Private investigator Sun Jinrong (孫錦榮) carried heat detectors, tiny surveillance cameras and a blowgun loaded with a tranquilizer on his search for one desperate client’s missing loved one: A cat named Duoduo.
Unlike Jim Carrey’s goofy Ace Ventura character, the man dubbed by China’s media as the nation’s first pet detective is a stony-faced animal lover who solves cases with the help of high-tech gear worth thousands of dollars.
With dogged determination, Sun has reunited about 1,000 missing pets with their owners since he launched his business seven years ago.
Clients pay 8,000 yuan (US$1,139) for the service provided by his company, which has 10 employees and is based in Shanghai.
Sun said that he often gets calls from anguished pet owners in the middle of the night and rushes to cities and towns across the nation to help.
Dog ownership was banned as bourgeois vanity under Mao Zedong (毛澤東), but Chinese society’s views of pets have changed and there are now 91.5 million cats and dogs in the country, data from Pet Fair Asia and pet Web site Goumin.com showed.
Pets are sometimes stolen rather than lost, and dogs are occasionally sold for their meat, Sun said.
“Most pet owners get very flustered,” Sun said. “They don’t even own a flashlight. They can only look for cats in the dark by the weak light of their phones.”
“We have advanced equipment and accumulated cases over the years to analyze the data. We can think of 10 things to do while the owner can think of one or two,” he said.
About 10 other pet detectives have appeared in the past two years, he added.
Sun boasts a success rate of about 60 to 70 percent, but could he find Duoduo?
The owner, Li Hongtao, hired Sun to travel to Beijing and find his much-loved cat.
The British shorthair had last been seen in an underground parking garage two days before the search, reducing the chances of finding him.
“He’s family to me,” Li said.
Sun set right to work, unpacking a 50kg black suitcase containing three thermal imaging cameras, an endoscope and a handheld machine used to detect life under the rubble after earthquakes.
He walked while pointing a heat detector around the garage. He inspected some excrement on the floor, but determined that it was not from the animal he was looking for.
“Cats have hair in their feces. The color here is not right,” Sun said.
The eagle-eyed detective then found a big clue: paw prints on dusty pipes, leading him to determine Duoduo fled into a nearby grassy area outside.
To lure the cat, a speaker hanging from Sun’s suitcase blared the recorded voice of his owner.
Sun and his assistant, Huang Yan, also placed Duoduo’s favorite cat food inside a grass-colored cage with a trap door.
When Sun spotted an opening in a rock, he pushed the small lens of the endoscope inside the gap. Duoduo was not there.
He attached a camera on a tree and waited for nightfall.
“We have no predecessors in this industry. We are all crossing the river by feeling the stones,” Sun said, using a famous Chinese saying.
He said that he adapted techniques he learned from hunters.
“You have to be extremely careful when capturing pets. You can’t catch small dogs like pomeranians with a net. Their hearts are very small. It could kill them,” Sun said.
Sun mainly works late at night, when it is less noisy, raising the chance that a lost animal will emerge from hiding. He stays up, sometimes in a tent, waiting for any sign of the pet.
At about midnight, as he waited for any sign of Duoduo, a figure flashed across the monitor. Huang and Sun scanned the area and saw the cat in the bushes.
He opted not to use the blowgun, but instead called Li, who could barely contain his excitement when he arrived and saw Duoduo.
Li called to the cat, but the stressed pet would not budge.
After 10 agonizing minutes, Li approached Duoduo and grabbed his cat.
“Let’s go home!” Li told Duoduo, stroking the prodigal cat’s fur.
Those are some of Sun’s favorite words.
“When our case is solved, it’s basically a reunion,” he said. “It’s a happy moment.”
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