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In the heart of California’s rugged Santa Cruz Mountains, there’s a hero working tirelessly to reunite families with their lost pets. Meet Plato the Dude, a 10-year-old Shiba Inu mix with incredible tracking skills. He’s a local legend in San Lorenzo Valley, having found over 60 missing pets and winning the hearts of the community.

Michael Fradin, Plato’s human, discovered his dog’s natural talent after adopting him from someone who could no longer care for him. As Fradin became more active with Plato, he noticed the dog’s strong attachment to his girlfriend, Steph, and his innate ability to follow her scent trail. The couple capitalized on this by playing hide-and-seek with Plato, quickly realizing his potential as a tracker.

Plato’s first real-world test came when a local couple lost their Yorkie. Fradin and Plato offered their help and successfully located the small dog by a stream. After that, the duo continued practicing and honing Plato’s skills, with his favorite reward being the joy of finding a lost pet.

Now, locals know to contact Fradin and Plato when their pets go missing. They also use the Nextdoor platform to connect and help each other. Fradin emphasizes that every successful track is a “community effort.”

Although Plato has had tremendous success in finding lost pets, he doesn’t always locate them. Sometimes the trail ends in sadness, which affects Plato deeply. In these moments, he becomes depressed and withdrawn. But despite the emotional toll, Fradin and Plato don’t accept payment for their services. They believe in empowering and supporting their community.

When Plato was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the tight-knit San Lorenzo Valley community quickly raised funds to cover his treatment. Their Support and recognition mean the world to Fradin.

Now feeling healthy, Plato is focused on the future. He’s helping rescue dogs develop their own tracking skills, giving them a chance to learn and contribute to their community.

Inspired by Plato’s story? Here’s how you can take action: Consider volunteering at a local animal rescue or shelter or even fostering a pet in need. You could also Donate to organizations dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their families or training service dogs to assist those in need. We can make a difference in the lives of both pets and their human families, building stronger, more compassionate communities.

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