PHILADELPHIA — On an especially cold week in March 2019, Karen Jackson and her family welcomed a new member to their Westtown home: a 3-year-old female Great Pyrenees mix, adopted from a local rescue. But their delight was short-lived. Within hours of bringing the dog home — they hadn't even decided on a name for her — the pooch had slipped out the front door and disappeared into the night.
"She just kept running, and we couldn't find her," Jackson said.
Distraught, they did everything they could think of: contacted the rescue they adopted her from, posted lost-dog notices, searched the neighborhood. Then they got a call from a woman who said she would like to help. Her name was Cathy Herman-Harsch.
Within four days, Herman-Harsch found the dog, which the Jacksons have named Beatrix, a.k.a. Trixie.
"Everything she did I don't think would have come naturally to anyone," Jackson said.
And Herman-Harsch wouldn't take a dime from the Jacksons.
"It's like finding somebody's child," said Herman-Harsch, 58. "You're finding a family member."
Herman-Harsch is a special breed of animal lover. For nearly 18 years, she has made her living with All Things 4 Legged & Personal, her Chester County, Pa., pet-care business. But her avocation is helping people find their lost dogs and cats. It's something this Navy veteran and former IT worker has learned over the years of studying and observing companion animals — her own and others.
"It's understanding their behavior," she said. "It's thinking like a dog, thinking like a cat: 'If I was out here lost, what would I do?'"
Finding a lost animal takes persistence, said Herman-Harsch, who runs her volunteer operation with three other women and her son Johnathan, 17.