Dear Friends of Jack and other readers:
This turned out to be a long post, addressing a multitude of issues. I will be posting one section each day until the whole post is up. Your comments on each section are appreciated and welcomed…
It’s been over a year since Jack’s gone missing. Unfortunately, the Where Is Jack? Inc. team has been made aware of or been involved with several cases of animals being lost at airports during the last 15 months: Jack, of course; George in Canada; Wenty at SeaTac; Nahla at LaGuardia (RIP); Clara/Tosha at JFK; and now, Xiaohwa – and that’s not all of them. We had already learned so much, but the lessons that Xioahwa is teaching us may be the most difficult – and the most important.
LESSON 1: EARLY INTERVENTION IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
We didn’t find out Xiaohwa was missing until she had been gone for a week. A week is a long time when an animal is lost. If the animal is lost outside, they can travel a LONG WAY in a week. If they are lost inside, they will have had time to find the most hidden space, away from noise – and people. It is still possible to find a pet that has been lost for a week, but every day a pet is lost, makes it increasingly more difficult to find that pet – or even to know where to look.
This highlights a particular problem that occurs when a pet is lost in an airport or during air travel – WHAT SHOULD A PET GUARDIAN DO?? The pet guardian is away from their home, in an environment that is at least somewhat unfamiliar, and they have no authority to move around the airport freely. Many times, they are scheduled to get on a flight. Most pet guardians have no idea what to do when their pet goes missing. They feel they are left to rely on either the airline or the airport authority.
When Jack went missing Karen texted me immediately. The airline had told her Jack had been lost, but to get on the plane and they would find him. She was already in stressful situation – this was the last step in moving 3000 miles away – but when AA lost Jack, she found herself in a dramatically more tense situation. And with absolutely no idea what to do to move forward.
And quite honestly, when she texted me, I had no idea what to do, either. I was walking my dog, and on the way home it hit me – FACEBOOK. I began to work the social network to look for help. And so the movement was born…
But honestly, it wasn’t the most effective strategy for finding Jack. It didn’t get Jack found any sooner. And ultimately, because he was without food or water for 61 days, it didn’t keep him alive.
And even more importantly, we have not been able to keep other animals from being lost. Nor have we been able to create a clear path for people to follow when their pets are lost in an airport (or on a plane).
Just as when Jack was lost, the distraught pet parent is still told by the airlines that “they will find the pet” as they are boarded on the plane. Or the TSA flatly states that it isn’t their problem – leaving the guardian in an even more difficult situation.
But the true bottom line is this: no one working for any airline, in any airport, is truly charged with responding to the emergency situation that is created when a pet is lost. THERE ARE NO TRUE FIRST RESPONDERS.
And we have not yet been able to change this.
Part II: The Lessons of Xiaohwa – Losing a Pet in an Airport is Not Much Different than Losing a Pet in the Grand Canyon… will be posted tomorrow.