In a recent fiction novel, a neophyte private investigator (PI) grudgingly took on pet cases, from finding an African Helmeted Turtle to looking for her neighbor’s nasty-tempered dog. Tracking down these lost pets provided funny subplots, although a writer could also build a more serious story starring a PI who specializes in finding animals. This article defines the role of a pet detective, their skill set and tools, and techniques writers can apply to develop such a character.
What Is a Pet Detective?
Pet detectives are trained to find (or enhance the chances of finding) lost or missing pets. They use a mix of profiling, search-and-rescue, surveillance, even grief counseling techniques. They often use high-tech tools, from night-vision binoculars to motion-activated surveillance cameras. Their strategies have reunited thousands of lost pets with their human companions. There are even professional organizations, such as Pet Hunters International and Pet Detective University, that train PIs to become certified pet detectives.
Bloodhounds and other dogs can also be trained to assist pet PIs. Just as trailing dogs like German Shepherds, bloodhounds, and Border Collies can follow a human scent, they can also follow the scent of a pet from something like the cat’s bed or a dog’s favorite chew toy. Also, some search dogs are trained to detect specific animals, such as cats, while others
serve to attract other canines.
Tips for Writing a Pet Detective
If you’re writing a story with a sleuth who finds lost pets, think about the following questions:
- Does he/she own a search dog?
- What tools does your pet PI use? For example, night-vision binoculars, motion-activated surveillance cameras, a bionic ear to amplify sounds?
- In real-life, a pet PI can make a lucrative living, from set fees of $300 to $1,000 a day. Does your character charge similarly? If so, his/her lifestyle will reflect a high income (unless they’re not very good with money or they have other financial obligations).
- What investigative traits does your fictional pet PI use? As with other PIs, they might rely on their reasoning, analysis of physical evidence, interview and interrogation, and surveillance techniques to recover lost pets.
- Where did your fictional pet PI learn about animal behavior-for example, in college, in a veterinarian’s office, or while growing up on a farm?
There’s one last point about writing a pet detective: he/she probably has a big heart. After all, animals possess all that is best in humans.
About the Author:
Colleen Collins-Kaufman is a professional PI and multi-published author. She and her business partner also teach online classes for writers developing sleuths and detective fiction. For more information, go to http://www.writingprivateinvestigators.com