by Kyle Swenson
Once your web browser elbows past the dudes hocking toasters or trying to find the girl with the lip ring from the coffee shop, Craigslist is the wide open plains of weirdness. Case in point: if you've been wandering around the Cleveland section of the web site’s lost and found listings, you might have spotted an ad for a real life pet detective.
But Jim Berns ain't no Ace Ventura, and he's fine with that. A Cincinnati businessman and employee at local architecture school, Berns moonlights looking for lost dogs and cats, the only such sleuth not only in Ohio, but the surrounding region. With undaunted, animated earnestness only a multi-national nuclear strike could dent, he offers his services to heartsick owners willing to open their wallets.
“We're not a silver bullet, we don't work magic,” Berns cautions. “But when you've tried everything else and you don't want to give up, we definitely make a difference.”
Berns grew up on a farm hunting small animals with the aid of bloodhounds. He originally got into pet detection a couple years back after his daughter in California came up with the idea of using hunting dogs to track down missing pets. When Berns gets a call from desperate owner missing their Muffy, he heads to the neighborhood and papers the area with commercial sized posters with the pet's info. Then, he hauls out a bloodhound and coonhound, asks the owner for a smell sample, and goes after the stray.
“I get to go hunting and I don't have to kill anything,” he says, his voice brimming over with cheer.
Simple as it sounds, Berns gets results: he estimates he's been on around 200 searches; he's found 130 — not a bad completion percentage. “I don't count them as successes if we find the poor thing dead,” he explains. “I couldn't bring myself to put that in the win column.” Because of that record, Berns regularly gets calls around Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and even Missouri and New York.
Berns services can be pricey. He refrains from putting out specifics on the record, but says the cost of his services is somewhere in the range of a plumber's visit. When he travels, the price goes up. But even when an owner can't cough up the expense, the ever-friendly Berns isn't one to slam the door in anybody's face.
“I probably give 30 people free advice for every search I go on.”