Archive of the lost and loved

A book collects fliers about pets that are missing and missed

August 18, 2002|By Faith Hayden | By Faith Hayden,Sun Staff

Some pets are pictured in pearls, others are simply captured with tail in mid-wag. Some pets have been stolen from BMWs, others lost by baby sitters. While no two fliers are alike, they are all immortalized in a new book, Lost: Lost and Found Pet Posters From Around the World (Princeton Architectural Press, $14.95).

"The book is very sad, yet very funny," says the author, Ian Phillips, 35, who lives in Toronto. "It says a lot about the importance of animals in people's lives. It's something almost anyone can relate to whether they have a pet or not."

"Have you scene my cat," reads the crayon-scribbled, yellow-colored flier by a child in Quebec. "I lost my cat sunday. She is white and is also deaf. Someone pleace find her and coll."

Not every flier is so tragic. Phillips makes sure to mix the heartbreaking posters such as "Lost female dog, children crying," from Texas with the more lighthearted fliers -- "Turtle. Find him," from Colorado. Be it dog, cat or cow, Lost lets the creative and sometimes haphazardly photocopied posters do the story-telling. In 30 words or less they tell stories of cats escaping earthquakes, dogs chasing thieves and snakes that just "sorta" slithered away.

Phillips, who works as a freelance illustrator and designer for various publications and runs his own small press, began collecting lost pet posters a decade ago in Switzerland when his roommate's cat fell off the roof of their five-story apartment building and vanished. Like everyone else in Phillips' collection, the roommate plastered every available wall and telephone post in the surrounding area with missing-cat posters.

"I was just attracted to the way they looked," says Phillips. "They don't stick around for very long, and I thought that was sad, so why not save some?"

Wanting to see what missing pet posters looked like in other countries, Phillips started by advertising in magazines and began to receive posters from Australia, Japan and South America, as well as other parts of the world. "I have also received flea collars, dog tags, paintings of chickens and lots of letters," he writes in Lost.

The letters were not always of a friendly nature. "We just don't do that sorta thing in Holland," one letter writer explained. "Lose a pet and the thing to do is go out and buy a new one."

It took only six months for Phillips to turn his quirky collection into a 218-page book. The idea began when he submitted the posters to be included in a publication called Speck: a Curious Collection of Uncom-mon Things, which featured a variety of collections ranging from lint to name misspellings.

"Everyone seemed to stop at the lost-pet poster collection," says Lost editor Jennifer Thompson. "It was the highlight of the book." Because it struck such a chord with readers, the publication company asked Phillips if he would be willing to choose his favorite posters to be showcased in a book of his own.

"It's very folk-artsy and personal," says Thompson. "It's interesting to see the sorrow and the fear expressed."

Within the book, Phillips includes information on what to do if you lose a pet, statistics on lost pets, and updates on the animals whereabouts if that information is available, as well as posters of found pets.

Underneath a neatly printed flier for a missing office cat named "Kitty Lang," Phillips writes, "Kitty Lang came back a year later, well groomed and overweight, with a second cat. Since a new office cat had taken residence, Kitty moved out to the country farm of a relative of one employee and the second cat was adopted by another." Because he only receives updates from people that he knows, the follow-up information isn't abundant.

Collecting posters since 1991, Phillips has more than 1,200 in his collection, but that isn't his only hobby. "I collect other people's photographs," he says. "I collect books, antlers, old carnival prizes (the older the better) and notes that people leave in telephone booths."

"I'm always looking around for things that people leave behind," comments Phillips on his various collections. "I have a curiosity. There are all kinds of things going on that you're never aware of in our day-to-day lives."

Although currently petless, Phillips, who is single and lives in a small apartment, is looking for a pet.

"I would like a dog," he says. "Maybe an English bulldog or Boston terrier. Guinea pigs are better for an apartment, though, and you don't see many lost posters for guinea pigs."

"sorta" slithered away.

Phillips, who works as a freelance illustrator and designer for various publications and runs his own small press, began collecting lost pet posters a decade ago in Switzerland when his roommate's cat fell off the roof of their five-story apartment building and vanished. Like everyone else in Phillips' collection, the roommate plastered every available wall and telephone post in the surrounding area with missing-cat posters.

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