I Hired An Actual Pet Detective: Here’s What Happened

Alma Girau
7 min readOct 7, 2020

The results were not what I expected

Photo courtesy Jasper Jones on coolwallpapers.com https://www.coolwallpapers.me/1087812-ace-ventura-when-nature-calls.html’

Birthday wishes are really weird. That two second window between when people are done singing “Happy Birthday” to you and blowing the candles out is not enough time at all to make a potentially life-altering plea to the universe. A fortune, a new car, a trip somewhere amazing are things people hope for all the time. For some reason, for as long as I could remember, the image that always flashed in my mind as soon as I shut my eyes was a kitten. I wanted a tiny gray and black striped kitten with green eyes and a pink nose. I don’t even know if I actually wanted a kitten. It just kept coming to me every freaking year.

At 22, I was really tired of wasting my annual ask on a kitten that I never got or even saw in real life. I decided to say something to my mom and sister about my 22 year old dream a month before my birthday. I didn’t get too detailed with the description because if a kitten materialized that day at all, I’d consider it a miracle. My mom is not a pet person and especially dislikes cats.

The day finally came and on my lap landed a folder that read “Miami Dade Animal Services” with a portrait of a Labrador and a Russian blue cat on the cover. Holy shit. I opened the folder and inside I found adoption papers for a tiny scraggly little black kitten named “Lucy”. I was told that she was still too young to be given to us but she was mine. I stared at her tiny picture, my eyes watering. When I looked up, my brother in law was holding my Lucy. I started bawling. All those YouTube videos of kids flipping out when they get tiny animals are legit. I don’t know what I needed that this little fur baby immediately provided when I looked at her but I felt like I’d just gained something I should’ve always had.

She stayed inside with us for about a month before my mom had enough. Lucy was rambunctious and we had a lot of stupid breakables. Shelves filled with Holly Hobby dolls, vintage perfume bottles, decorative picture frames were in almost every room of the house and Lucy broke a lot of shit. The only way my mom would let me keep her was if we made her an outside cat. I was heartbroken but I felt had no choice.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I never went a day without seeing her and if she ever left our yard, I didn’t notice. I called her name every day and night during mealtimes and within a minute she’d appear and eat happily. She hung out with my dog Toby all the time and I stopped worrying about her.

When I graduated from college, I spent the summer in New York with my brother and landed a job that was going to keep me at least until December. I FaceTimed daily with Lucy and Toby. I don’t know much about what happened with my family during that time but Lucy and Toby were alive and taken care of. On November 1, 2016 my mom called me at 6:45 in the morning. Her voice was solemn. She told me Lucy had gone missing. She said she called for her the night before for dinner but she didn’t turn up and didn’t think anything of it until the next morning when she called for her again for breakfast and Lucy was nowhere to be found. I broke down and cried. I was completely helpless and felt as if it was my fault. I should’ve brought her with me to New York. I should’ve known this would happen eventually. I shouldn’t have asked for a cat at all.

I made a flyer and posted it in all of my hometown’s Facebook groups and my family printed them and posted them all over the neighborhood. Hardly anyone reached out. A week went by and I was desperate. In a state of delusion and paranoia, it occurred to me that Ace Ventura had to be based on something. Like there had to be actual pet detectives out there right? I did a quick search and found Amanda. She’d had articles written about her in local papers and even had videos on her website of her pleading on news stations for people to keep an eye out for her clients’ lost pets. If anyone was going to make this happen, it was going to be her.

I contacted Amanda and she had exactly the tone I needed. She was sympathetic but focused, determined. She walked me through the process step by step and let me know that this would be tricky considering it was a cat and people in Miami aren’t too sympathetic about cats. They’re akin to rodents and black cats are especially disdained due to superstitious culture. Everything I loved about her put her more at risk for already being dead.

The first step was called a campaign. I sent Amanda a description according to her specifications and two photos of Lucy — one of her perched on our dominoes table looking directly at the camera and another of her walking in the yard. The photo of her in the yard was more valuable because it would make her more recognizable if she was seen walking by in the street or in someone else’s yard. I couldn’t afford to give more than a $500 reward for her safe return especially with Amanda’s price tag for the campaign alone. Huge bright yellow flyers with red and black bold lettering were printed, laminated, and posted on every busy intersection in my neighborhood according to Amanda’s research. At this point, all Amanda had really done was make this flyer and give us the intersections to post it. I never met her in person and neither did anyone in my family. We printed it and my family posted it at the given spots. She also shared the flyer on her own Facebook group, which gained us a lot of sympathy but no leads.

Almost immediately I was flooded with calls and text messages. My dad and sister went to every spot that I thought might be a lead. They even went to a spot where someone claimed they saw my cat dead in the street. This went on for months.

I was still living in New York 3 months later and privately mourned my presumably dead cat. It had been so long and I felt that she would be found by now if she was alive. Exactly 100 days after her disappearance, a photo appeared in my messages. It had to be Lucy. She has a distinct white spot on the right side of her upper lip that made it easy to identify her and this cat on my phone had the spot. No other cat had it and these people were located a few blocks away from my mom’s house.

I quickly arranged for them to meet with my dad and this cat was in my mom’s back porch that night. My sister FaceTimed me hoping that I could confirm a match but I was extremely skeptical upon seeing her. This cat was absolutely massive. She was more than twice Lucy’s size. She was bigger than Toby. She wasn’t obese, she was just extremely tall and extremely long. A “horse cat” is how she was later described to me.

Thankfully Lucy was chipped so the cat was able to be taken to the vet the next day where they informed us that it could not be Lucy because she wasn’t chipped. My sister was skeptical of this because the vet didn’t check the proper area for the chip and was very lazy and apathetic about the entire dilemma. She got a second opinion where we received confirmation that this gigantic cat was in fact Lucy.

I got a ticket home immediately and took the weekend off to retrieve my wish come true. She was sweet and beautiful and elegant. Scarily huge but gorgeous. Lucy became my emotional support animal and I brought her back to New York where I stayed for another year before moving back to Miami.

I called Amanda to let her know that we had recovered Lucy and to thank her for the flyer. She was shocked. She said no cat has ever been recovered after that long; we had broken a record. The final step in the “investigation” was sharing our story. She wanted to update her Facebook post with a lengthy narrative that we had to provide details for. It would inevitably paint herself as the hero of the story when my family were the ones who really pulled this off. I never contacted her again. Amanda was no Ace Ventura but she definitely makes extremely effective flyers.

I thought that finding a lost outdoor cat was a long shot. My dad even told me a story where he was giving my uncle a ride and happened to pass by one of our obnoxious flyers. “Who the fuck would pay $500 for a cat? What an idiot.” He burst into laughter and revealed that his daughter was the idiot and that he was also invested because he was the one who put the flyer up. I was a laughing stock in my extended family and probably my entire neighborhood but I didn’t care. Lucy will live out the rest of her days safe and warm, most importantly indoors, lounging wherever I go.



Alma Girau

Shameless. Latinx. Embroidery artist and writer.