During her backyard wedding on July 30, Malibu resident Rosalie Benitez had her two puppies act as ring bearers, but instead of making for a cute photo-op, the four-legged ring bearers never actually delivered the ring down the aisle.
Before the ceremony began, the two puppies began wrestling and the ring was flung into her backyard. Benitez and her wedding guests searched briefly, but eventually called it quits, moving forward with the ceremony without the ring.
The next day she Googled "lost wedding ring" and found The Ring Finders, a global directory of people who spend their time using metal detectors to find others' lost jewelry.
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The service is anything but traditional. Ninety-seven percent of the ring finders work on a reward basis, meaning they ask customers to pay whatever the service is worth to them. Some ask for nothing and most ask for little more than gas money.
"I don't wanna deprive anybody of getting what they love back," said ring finder Steve Smith. "To see the joy that I'm able to give back to people — that's my motivation."
And when he found Benitez's ring in her backyard after more than an hour of searching, that's exactly what he got. She'd already gone inside to call and see if a replacement ring was in stock when he discovered it hidden in the grass.
"I really screamed," Benitez said. "It was great to be able to finally put it on my finger. And then I felt really married."
Vancouver native Chris Turner, who's been metal detecting since he was 12, founded The Ring Finders after experiencing first-hand the joy that finding somebody's belongings can bring.
He said that after he found one woman's ring, which had been lost in her garden for more than 10 years, she brought an apple pie to his doorstep almost every week for a year.
"There's nothing out there like it," Turner said. "You just have to return one ring and you're hooked."
Now, the directory spans more than 20 countries, with ring finders heavily concentrated in the United States and California. Since the directory was created in 2009, Turner said there's been more than 3,700 reported recoveries.
He alone has found more than 500 rings and other lost possessions. With every recovery, he said, he feels as happy as the people getting their jewelry back.
"Every ring has a story attached to it," Turner said. "I don't think there's a ring I'm not happy about. When that ring's lost that story is lost."