Losing a pet can be heartbreaking, especially among mountains full of dangers like mountain lions, bears and Interstate 70. In a land where hikers can lose their way, it can be hard for pet owners to imagine their furry friends returning to them after disappearing for weeks at a time.
Yet Summit Lost Pet Rescue hopes to alleviate that worry. Already in 2022, it’s helped over a hundred local pets return to their owners — even Luna, the dog who disappeared for two weeks.
The search for Luna
The dogs got loose on Thursday, June 30, Izzay Cairo said, as she recalled the following order. A maintenance crew came by that day to work on her sister’s home in Georgetown. She had no idea how the dogs slipped out the door, but either way, the crew called her sister de ella, Natalie Cairo, around 4:30 pm that afternoon to tell her the worst news while she was trying to enjoy the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup parade in Denver.
Zeus was shepherded back inside, they told Natalie, but Luna had darted off toward Georgetown Lake. The maintenance crew told her they followed Luna a mile to the dam but couldn’t catch her.
Without hesitation, Izzy said, her sister sped home from Denver to Georgetown. She arrived back in Georgetown that evening and started searching for Luna.
Mountain lions and bears had been seen wandering around Georgetown, adding fears not only for Luna’s safety but for Natalie and Izzy’s well-being, too. The pair wouldn’t go out on foot, but rather searched from their car, limiting the amount of ground they could cover.
The next morning, their search began in full. The sisters posted photos of Luna all over social media and messaged as many people as they could.
“We probably walked a total of 15 miles,” Izzy said. The sisters put up posters all over Georgetown. They walked around Georgetown Lake three or four times. They handed out fliers and took advantage of July Fourth crowds to spread the message, laying fliers on windshields and talking with anyone who would listen.
The news found its way to Summit Lost Pet Rescue through its Georgetown volunteer, Debbie Butler, on July 3. She reached out to the sisters after seeing their lost-dog post on Nextdoor. It was she who taught the sisters what they needed to know to find Luna: the wagon wheel technique, calming techniques for when they would find her and more information courtesy of Lost Pet Rescue’s library of knowledge curated by its trained pet detectives.
Armed with a better education, the Cairos took the “correct” steps to reunite themselves with Luna. They laid out familiar scents in a wagon wheel pattern around Georgetown — old socks, clothes, dog toys and other things to remind Luna of home. The sisters were just now beginning to make rational decisions, Izzy said. The anxious adrenaline had worn off, and they were clearly thinking.
But just as they were making progress, the COVID-19 virus disrupted their search. First Natalie, then Izzy became sick, as did their mom and brother who came up to assist in the hunt for Luna. Everyone involved became homebodies, and the search had to move from the streets of Georgetown to adoption websites and messaging boards. Izzy said her sister de ella dialed up all shelters within a hundred miles of Georgetown.
“During all this time, we didn’t have any credible sightings,” Izzy said. For two weeks the sisters hadn’t heard anything and with so much time passing it became possible Luna had made it to Denver. “But we didn’t lose hope.”
On Thursday, July 14, exactly two weeks after Luna ran off, the sisters received their first glimmer of hope. A good samaritan called Summit Lost Pet Rescue around 11:20 am to say he saw what may have been Luna on the northwest side of Interstate 70 near the water tower.
Moving quickly, the sisters met with Georgetown rescue volunteer Butler and Lost Pet Rescue co-founder Melissa Davis at the water tower later that day. They searched the area. They looked in and around abandoned cars and found nothing.
“There was a lot of places for her to take shelter there,” Izzy said.
But they trusted the lead and decided to leave out some water and more clothes ripe with scents of home. And they left a remote camera that would be replaced a day later with a different camera whose live feed can connect to any smartphone or device.
The new camera, installed July 15, could detect motion and alert users immediately. But throughout the day, it picked up nothing.
With no news since the tip on July 14, Izzy got a feeling in her gut. She opened the app on her phone and checked the live feed on a whim around 11 pm She saw something thin and furry. She thought she caught a glimpse of Luna’s tail from her.
Inspired, Izzy returned to the junkyard, armed with a collar, leash and a squeaky toy, along with her sister and her new comrade, Butler.
Quelling her excitement, Izzy did not run to Luna. Instead, she wandered in the opposite direction with Zeus at her side of her. She took a seat on the ground a short distance away and played with Zeus. She gave Zeus jerky, attention and affection in an attempt to attract Luna on her own terms.
The plan worked. Luna eventually strolled over on her own time to see what Zeus and Izzy were up to. One quick click of the leash later and Luna was back with her owners of her. That night, Izzy said Luna never left her side of her, and the two spent the whole night on the couch together.
After a visit to the veterinarian’s office, Luna exited her misadventure with one broken toe, a few fleas and one tick in her ear.
Since then she’s been drinking water, eating food in small portions and resting as she returns to full health. Luna dropped more than a third of her body weight from her, going from 57 pounds to just over 39 pounds over the course of her two-week escapade, Natalie said.
“Most pets make a full recovery,” Davis said. Izzy said Luna’s health has been steadily improving.
Rescue group reports near paw-fect record
Summit Lost Pet Rescue has returned 376 pets to their owners since January 2020, the group reported recently. It operates like its role model, the human-focused Summit County Rescue Group, conducting missions with volunteer mission coordinators, group co-founder Brandon Ciullo said.
Ciullo volunteers for Summit County Rescue Group too and used his experience as a human rescuer to guide the creation of Summit Lost Pet Rescue.
The group organizes and conducts “missions” like Summit County Rescue Group, with mission coordinators. Volunteers and teams are organized by town and can be dispatched at a moment’s notice.
“Even (if) it’s three in the morning, we’ll dispatch as many people as we can after we get a sighting,” Davis said.
Davis shared the group’s year-to-date mission results. As of July 22, the group conducted 121 “rescue missions” with a 93% success rate as of July 22. Only nine pets are yet to be found, Davis said.
Of 2022’s 22 lost indoor cats, 21 have been found with only one — a current mission — still on the loose as of July 22.
Of 2022’s 15 lost indoor-outdoor cats, only seven have been found and eight are still missing as of July 22. The penchant of indoor-outdoor cats to roam makes finding them difficult, Davis said. The eight unfound cats are still part of active missions.
All dog-related missions have ended in the pet being found in 2022. Some dog missions have involved more than one dog, Davis said. In total, 89 dogs have been found across the 84 missions in 2022.
Davis did note not all successful “finds” are happy endings. Three pets were found dead in 2022, she said.
If someone wants to learn more or report a lost pet, Davis encourages people to check out the group’s website at LostPetRescue.org.