Having a pet can be an experience like no other. The friendship between a pet and owner can create a bond that can last a lifetime. It has been proven that pets provide therapy as well as happiness, but they also bring unconditional love, support, and companionship.

Sometimes however, pets lose their way and get lost. When this happens, more often than not, a part of us becomes lost with them. Fortunately, there is a man who searches for missing pets and works hard to return them to their homes.

David Messner, a man committed to helping folks reunite with their lost pets is also a man compelled to help animals in general. He does this by search and rescue, training, and adoption. In David’s house alone, all of the pets that live there are rescued animals. All have been trained, or are being trained, to not only live safe and be what he refers to as “homeable”, but also to live helpful lives.

Training animals is something David has been doing since he was a youth. His mother was a veterinarian in Yankton and also a big influence on his pursuit to work with animals. David worked with ferrets in the beginning and quickly came to understand that by interpreting the natural habits of ferrets, cues can be created to help train them.

“Back in the late 80’s early 90’s, ferrets were a popular animal to have and they were very close to being feral. Unlike a cat that bites, you do not have to reach into a cage to be close to it (cat), as you would have to do with a ferret,” David says. “At one point we had between 12 to 14 ferrets living in my mom’s basement. Every one of them got a home, I retrained and domesticated them. I was 12 or 13 years old at the time and that is where I started learning patterns and observing.”

David’s observational abilities began early and were developed even further by doing service in the United States Army.

“In the Army I learned heavy observation. As a Forward Area Scout, my job was to watch and observe, make predictions about what was going on. That just enforced what I already started doing when I was young.”

It became very apparent to David that with the skills he acquired at a young age, coupled with the training and honing of those certain skills in the service, he had a natural ability to work with animals.

David explains that animals cannot understand the nuances of human language; therefore the word “No” doesn’t mean much to a dog.

“If you watch two dogs interact, the way dog “A” will correct dog “B” is done by two primary methods. One, it will nip at the neck. Two, the noise that the dog will make to the other is not a normal barking noise, but a quick sharp noise similar to a “yip”.

For this reason, David uses Clicker Training when working with canines. The Clicker gives the sharp tone needed to communicate immediately with an animal and makes training more successful.

David’s love for animals goes beyond training them. When a pet becomes lost he is the first to volunteer to help search for a dog, cat, or whatever critter it may be, that needs help finding its way home.

David uses a variety of techniques to aid in the search and rescue of missing pets. He uses community networking and the social media site Facebook. David has also created a Facebook page called Find My to post pictures of a missing pet, upload videos and maps of places where the pet was last seen, and present up-to-date posts of information about the search.

The social media site Facebook is a very effective tool in the aid of searching for a lost pet David informs me, and through that medium, he has gathered a following.


“I have a large number of people who like animals. I can say that I have 24 “regulars” that I know are going to share (the information) when they have seen the story about a missing animal.”

David refers to these folks as his fan club, but the social connections and networking is not limited to just Facebook and his page Find My Pet. Other avenues have presented themselves since he has begun this endeavor of finding missing pets.

“There are people that I have met in church and people that do there own version of this in other towns.”

David shares one particular account he had with a woman who did more than just spread the word via the Internet; she actually joined in the search for a missing pet.

“A real interesting lady on Facebook brought her dog out to help me try to get our dog Hannah to come to us. Real nice lady, just did it for no reason, other than she was interested in the story.”

David’s posts about missing pets have a narrative quality he hopes will capture interest and perhaps motivate folks to help. He refers to these as “stories”, and David utilizes these stories to effectively communicate useful information such as a pet’s name, perhaps a last seen location, and other vital knowledge that my be useful in finding a missing pet.

“That’s the key to getting people to help look for your animal. Make a story and update it as much as you can.”

A web page, social media, and personal networking are all important tools when searching for a pet, but there is one implement David utilizes that gives his work a unique and higher perspective. That tool is a Mavic Pro which is a multi-rotor, remote controlled (RC) flying device, or in simple terms which we can all understand, a Drone.

David is a certified licensed Drone operator. He uses the Drone to scan areas from above to take pictures and video with a high-resolution 4K camera attached to it’s underside.

The capabilities of a Drone are impressive. It can have a range of 4.2 miles with the proper antennas. David’s Mavic Pro can cover a distant of 1000 yards. It has 4K video capability, allowing it to bring into sharp focus the landscape and any traces such as an animal’s tracks. The animal itself may be brought into the video lens if it is out and about when the Drone flies over. David informs me that an animal will stop, listen, and become curious when it hears a Drone overhead, because of the sound it makes as it flies.

Battery life for the Drone averages between 28 to 30 minutes in light wind and 20 minutes in a heavy wind. The Drone can reach an altitude of 400 ft. David reached a height of 150 feet the day he demonstrated his piloting skills for this article. The Mavic Pro is a very impressive device.

David has one more tool he plans to utilize in future search and rescue missions. It doesn’t run on batteries, nor does it fly, or use a computer for social networking. No, this instrument has fur, four legs, and an energy and intelligence that makes him perfect for herding in scared dogs. This ally is a Blue Heeler Australian Cattle dog named “Blue”.

Blue, a recent rescue, is currently in training to learn how to stop a frightened dog and bring it back to safety, either by keeping it occupied so that a restraint can be placed on it, or by herding the dog and leading it to safety. David has no doubt that Blue has the intelligence and capabilities to be an excellent addition to the team.

“I am teaching Blue encouragement when he does body blocks and shoves while playing with his brother Loki, (an Australian Shepherd that is another of David’s rescued pets). I don’t want him jumping; I want him using his body when he plays. I encourage distracting, safe behavior. I don’t want him doing any threatening behavior towards an older or younger dog, because Blue will be very strong once he is full size. He will be more agile possibly than the dogs he is going after. I don’t want fighting.”

It is David’s hope that by training and implementing Blue, his success at retrieving lost dogs will be better than ever.

David has tracked dogs, has used his observation skills to determine the best locations to search, and has used a variety of techniques to achieve a successful return. On one occasion, David used cologne to lure a dog back home.

“I found tracks of where this dog had been going and I started leaving food piles and marking areas with Old Spice cologne. I would leave a trail to the food with the cologne so that the dog would think “food” when it smelled Old Spice. The dog began to follow the cologne trails thinking food was near. I left a trail leading to the dog’s home and soon the dog came. It’s all about being creative,” David says. “The reason I chose Old Spice is because when I walked into the pet owner’s home the guy smelled like Old Spice. So it made sense to use that cologne because the dog would connect to that scent.” A very creative approach indeed!

In his crusade to rescue lost pets, David certainly has a talent and the tools to make an impact. Although David is a busy man, he still finds time to create professional “lost pet” fliers with his graphic design skills, volunteers with the local Boy Scouts, and runs a side business repairing electronic devices such as laptops and tablets. David has given the community a role model for compassion. He helps those who cannot help themselves.

The next time you see David, perhaps with his fiancé Melanie, and his dogs Loki, Blue, and Elanor the Lab, give him a “Thank You” and tell him to keep up the good work. What he does for our four-legged friends is wonderful.