DATE April 22, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Tom Evangelista discusses his life, career and HBO
series about his family
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.
Like a lot of Americans, Tom Evangelista runs a family business, but his isn't
a corner store or an Internet company. Evangelista operates a bail-bond
business in Queens, New York, employing his wife, son, nephew and cousin in
running an office and when they have to tracking down fugitives who skip
bail. Evangelista's family is as colorful as his job. His brassy blonde
wife, Flo, will say just about anything, and his oversized nephew, Chris, has
a way of adding a little drama to every day. We got to know them last year
when they were the subject of a 10-part documentary series on HBO called
DAVIES: Explain to us, if you will, what a bail bondsman does. How does he
make or lose money?
Mr. TOM EVANGELISTA: I'm an insurance agent. That's pretty much what I am.
I write through an insurance company. And when people don't have enough money
to pay a cash bail--if a bail was $100,000 and they don't have that type of
money--they would come to me, and they would put up probably a piece of
property or a very large percentage of that in cash, and then we would take
the risk and charge them a premium. Just like your homeowners, your auto or
your health insurance, there's a mandated premium that's set by the state of
New York. And then that's how I make a living, from the commissions off of
DAVIES: And then while your defendant is out on bail awaiting trial, they're
supposed to check in with you regularly. You're supposed to know where they
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, the best way to put it is that I can't guarantee his
presence unless, you know, I monitor his activities. We monitor their
activities based on our guarantee or our affidavits that say that we promise
to either bring them to court or to pay. So the only way I can guarantee that
is if I know what his activities are or if I at least monitor his activities.
And the activities being making sure he doesn't leave the state, you know, he
doesn't flee or make an attempt to flee or someone has his bags packed. On
the other hand, too, I mean, we don't bail people out to continue to commit
crimes. We may very well do an inspection and find, you know, a houseful of
drugs. If we do, he goes back and he loses--whatever he has there in regards
to drugs, depending on what jurisdiction we're in, we'll call NYPD, and
they'll come in and they'll take over that case. But, you know, we bail
people out so they can face the judge, you know, like a gentleman or a lady,
with their attorney and fight their case.
DAVIES: Now if they disappear, you come get them, right?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, if they disappear, then that's when I go from wearing
a suit to wearing some street clothes. And, yes, I will pursue them, look for
them, apprehend them and bring them back to the judge.
DAVIES: When you're at work, when you're out apprehending someone, I would
imagine that you probably want to give that defendant the immediate impression
that it makes no sense for them to resist you or to flee. Now the audience
can't see you. Describe, if you will, what you look like and what you wear
when you're out recovering a fugitive.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, I mean, my normal stuff that I would wear when I go
out to apprehend a fugitive would be, you know, probably a regular pair of
street jeans, probably my sneakers or my boots. But, you know, we carry some
self-defense stuff in regards to OC spray, asperton(ph) and always carry, you
know, handcuffs and then shirts that identify who we are and ID cards and
badges who identify who we are. As far as my personal appearance, I mean, you
know, I'm not a wrestler. I'm an average guy, you know.
DAVIES: Well, you're muscular, and you bring a number of guys with you. So
there's sort of a pretty overpowering presence, I guess. I mean, not that you
bully people, but--right.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, that's the whole idea of it. I mean, I'm not going
to go pick up one guy with two guys. I'm going to go there and pick him up
with four guys because, you know, the way that I look at it is this: The guy
doesn't show up for court, that's a no-no. And now my job is to turn around
and bring him back, so the indemnitor, whoever signed for him, does not have
to pay and, in turn, I don't have to pay. But the most important thing is
this: I treat everybody the same. If they want to be treated like gentlemen,
they know that the somewhat--jig is up. They're going back. They can either
go back like gentlemen, and that's exactly the way I'll treat them, or they're
going to go back and we'll make a stop for some medical attention, and then
they'll go back. But they're going back. I mean, that's it, plain and
Thank God--I mean, I've been doing this for over 10 years, and I've never had
to even give anybody a Band-Aid, and I don't want to either. We don't want
that kind of confrontation. I make it so I use my brain more than we do
muscle, if--that's probably the best term.
DAVIES: Right. And you also use your voice. I mean, the way you said that
to me, `We can go back with a stop for some medical attention, or we can just
go back,' that communicated to me that you are not a guy I want to take it
outside with. I mean, I'm wondering, did you develop a certain way of shaping
your voice and your presence when you talk to defendants, or did that come
Mr. EVANGELISTA: It came after I was stabbed once or twice and got the
(censored) smacked out of me, excuse me, a couple of times. And then I
realized that, you know, this is not getting anywhere being Mr. Nice Guy. And
it's not that I'm not a nice guy, but when you push me on that side of the
wire, OK?--right now I'm in the middle. I'm between the courts and the
defendant, and as long as we stay on that fine line, then we have no problems;
I have no reason to come and see you. But if you push me on to that side,
then it's almost like you would see, you know, a metamorphose change. I mean,
I go from Mr. Nice Guy standing in the courtroom with a shirt and a tie to,
`Tom's going to go get his money,' because now it's a dollar sign. And I have
to look at it that way. It's nothing personal; it's just business.
DAVIES: Have you been stabbed?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Yes.
DAVIES: Tell us about that.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I had a defendant that didn't show up for court--well,
actually he did show up for court. I take that back. He was beating his wife
up, and then he disappeared for about four or five days. We started to look
for him. His next court date--I think he had about two or three days. But
when he showed back up--he was a Hispanic gentleman probably in his
mid-40s--drunk out of his mind, shows up and I guess threatened that he was
going to shoot everybody in the house, and he had a loaded gun, you know,
tucked in his pants--but when I got there, he was listening to Spanish music
with a bottle of rum in his hand, and he was dancing around in circles. But
every time that the guy tried to--every time the guy got his back to me, I
wanted to come in--I'm looking through the window here. I want to come into
the door and try to get the guy, but I'm afraid he's going to turn around and
get the gun and start shooting.
So, I mean, you know, I did probably the smartest thing. I just knocked. And
when I knocked, he came to the door drunk, and I went, `Jose.' And he said,
`Hola.' And he lifted his hands up, and I took the gun out and I pushed
him in. And as I was putting cuffs on him, the person that--one of the people
I was with wasn't watching my back. And his daughter that's about 12 or 13
years old stuck me in the ass with a metal nail file.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: So that was one of my battle scars. I got stuck in the
right cheek, and I had to be taken to the hospital because it was so close to
a major artery that was in the cheek of my butt that--I covered it up with
duct tape, but then the ambulance guy took me there with this thing sticking
out of my butt.
DAVIES: So you didn't want to pull the nail file out yourself.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: No. Well, I couldn't. They told me not to do it. When we
called for the ambulance, they said, you know--and then when the guy looked at
it, he said, `You're lucky you didn't 'cause we don't know how close this is
to your artery. You ought to actually take an X-ray.' But, lo and behold,
when I go in there, I find--you know, this was in East Meadow in the hospital
in Nassau County. And I have, like, three or four people that I know that I
went to high school with that are in there, and they're all nurses. And, of
course, I have this file sticking out of my butt. It wasn't one of my most,
you know, memorable moments.
DAVIES: Well, it was probably one of their most memorable moments.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: It certainly was. I still hear about that.
DAVIES: Well, Tom Evangelista, I'd like to play our audience a clip from the
show. And this is one of the crew that works with you on the apprehensions,
Dan Boswith, and he's describing--he's talking to your teen-age son, Sal. He
was a teen-ager when this was taped working at a pizza shop. And he's
describing a recovery that they'd gone through the night before. Let's
(Soundbite of "Family Bonds"; music)
SAL EVANGELISA: What's going on, bro?
Mr. DAN BOSWITH: What's going on, man?
EVANGELISTA: Hey, dude, what time did you come home last night?
Mr. BOSWITH: Like 3 in the morning. You missed an awesome recovery.
EVANGELISTA: What happened?
Mr. BOSWITH: Holy (censored). We got to the house. (Censored) lady answers
the door with a knife. And Chris is like, `Can you put that knife away?' He
says, `We really need to come in and discuss something. We're here for
so-and-so.' So we go in and we search the whole house. Chris goes near the
crib, pulls the laundry bag out, and there's the guy under the friggin' crib.
EVANGELISTA: He was hiding under a baby crib?
Mr. BOSWITH: He was hiding under the baby's crib, the little (censored).
And then all of a sudden she starts flipping out, trying to jump on your
father's back and (censored) claw (censored). And she just got claw marks on
his neck. So I went up, I grab her around the waist, and I just held her up
in the air by her waist. You missed a great one last night.
EVANGELISTA: Well, once I turn 18, I'm never going to miss one, bro. I'll be
there every day.
Mr. BOSWITH: You gotta come out.
EVANGELISTA: I can't even come and stay in the van. I have to turn 18 before
I can come out legally.
DAVIES: Now, Tom Evangelista, what we hear in that clip is Dan Boswith is
really juiced, he's excited, by this, you know, little kind of violent
apprehension that occurred the night before. And your son, Sal, is even more
excited. He can't wait to be a part of it. Now they clearly get off on the
intensity of finding a fugitive and bringing him back home. Do you?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, I could tell you that in the beginning of this
business, when I was waiting for my bondsman's license, I was--that's what I
did. I did fugitive recovery. Back then it took about a year to get a
license, and that's how I made a living. I'm going to say that, you know, in
the beginning it--you know, of course, your adrenaline pumps up, and you're
all excited. And you're looking for this guy for three weeks, and all of a
sudden--Bing--you come across him, there he is; yeah, it's exciting. It's
like anything else. You know, you accomplish something that crazy, yeah, you
get your adrenaline pumped up, excited.
As far as my son goes, my son is a very unique kid. I mean, I couldn't have
asked for better kids. He's more excited about the apprehension of fugitives
than he is about, you know, running or learning the bond business at that
point, in that stage, of the film. But now he understands that, you know,
that's not how you make a living. I mean, we make a living by bonding people
out of jail. The other part is, actually, it's not cost effective. Sometimes
it might take me two or three months, on and off, of looking for somebody vs.,
you know, the guy goes to court and I don't have to waste all that time.
That's more time that I have to go and help other people get out of jail. So
it's not cost-effective, in essence, for the business. We're in the bail-bond
Does he get excited? Yeah. Does he still get excited? Yeah. After he
recovers, you know, 1,500, 1,800, 2,000 fugitives, it's going to be second hat
to him, like anything else.
DAVIES: You come into work on a Tuesday, and you know that for the next
couple of days you have no apprehensions; you're going to be working the
phones, you're going to be doing your business. Do you look forward to that
Tuesday more or the Tuesday coming in when you know that night you're going to
go out and get a dangerous suspect?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I would--again, I look more forward to that Tuesday that I
know that I'm going to be in my office doing my bails, making my money and
leaving at a reasonable hour to go home to my wife and my kids.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I would prefer that any day of the week. Matter of fact, I
would prefer never to have to chase a bad guy again.
DAVIES: We learn in this series that you're a two-pack-a-day smoker, at least
at the beginning of the series. Is this job stressful? I mean, I--you know,
your wife seems pretty relaxed about it. But, you know, you're going into
some tough neighborhoods looking for some bad actors. Does this eat at you?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, I mean, like anything else, I mean, I don't take
anything too serious until the time comes. I kind of get my mind set before I
leave that--you know, what I'm looking for and who I'm looking for and what
type of a person I'm looking for. Does that make me smoke? Yeah, of course.
I mean, it's a stressful job. The bottom line is that, yeah, I smoke, and two
packs--sometimes I get into my moods where I smoke one pack, sometimes more or
less. Is it the job? I think it's a combination of my nutty family and the
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. EVANGELISTA: And as you can see, we're kind of unique.
DAVIES: Oh, yeah.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I mean, there's no doubt about it. And if we weren't, I
don't think that Stick Figure would have approached us to do the show.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: But, yeah, it's stressful. And I think it's more stressful
knowing that some nut can be behind the door with a shotgun and waste me. And
I'm not going to let my son or my nephew or my friend go walk in first. It's
my guy, my obligation. I'm going in first. But I'll take those steps and
I'll take it as it comes, you know?
DAVIES: Tom Evangelista runs a family bail-bond business in New York.
You'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: Tom Evangelista runs a family bail-bond business in New York. I
spoke to him last fall when he and his crew were the subject of an HBO
documentary series called "Family Bonds."
Well, Tom Evangelista, you were approached by this production company to tape
you and your family not just while you're apprehending fugitives, but while
you live your lives. Did you know your family was so entertaining?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I could say this. When we first saw the first few episodes,
it was like watching a home movie. So I'm going to have to say yeah. I
didn't think that they were entertaining, per se. I do know that some crazy
stuff does go on in my house and my business with my family. Did I think that
it would be an HBO series? No. I mean, a documentary? Eh, yeah. But, you
know, one of the big things that I--in the beginning when Stick Figure
approached me was I was not interested in doing the standard bounty hunter
show. It isn't...
DAVIES: Well, you know, this show isn't just about bounty hunting. It's
about this wacky family that you got.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: It's about my family. That's the reason why I did it. In
the beginning I said, no, I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to do a
standard bounty hunter show. But...
DAVIES: Well, let me ask you this. Does it get it right? Does that look
like the family that you know when you see these episodes?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: (Laughs) What you see is what you get. That's us. I mean,
we don't do anything different than we do if the cameras are there or not.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I mean, there's a lot of stuff that we do that these guys
aren't there and they miss, and they get very upset 'cause they miss it, but
DAVIES: Like what?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: We had one night where Dan decided that he was going to try
to wax Chris' hairy back, and he used a piece of duct tape. I mean, is that
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, these guys--unfortunately, they weren't there to film
it, but Chris let him do it, you know. I mean, I went and I bought a--I have
a Rottweiler, and I'm trying to train him. And I bought one of these
electrical--you know, those electric collars. And when you give them
commands, you know, if he doesn't listen, it rings a--it makes a tone. And
then after that, it has electric pulse that jolts him to let him know that
you're trying to, you know, get his attention. And you could heighten that
either up or down. Well, my son and my nephew decide that they thought it
would be a good idea to try to see, you know, what this feels like and who
could take the most juice. And they have me pushing the button, which was
fine with me 'cause I wasn't doing it, you know. But they're holding this
thing, like, on their arm, and they're saying, `I can do number three,' and
pushing the button and then I'm electrocuting them. And I'm saying to
myself--I said, `Go call your mother. She's not going to believe that you two
knuckleheads are letting me electrocute you two.'
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. EVANGELISTA: So, you know, this stuff does happen every day. And, yeah,
I mean, you know, I wouldn't use the word `wacky.' I would kind of say more
unique than most...
Mr. EVANGELISTA: ...or nuts. Nuts maybe.
DAVIES: In episode two we see your son, Sal's, 18th birthday party...
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Yeah.
DAVIES: ...which gets a little out of control. Now one of the characters is
your nephew, Chris, who works with you--has on the bail-bond business. And he
is a big guy--What is it?--290 maybe, bald head. I mean, he's an imposing
fellow. He has too many and gets into something with another friend at this
party. You know, a lot of people...
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, first of all, I'd like to thank you by saying he's
290. I think he appreciates that.
DAVIES: Oh, really? I'm selling him short?
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVIES: That party, you know, it gets pretty wild. I mean, we see, you know,
a lot of cake icing in people's faces and then kind of a nasty confrontation.
Do you or are the rest of the family embarrassed at all by that?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: No. And I'll tell you the reason why. The circumstances
that surround any party that involve my nephew always--somewhere the end
result is being drunk and starting an argument. I mean, that's just, you
know, standard operating procedure at one of the Evangelista parties. And,
you know, I'm kind of prepared for it, and I think everybody else is, too. Am
I embarrassed by it? No. Why should I be embarrassed by it? It's not that I
went there and pulled my pants down. This is what happened. And if I pulled
my pants down, I wouldn't be embarrassed either.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: But that's besides the point. No, I'm not embarrassed. I
mean, this is my family. I'm never embarrassed about my family. One thing I
could say that is that regardless of what anybody sees on TV and regardless of
what anybody thinks, these people are my family, and they would give their
lives for each other. And that's kind of the concept--if you think about it,
every time that we go out, one is watching the other. One is willing to step
up and risk their life for another. That's what family's all about. So we do
play hard, but we work hard, too.
DAVIES: The other thing that's striking about at least a piece of your family
is your wife, Flo's, conversations with her friends at the nail salon, which
is pretty sexually explicit about you and her. And, I mean, Howard Stern has
nothing on this show. How do you feel about that stuff getting out there?
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, let me tell you this. I'm going to say this, and I've
discussed this issue a couple of times. I don't think that--if you notice in
that one episode, she's discussing and talking with her sisters.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I mean, you know, they're sitting in a nail salon, and
they're getting their hair done or doing whatever, and they're talking about
sex and about this and about that. I mean, if you think about it, what do we
talk about when we're sitting around a bar having a couple of drinks? They're
DAVIES: Well, I don't think we do it with a camera running. That's the
Mr. EVANGELISTA: But the difference is that it just doesn't really matter.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: And she was discussing what she was discussing when she was
discussing it. And if the camera was there, then the camera was there.
DAVIES: Well, what she discusses, in part, is you being one of the most
sexually potent men on planet Earth. I mean, how do you feel about all of us
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Well, I don't know about that. I don't remember hearing
DAVIES: Oh, you've got to rewind the tape, Tom.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: Sexually potent.
DAVIES: You've got to rewind the tape and listen to that part again.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: I didn't hear that part about being potent. But, you know,
I mean, like I said, I work hard and I play hard, too, you know? You know,
when I'm home, I like to enjoy myself. And if it may be jumping on my bike
and going for, you know, a weekend away with my wife or going away for a week
with my wife and enjoying ourselves, that's what we do. If she discusses it
with her girlfriends or her sisters or the friends and--you know, whatever she
discusses, that's part of reality, I guess.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: That's what makes us, I guess, different than some of these
other reality shows. Are we--sometimes we go, `Oh, my God, I shouldn't have
said that'? Yes. Are we embarrassed by it? No.
DAVIES: Well, Tom Evangelista, thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. EVANGELISTA: It was a pleasure.
DAVIES: Tom Evangelista, whose family bail-bond business was the subject of
an HBO documentary series last fall. They're still in the business, and Tom
and Flo are renewing their marriage vows next week.
I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: When former canine cop Kat Albrecht lost her bloodhound, A.J., she
put a golden retriever on the trail, found her dog and embarked on a new
career: pet detective. Coming up, a talk with Albrecht about finding lost
pets. Her book, "The Lost Pet Chronicles," is now out in paperback. Also,
David Edelstein reviews the new film "The Interpreter," starring Sean Penn and
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Kathy Albrecht describes her work as a pet detective
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.
Kat Albrecht is a real-life pet detective. She estimates she's helped over
1,800 pet owners locate their lost dogs, cats, snakes, turtles, ferrets,
iguanas and horses. Earlier in her career she worked as a police officer and
detective. She handled bloodhounds on search-and-rescue missions and her
first missing pet case involved her own bloodhound, A.J., who'd dug out of his
kennel. Albrecht contacted her friend who owned a golden retriever. The
retriever found A.J. in 20 minutes.
Terry Gross spoke to Kat Albrecht last May when Albrecht had just published
her memoir called "The Lost Pet Chronicles." It's now out in paperback.
Albrecht told Terry that most search dogs are actually useless for finding pets
because they're trained to ignore the scent of other animals.
Ms. KATHY "KAT" ALBRECHT (Pet Detective): Most search-and-rescue dog
handlers spend much of their time discouraging or disciplining their dogs if
they get off on animal scent. That's because it's critical that when you're
working a law enforcement case, that your dog is focused on finding the human
scent and that it is trained to ignore dogs, cats and other critter scent. So
it's definitely not something that you can call up the average
search-and-rescue dog handler and ask them to come and track your pets. So I
knew this when I ventured into this territory. And I knew that once that I
made the transition with my police dogs, that I could not go back and use them
on law enforcement cases again. So it was a tough decision.
TERRY GROSS, host:
Was it hard to retrain them to search for animals?
Ms. ALBRECHT: You know, no. It was actually quite easy because they had
always, particularly Rachel, loved kitties. And, in fact, I would be
directing her to search for a gun or evidence, and she would lope off on a
bunny hunt. And I'd be yelling at her to go find the gun or, you know, to
search for the physical evidence. And so we always had these little tiffs
about what I wanted her to find and what she wanted to find. So the first day
that I presented a tuft of fur under her nose and told her, `Take scent. Find
the kitty,' she just looked up at me like, `Yes! Finally you understand what
I've wanted to hunt all along.' So I found it quite simple. And also with
my two bloodhounds, too, once I scented them, they just would take off and
just loved to track the animal scent.
GROSS: Now, you know, I always assumed that a lot of animals don't really
like other animals. A lot of cats are loners, and they don't care for other
cats or dogs. A lot of dogs don't get along with other dogs or other cats.
So do you need a particularly gregarious search dog to do this kind of work?
Ms. ALBRECHT: Yes. Actually I now have several dogs in training, and I'm
launching seminars on how to train your dog to find lost pets. And what I
look for in the dogs that I train to find cats are dogs that love kitties. So
we put them through a testing process and evaluation, and they have to show
the behavior that they want to be with a cat; they're not going to chase and
harm a cat because it's a search and rescue, not search and destroy. And the
dogs that we train to track the scent trail of lost dogs are the dog-park-dog
mentality, the dogs that want nothing more than to play with another dog. And
if they don't exhibit either of those behaviors, then they just don't pass
evaluation, and I don't spend the time training them.
GROSS: Is it easier for a search dog to trace the scent of an animal than a
person? What I'm thinking is that, like, dogs particularly, your average dog
is probably a little smellier than your average, although your average person
can be pretty stinky on certain occasions. But, you know, just kind of like
generalizing, are dogs smellier and easier to find?
Ms. ALBRECHT: You know, that's a good question, but I don't know and I
don't--I've just noticed that the dogs have been able to be successful at
both. And so I haven't been able to tell, and obviously they're not talking.
But what I do know is that it really depends on the motivation of the dog.
And if you have a dog that loves people, like my search dogs have, and they
love to eat cheese, and they know that the person hiding at the end of that
scent trail is going to give them a piece of cheese and going to pet them,
they will do anything they can to follow that scent trail to find them.
That's the basis of the training.
With the dogs that we train to find missing dogs, their reward at the end of
the trail, after they sniff the bedding from the dog that we have hidden out
there, is that they get to play with that other dog. So they have such a high
play drive that when they get there, they are rewarded, and they just
work--they use their noses and they just get there.
GROSS: And what if the dog on the other end doesn't really want to play?
What if that dog wants to attack?
Ms. ALBRECHT: Well, during training what we do is we--the only dogs that we
hide out there, that we lay a trail, as we call it--they're laying a scent
trail as they're walking along, and we call those target dogs. They are dogs
that love to play with other dogs, so they're always rewarded with that play
at the end. On actual searches oftentimes we never make it right up to the
dog. In a typical lost-dog case, we establish the direction of travel, and
that enables the owner to be able to place the `lost dog' posters and
interview witnesses in the neighborhood and get a positive sighting and
recovery of their dog.
GROSS: You have two bloodhounds now. What makes bloodhounds so good at
Ms. ALBRECHT: Well, bloodhounds were bred to hunt, to hunt animals centuries
ago, but in particular they were used to hunt people. And they're known as
man hunters. They just have an instinctive drive to use their nose to work
what's called a colder, older scent meaning they can track a scent trail after
it's been out there several days. Their bodies are built for hunting. They
have jowls that causes them to slobber, and that moisture will collect the
scent. Their long, dangly ears will ruffle scent particles that may be
dormant on the ground and enable them to, you know, enter the nasal cavity,
and they can process it.
They're just hunting machines. Other dogs can be and are trained to do what
bloodhounds can do. But what sets them apart, in particular in law
enforcement cases, is that their testimony is acceptable in a court of law.
When it comes to criminal prosecutions, what a bloodhound does on a case, if
it meets certain requirements that the courts have set up, is acceptable
GROSS: I'm sure you've witnessed a fair number of pet reunions between people
and their lost pets. You know, a dog will kind of run to see you and jump all
over you, you know, when the dog is happy to see you. But cats show their
affection in a less obvious way sometimes. You know, I mean, the cat will
come to the door and fuss to be petted, but they're not going to--they're just
different from dogs. Well, what have some of the cat-person reunions been
like? Do the cats rush over to meet the people after they've been found?
Ms. ALBRECHT: No. Actually most of the cats have been hiding in fear, and,
therefore, their owners--one of the primary tools that they've used to recover
their cat has been a baited humane trap, which is a tool that's used right now
by feral cat groups to recover unwanted, wild cats, and it's one that we
advocate using as a recovery tool for a missing cat. And many of those owners
are holding a panicked cat that's scratching and trying to get away from them
because the cat is so traumatized by the experience of having escaped outside.
But those reunions, you know, I'm looking at the--and what I really see is the
joy in the owner and just the, you know, `Thank you so much. I can't believe
I have my cat back.' Primarily what we hear is, `I can't believe he was this
close all along. I called him for three days. He never meowed, and he was
right here all along.'
GROSS: Right where usually, like...
Ms. ALBRECHT: Usually the cats that we are finding that are displaced,
meaning they're indoor-only cats that push out a window or escape out a door,
are either hiding under the owner's own home, under their deck or in a
neighbor--on either side of them. They exhibit what we call the silence
factor meaning they do not meow, and they will stay there. Some of the cats,
depending on the temperament--if it's a skittish, shy cat that has neophobias,
meaning from kittenhood experiences and genetics, it is just ingrained that
this cat will hide under the bed even when a stranger comes in the
house--those cats can remain outside for six to eight weeks without making a
sound. And the owner, if they do not understand that the cat is nearby, they
will give up searching, and that cat will be absorbed into the feral cat
GROSS: Hm. So do you think the cats usually recognize their people when they
Ms. ALBRECHT: I think that the cats recognize their owners, but their
instincts take over in a way that you don't see with dogs. Dogs--of course,
there's the happy licking, excited whining, `I'm so happy to be home,' whereas
with the cats, their instincts are to protect themselves from predators. And
they even see their owners as being a potential predator. That's why they
hide and they don't meow. And they can be three feet from the owner's front
door for three days and the owner thinks, you know, that their cat ran away
from home. Cats--they're just a different animal than dogs. And, you know,
I'm learning that myself with the cats that I have now. I try to treat them
like dogs and try to hug and kiss them, and they do not appreciate it as much
as I would like them to.
GROSS: You've described a little bit some of the cat patterns when a cat
slips out the window or door and runs away from home. What about dogs? Are
there any typical pattern of dogs who are lost?
Ms. ALBRECHT: With dogs it's different because dogs travel. Cats are
territorial. Their instinct when they are sick or injured or afraid is they
will hide and they will not meow. The first thing they do is look for
someplace to hide, and they make that their new territory. With dogs, they
will move if they are frightened, such as by fireworks. They will move at a
rapid speed, and they will run blindly. And they're at risk of being hit by
cars, but they oftentimes will run until they get to a point where they can
hide somewhere, like in a garage or behind somebody's woodpile in a yard.
But the distance that a dog will travel or will be found from their escape
point varies, and it depends on several factors, and some of those have to do
with human behavior. You can have a skittish, shy, mixed-breed dog, a
pit-bull mix, trotting down the road, and people will not pull over to try to
rescue that dog. But if you have an Irish setter or Old English sheepdog or,
you know, pure-bred French bulldog that's trotting down the road, people will
be more likely to pull over because they will think, `Lost dog,' or, `Valuable
pet,' or something of value that they want to keep themselves. And so they're
more likely to intervene if it's a pure-bred, highly recognizable dog. So
that's just one example of the human behavior. And if you have a dog that is
skittish and shy and will growl at somebody when they try to approach it, that
dog is going to travel farther than will a wiggly-butt golden retriever that,
you know, will run up to the first person that talks to it.
DAVIES: Pet detective Kat Albrecht speaking with Terry Gross. We'll hear
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
DAVIES: Let's hear more of Terry's interview with Kat Albrecht who works as a
pet detective. Her book, "The Lost Pet Chronicles," is now out in paperback.
GROSS: You train dogs, but you've also had to work with cats because you have
at least one cat that you've used as the target cat, In other words, you train
the cat to just kind of act as if it's lost, so that then you can teach the
dog how to find the lost cat. Are cats hard to train even to doing something
simple, like staying still and acting lost?
Ms. ALBRECHT: Oh, cats are great. And, you know, before I started training
my dogs to find missing cats, I had always pretty much owned a cat, but I was
not hooked into the cat lover, until my first experience with getting a great
cat, and that was with Myron. And when I got Myron and started training him,
I had to harness-train him to walk on a harness and leash, so he could lay a
scent trail. And I write about this in the book, how I had gone in to the
veterinarian and took Myron in there and told the vet tech how I was
harness-training Myron. Well, she thought that by harness, you know, that the
bloodhounds were harnessed. And she looked at Myron and looked at me and
looked back at Myron and said, `You mean you're training your cat to track
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. ALBRECHT: And so it was pretty amusing. But the other cats that we use
now, including this obnoxious, orange cat name Cheeto, are kitties that love
dogs. Myron and Cheeto just--they're so accustomed to my dogs, and every
morning when I let Cody(ph) out, she'll find and lick them and play with them
and get all excited about, you know, washing the kitties' face. And the cats
just kind of like, `Yeah, yeah, whatever.' But these cats have a gregarious
temperament. They're ones that crate well. I've trained them by placing them
in a crate and setting them outside and putting bread and bird seed down.
They could sit--they learned to lie quietly in these crates because their
reward is because they get to lay and watch birdies come and eat. And so they
don't become fussy or upset while being in a crate.
So when we go to the trainings, we take these cats and the crate, and we will
hide them in some heavy brush. And we have the cat-detection dogs. We take
them one at a time and have them search around. And when they find the kitty,
they are trained that they will give the physical alert; typically they're
wiggling and wagging their tails. They will run back to the handler, jump on
the handler, go back to the kitty. And then we open the crate up, and the
kitty is let out. And they're on a harness and lead, and then the dog gets to
play with the kitty. And the cats are so used it. They love it. You know,
they look forward to the training dates. They run into the crate when they
see me pull it out.
GROSS: You used to work with dogs for the police, and you used your search
dogs to help find lost people, clues, dead people. In your experience, did
the police have a lot of faith in search dogs? The police that you worked
Ms. ALBRECHT: It depended on the agency and on the individual investigator,
you know, that had called me out. You know, initially one of the first police
departments I worked for had no faith in bloodhounds. In fact, after spending
18 months there, they basically said that, `Bloodhounds will never be used
here. If you want to work your dog, you need to go elsewhere.' And so I did,
and I landed with a department that was supportive and in an area of
California that had previously used bloodhounds with great success and other
search-and-rescue dogs. So I found it much easier when I left Fresno County
and went over to Santa Cruz County. It was much easier for the agencies to
call me out with my dogs.
One of the first searches that I used my cadaver dog on was the Polly Klaas
search, and that case then opened the door a couple months later for Rachel to
work a homicide case, where the detective really was skeptical. He really had
never seen a cadaver dog work before. And in his experience with the police
patrol dogs that he had seen, he had not had much faith in dogs. But when
Rachel went out there and was finding the evidence that was right out there,
but it just wasn't visible, he was impressed.
GROSS: What advice would you have for people who have lost a cat or a dog?
Do those posters on the trees or in the convenience stores help?
Ms. ALBRECHT: Well, the posters help primarily with lost dogs because
typically the dog is out there; it's traveling, and somebody's going to pick
it up. Invariably a lost dog is going to end up with somebody who finds it,
and they either self-rescue it or they turn it in to a rescue group or they
turn it over to a friend. Sometimes they take it to the animal shelter, but
don't count on it. You still want to search the shelter every day, if
possible, for your dog or cat when it's missing. But, really, your focus with
a lost dog is getting the word out there that your dog is missing and, really,
focusing on getting the word out to a lot of rescue groups because oftentimes
many of the missing dogs end up there and are never taken to the shelter. The
one place where the dog owner is searching is often the last place that anyone
will take it because of the fear that it will be put to sleep.
With missing cats, cats will be close. Some cats are transported out of the
area. But if it's a displaced, fearful cat, it's going to be nearby and
hiding. And using a baited, humane trap as a recovery tool is a primary way
to get the cat back. We have a Web site that I would recommend that if you've
lost a pet, that you check. It's www.lostapet.org.
GROSS: What do you do with your search dogs when they're ready to retire?
How do they take to retirement?
Ms. ALBRECHT: Well, A.J. is retired. And, you know, they just still live
GROSS: Do they play golf (laughs)?
Ms. ALBRECHT: No. No. He just sleeps a lot and watches a lot of TV. You
know, they're just not working anymore, and they get used to seeing me take
off with the other dogs. So, you know, it's hard. A.J. is 12 now, which is
really old for a bloodhound. He's deaf. You know, he's gray. His body has
really changed a lot. And, you know, I'm not sure how much longer he'll be
around. But, you know, he was a wonderful search dog, and, you know, he's a
hero, you know. So he deserves to rest and play golf and watch TV the rest of
GROSS: I want to thank you so much for talking with us about your work and
Ms. ALBRECHT: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
DAVIES: Kat Albrecht speaking with Terry Gross last May. A.J., the beloved
bloodhound Albrecht spoke about at the end of the interview, was laid to rest
on July 7th of last year. After hip dysplasia caused his back end to fail, he
was put to sleep wearing his bright orange police vest. His final meal was
the food he loved the most, broccoli. His ashes were spread in Santa Cruz,
along the trail where he made his one and only felon find.
Coming up, David Edelstein on the new Sydney Pollack film, "The Interpreter."
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Syndney Pollack's latest film "The Interpreter"
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn star in "The Interpreter," a new political
thriller with a mission set at the UN and directed by Sydney Pollack. Film
critic David Edelstein has a review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:
"The Interpreter" is a thriller too bloated with its own significance to
deliver the requisite thrills. It's directed by Sydney Pollack who made one
of the scariest paranoid thrillers of the post-Watergate era, "Three Days of
the Condor," and whose legendary clashes with Dustin Hoffman helped produce
the fluke comic masterpiece "Tootsie." But Pollack's Oscar for "Out of
Africa" convinced him he was a major artist and his subsequent movies have
been weighted down by humorlessness and self-importance.
Speaking of humorlessness and self-importance, "The Interpreter" gives us Sean
Penn, with gray hair at the temples, as a Secret Service agent trying to foil
a mysterious and possibly bogus assassination plot against an African dictator
who plans to give a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Penn can't
play just any agent trying to do his job. He has to have his own traumatic
back story, an overflowing well of grief over a dead wife. Because what's a
Penn performance these days without the actor emoting in close-up for a camera
frozen in awe? My theory--and it's just a theory--is that a
multimillion-dollar rewrite guy, either Steven Zaillian or Scott Frank, will
both get a screenplay credit with Charles Randolph, got hired to load
emotional baggage onto Penn's part. Otherwise, the focus would be entirely on
Nicole Kidman as a UN African language interpreter named Silvia Broome.
Silvia leaves a tote bag at her translation booth and hears a whispered plot
through her speaker, a plot to assassination Zuwanie, the president of the
fictional African country of Matoba. He was once an idealistic liberator but
now he's an ethnic cleanser. She reports what she heard to the authorities,
but Penn's Agent Keller thinks she's hiding something. After all, she has
lived in Matoba herself, which partially explains her peculiar accent, and she
has many reasons to despise Zuwanie.
This scene has some crackerjack dialogue, even if the hostility between the
two characters seems a little trumped up.
(Soundbite of "The Interpreter")
Mr. SEAN PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) How did you happen to be up there
Ms. NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) We had an evacuation; I left some of
my things in the sound booth, I had to go back for them.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Mm-hmm. And at that moment, there happened
to be a couple of fellows talking about an assassination in a language that
you and maybe eight other people understand in the room full of microphones?
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) Do you think I'm making it up? Why would I
report a threat I didn't hear?
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) People do.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I don't.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Well, some people like attention.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I don't.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Maybe you don't want Zuwanie at the UN.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I didn't make it up.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) How do you feel about him?
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I don't care for him.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Wouldn't mind if he were dead.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I wouldn't mind if he were gone.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Same thing.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) No, it isn't. If I interpreted `gone' as
`dead' I'd be out of a job. If dead and gone were the same thing, there'd be
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) Your profession is playing with words, Ms.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) I don't play with words.
Mr. PENN: (As Agent Tobin Keller) You're doing it right now.
Ms. KIDMAN: (As Silvia Broome) No, you are. If I wanted him dead, I wouldn't
have reported it. I would sit back and let it happen. It's not what I want.
That's not why I'm here.
EDELSTEIN: As the knotted up Silvia, Nicole Kidman is excellent, although
she's sometimes upstaged by the locks of hair that hang artfully in her face.
It must have been very hard for Pollack to answer the old `What's my
motivation' query, because Silvia seems to have about 10 conflicting
motivations in the course of the movie. A former Matoban rebel, she's now the
film's spokesman for a non-violent ethos she translates from a language called
the Koo(ph). She and Penn's Keller fix their blue eyes on each other and have
a lot of `dark night of the soul' exchanges that take the wind out of an
already convoluted conspiracy plot.
A light touch would help, but with the exception of a well-designed set piece
involving several agents and suspects converging on the same bus, "The
Interpreter" is stodgy and misshapen. It manages to be both thoroughly
confusing and entirely predictable, thanks to a plot twist you see limping
towards you about an hour before the maudlin hero manages to. The climax
comes with a civics lesson in which the heroine spells out that ethnic
cleansing is a very bad thing indeed.
It's admirable when A-list, Academy Award-winning talents attempt to make
something more meaningful than a mere cloak-and-dagger thriller. A thriller
with a message of peace and non-violence and a commitment to international
human rights, a thriller that banners a non-Western philosophy that's
radically different from the usual eye-for-an-eye politics of American action
movies. But I can't help wishing for a certain ruthlessness and low cunning
in the area of pacing. "The Interpreter" is so lofty, it feels as if it were
made to be screened at the UN.
DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.
DAVIES: I'm Dave Davies. Terry Gross returns on Monday.
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