Bowdoin pet detective goes full-time

Posted Jan. 02, 2012, at 5:37 a.m.

Lisa Nazarenko and her four-dog search team now find lost pets full time.

In the three months since Nazarenko’s Bowdoin-based, one-woman pet detective business Lost Pet Tracking Dogs was featured in the Sun Journal, she has been inundated with calls from people who need help finding missing cats and dogs.

She’s been so busy — sometimes handling up to two cases a day — that she slashed her hours as a cardiac nurse at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She now works there only one shift a month, just enough to keep her per diem status with the hospital.

The rest of Nazarenko’s time is spent tracking or training with black Lab Bella, Belgian malinois Dante, bloodhound Vita and boxer-hound mix Mason.

Despite their busy schedule, the team’s success rate remains high.

“Every single time [we find a pet], we’re just like ‘Wow,’” Nazarenko said in a phone call from California, where she’s currently training with her dogs. “It’s just so amazing.”

Nazarenko’s road to pet tracker started last year when she lost her own beloved yellow Lab, 12-year-old Cappuccino. For two months she conducted a massive search that included hiring a professional dog tracker from Maryland — the closest to Maine she could find. But no matter what Nazarenko did, she couldn’t locate Cappuccino. She felt helpless, and she didn’t want any other pet owner to have to feel that way.

After volunteer searchers found Cappuccino’s body less than a mile from her Bowdoin home, Nazarenko began looking into becoming a pet tracker herself. Other pet detectives shied away from Maine and its rugged terrain. She would not. Nazarenko bought and trained four dogs, each with unique tracking skills, and this past summer formed Lost Pet Tracking Dogs.

In the past four months, Nazarenko and her team have worked on 86 cases in Maine, plus others across New England. Their success rate is over 90 percent, she said.

Since being featured in the Sun Journal in September, Nazarenko has fielded more than just calls from anxious pet owners. She’s also been contacted by people who want to put her on TV. At least one has suggested a reality show.

Nazarenko isn’t interested.

“I’m not in it for the publicity,” she said. “I just want to find people’s pets.”

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