When a beloved pet goes missing, the loss is devastating. Many dog owners consider their furry friends members of the family — and that’s exactly why Ryan Bulson dedicates his free time to finding wayward dogs.
It all began 11 years ago when Bulson began volunteering with a German shepherd rescue.
“A lot of it was going to the kennels and walking the dogs that didn’t have anybody, showing them some love,” Bulson told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.
When Bulson heard that an adopted German shepherd had gotten loose, he jumped at the chance to help find the lost pet. Successfully returning a dog back to its owner for the first time was an experience he’ll cherish forever.
“The feeling you get when you return that dog to that owner. Or you call that owner and say, ‘I have your dog,'” Bulson told WQAD-TV. “It’s a feeling you’ll never forget.”
In talking to Liftable, Bulson compared the joy of reuniting a dog with its owner to the feeling parents experience at the birth of their first child.
Hooked, Bulson continued assisting with dog rescue missions, enjoying just about every moment of it.
About 8 years ago, he decided to strike out on his own and reach out to families in need of an expert dog finder. He knew there was a need, especially because many owners have no idea what to do to find their missing dogs.
“I want people to know that there [are] people out there that they can turn to that will help,” Bulson said.
Bulson’s services are completely free. For him, the greatest reward is the relief and elation he witnesses when he returns a lost dog to its owners — though some sneaky owners have still found ways to cover his gas money or stick bills in his gear that he only discovers later.
He also admits that the search and rescue process can be rather fun for an “adrenaline junkie” like him.
It also helps that Bulson just simply adores dogs. He loves them so much that he has seven of his own, and he refers to them as his kids.
To better prepare himself for dog rescue, Bulson has worked with professional dog trainers to learn how different breeds and personalities think and act. He has learned to pay special attention to dogs’ body language in photos and videos for clues as to how they might act when on the run.
“What body language are they going to exhibit if they’re a fearful dog? What body language are they going to exhibit if they’re comfortable?” Bulson asks himself when examining photos of a lost dog.
He says he’s constantly refining his methods, changing them as he learns what works and what doesn’t work, and tailors every rescue effort to what he knows about the particular dog he’s tracking.
Now, he’s known as the dog “bounty hunter” of York County, Maryland — but his fame is quickly spreading, and he’s been getting requests for assistance from all over the United States.
When Beth and Orlando Ibanez lost their pug, Mia, Bulson knew when and where she would reappear just by examining her behaviors and patterns caught on video, according to WQAD-TV. He managed to catch her 10 days later by using a “dog-pen trap” that could be closed remotely.
However, not every rescue goes quite as smoothly or as quickly. Bulson’s most memorable rescue effort took him six months. Nevertheless, his determination eventually paid off.
Bulson dedicated every weekend for half a year to locating Annie the German shepherd. Unfortunately, she was nervous around the cameras he typically uses to capture a dog’s movements and patterns. Instead, he had to rely on word of mouth to locate her.
“It takes one big break to be able to make a capture,” Bulson said. “That one sighting that you get could bust [the case] wide open.”
Finally, a woman who had seen Annie at her apartment complex contacted Bulson. Alongside 31 other volunteers, Bulson successfully organized Annie’s capture and finally returned her to her owner.
“I think I have something in the back of this truck that belongs to you,” he said when he arrived at the elated owner’s home.
“And she literally hit the ground,” he said, referring to the owner. “Literally fell to the ground in tears. That’s a feeling that you’ll never experience again.”
Thanks to Bulson’s kindness and love for dogs, families across the United States have been reunited with their best friends and four-legged kids. His story proves that if you have determination, what has been lost will be found.
“You can’t give up,” he said. “You gotta hang in there.”
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