Are you happy? Tom Watkins, founder, Animal Search UK

I left the police force in 1996, feeling disillusioned with the system. It was like constantly putting the lid on a dustbin, then having someone kick it over. Nothing made me feel worthwhile.

Now I search for pets. I come across a lot of Sockses, Felixes, even a Mr Fluffy. We get pets with normal names: Colin the cat, Greg the dog. I find them by asking the right questions and using meticulous search techniques. I take a Dictaphone with a recording of the owner's voice. A cat hears that and meows. Ferrets are harder to find. Tortoises don't go far quickly, but they do go missing. I know to check sheds for cats, parkland and the backs of takeaway shops for dogs, and I always speak to as many people as possible. Children often know what's happening in a neighbourhood.

I spend every day searching. This job gives me happiness. There were 70 cats reported missing while I was on my honeymoon. Even then I was thinking up new ideas and better search techniques. I was seriously ill with mental illness years ago and ended up living in my car. I had to fight to put my life back together and now I've got two kids, a lovely wife and the opportunity to find a lot of pets.

It may sound bizarre, but people can be happy to hear the bad news, too. It's a massive relief. When a pet is missing, an owner's life falls apart. They've lost a member of their family. I know what that unhappiness feels like: if my dog went missing, I'd sell everything to find her.

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