an hour to the Evans Creek area near Carbonado, their jacket pockets loaded with processed meat.
It wasn’t hard finding the dog. A yellow-gold color, he was lying by the side of the road. His ribs were showing and, as they would learn later from a veterinarian, he was about 40 pounds underweight.
“We put out baloney and tried to get him closer and closer, but he wasn’t letting us get near him,” Guarascio said. “Eventually, we ran out of food. Once we saw his face, though, we knew we had to get him.”
They drove, grabbed more food and returned.
The weather was near freezing, but Guarascio hatched a plan. She got out of the truck, walked to the side of the road and lay down with her back to the dog.
“We know calming signals, and if your back is to a dog, there’s no threat,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s possible, but I’ve never been bitten. I wasn’t afraid of him.”
In the truck, her partner was less fearless.
“I was taking pictures, and he kept moving closer and closer to her,” Parkinson said. “I was nervous enough for both of us.”
Finally, the dog — by this time, they’d named him Baby Bear— made contact.
“I think he thought if he cuddled this crazy human, he could keep her from freezing to death,” Guarascio said. “When he cuddled into me, I started crying.”
Slowly she began petting him, then slipped a collar quietly over his head. He didn’t struggle.
After 13 hours, many of them well after dark, Baby Bear was captured.
The rescue earned the two women a Compassionate Action Award from PETA.
“PETA hopes caring people everywhere will be inspired by their example and come to the aid of lost animals,” senior director Colleen O’Brien said in a statement.
Today the roughly year-old dog is living with Gig Harbor foster parents, Jared and Juliette Kern, who work with another animal-welfare group, CHEW Dog Rescue.
“He’s eating three meals a day and stealing food from our countertops,” Juliette Kern said, shaking her head. “The day after Easter, he ate a bunch of leftover sweet rolls — didn’t leave a crumb — and didn’t disturb the plastic wrap on top of it.
“I thought Jared had eaten them.”
Guarascio and Parkinson are posting photos on their website and Facebook, hoping to find the dog’s owner. They’ve been remarkably successful finding owners for lost pets, and in finding lost pets for owners who’ve asked for their help.
“We’re working toward becoming a nonprofit organization, but that takes about $1,000 in various fees,” said Guarascio, 26. “At this point, we rely on donations, mostly from friends, who pay for our gas.
“We both have part-time jobs, but when we’re free, this is what we do.”
If they don’t find the owner of Baby Bear in 30 days, they’ll look for someone to adopt him. They’re just cynical enough to ask for evidence from anyone claiming to be his owner.
“We ask for photos, and if they don’t have that, then veterinary documents,” said Parkinson, 23.
On their website, the partners share advice on how best to go about finding a lost pet, and notices on both lost and found pets in places such as Bellevue, Bonney Lake and Tacoma.
“We’re saving what we can for nonprofit status, but everything we don’t spend on food goes to finding animals and getting them back home,” Guarascio said.
Like that missing hedgehog?
“He was found, eventually,” she said. “But he’d gone pretty far — for a hedgehog.”