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Michael James

Featured Article

Local Pet Hero

A firsthand account of losing — and finding — a beloved pet, with the help of a devoted man.

Last November, a pet owner’s worst nightmare came true for my family. 

Our Lab/Poodle mix, Samantha, ran away from a pet sitter who was watching her over a weekend while my husband and I were away. We flew home immediately and put together a search party, but Samantha was not found for eight full, painful days. 

The pet sitter lived close to the highway, and Samantha was not familiar with her surroundings. While she does have a microchip, her collar had been taken off so there was no way for anyone to know where she belonged or who she belonged to. 

After posting on Facebook that Sammie had gone missing, I began getting an influx of messages recommending a local dog trapper by the name of Michael James. I had no idea what a trapper did or that such a person even existed. But exist he does, and here is the harrowing story of Sammie’s safe return, along with the backstory of how she was found.

Born and raised in West Bloomfield, Michael has always had a passion for saving animals in need. He is the director of Ferndale-based Help Us, Help Them Dog Rescue (; previously called Lending A Helping Paw), and one of only 10 trappers throughout the state. He regularly volunteers across Michigan and fosters and rehabilitates animals in his spare time. 

What Michael taught me was when a dog becomes lost they go into what we call “survival mode," also known as “fight or flight mode.” It’s as if a switch goes off in their head and the dog's mentality is no longer domesticated. Unfortunately, once a dog goes into survival mode, they are no longer the pet you know and love. They now are trying to survive solely on themselves as they revert back to their primal instincts of food/water, safety and shelter. Some dogs go into survival mode immediately while others take longer. Because your lost pet might be in survival mode, Michael suggests specific dos and don’ts when searching for him.

1. Focus on how to approach the situation at hand. Consistency and communication are key. 

2. Create an 11x17 “Lost Dog” poster that states that the dog is missing and is fearful, and not to approach, call out, feed or chase him. In addition to posting the sign in the neighborhood, post the sign and post on the proper channels including: For The Love of Louie on social media; Facebook, including all lost dog and local community forums within a five-mile radius of where he was last seen; Nextdoor neighborhood app. Do not post the dog's name or offer a reward, as you do not want the wrong people going after your dog. Also, you want the dog to leave the area or be chased into oncoming traffic. 

3. Let everyone who lives, works or plays in the area, including postal workers, know about the missing pet. 

4. Return to where the pet was last seen with a cellular trail camera, the dog's bed, clothing and scented food to create a feeding station. Set the camera facing the food. 

5. If your pet is microchipped, make sure that all of the information is up to date and that you report the pet as missing to the microchipping company. 

6. Contact local city and county Animal Control, as well as each police station, up to a five-mile radius. 

7. Locate a dog trapper if needed. 

Michael takes time with the family to reassure and gain trust while learning about the dog’s personality and temperament. He’s remained close with more than 90 percent of his rescue families. While word of mouth and Facebook are the main ways to reach him, he does take on referrals and many other cases where other dog trappers have failed or in conjunction with them. He does not charge for his advice and/or services, but welcomes donations to his dog rescue. 

I can’t say enough about getting to know him. It was a miracle that he found Samantha, along with more than 500 lost and/or stray, fearful dogs. It takes a special person to do what he does and he does it purely out of the goodness of his heart. 

Hopefully, none of you will ever have to endure such a nightmare. But if you do, I hope this information will be helpful in bringing your beloved pet home.

  • The author's dog, Samantha. Photo by Ron Lieberman
  • Michael James