Why one woman decided to train a search dog

2:29 min

What do you do if you have a pet that runs away? Thousands of people help you try to find your pet, but if they still don't turn up, then what?

If you're like Maria Andersson, you jump in the game to make it easier for other people who're faced with similar situations.

Soon, it'll be two years since hundreds of people in the southwestern counties of Halland and Västra Götaland helped look for two dogs that ran away in the forest outside of Gunnarsjö. Despite all this manpower, Lotus and Mingla never turned up.

If their owner, Maria Andersson, had had access to a search dog, she might have been able to find her pets quickly. The problem is that there aren't many trained search dogs in Sweden. And so when Maria Andersson realized this, she decided to start training a search dog, to be on hand to help other people who found themselves looking for a loved one who's disappeared, whether animal or human.

Andersson says that doing this was a way for her to come to terms with what happened and somehow get to experience the reunion that she will never be able to have.

Lotus and Mingla ran away one night just before Christmas. Hundreds of people searched in the woods, and even today, there are volunteers out in the forests in northern Halland, looking, and the Facebook group dedicated to bringing the dogs home still has over three thousand members.

Andersson's pretty sure that her two dogs are still alive. The most recent report came in from a woman who claimed to have seen them early this July, skinny - but together - in the forest.

Early in the process of looking for Lotus and Mingla, Maria tried to get a hold of a search dog to help find them, but none were available. That's what made her decide to start training her Leonberger puppy Pinja to become one.

Pinja is two years old now, and got certified as a search dog this summer. She's trained to pick up traces with the help of something that belonged to the person or animal that disappeared.

Now, it's too late to find Lotus and Mingle with the help of scent traces from home, it's been too long.

It's frustrating for Andersson to think that having had access to a search dog probably would have meant she'd have been able to find Lotus and Mingla right away.

She says: "Pinja and I can help someone experience what we never got to, ourselves - the dear reunion with someone who had disappeared. It's wonderful. Now, when someone who's been missing turns up, I cry."