On Friday 4/27, I got a frantic call from one of my coworkers.
“We have a problem! Maggie just squirmed out of her collar, some guy tried to grab her to help, and she ran!”
I quickly switched to handling crisis mode. I called all our dog walkers and other walkers I knew in the area and put out an APB as I dropped off the dogs and headed to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie. I also called her owner and explained the situation. In my 12 years running a dog walking business, I’ve never had a dog get lost and it wasn’t going to happen now. I scanned the blocks of Brooklyn for the tenacious, wirey, terrier and tried not to lose my shit. I stopped people on the streets with dogs and gave them my card in case they saw her. I went into all of the local shops and did the same.
Despite all of us looking for an hour in the area she got loose, none of us spotted her. The owner came home got in her car and joined the search. We all had to walk the rest of our dogs and were over an hour behind at this point. I told everyone to go back to walking and look for her with the other dogs. I prayed she was hiding or a kind neighbor had taken her in and just didn’t know where she belonged since she’d run without her collar. I tried not to worry that she’d been hit by a car or gotten trapped somewhere.
I tried to call 311 and the local shelters and police precincts from my phone. I asked my husband to notify the local dog group FIDO Brooklyn from his computer at work. I blubbered a bit on the phone to him tears streaming down my face, but there was no time for that, the dogs had to get walked.
The owner made flyers we all met at her house after work and worked long into the night flyering and looking. After dark the wind started blowing hard as I checked Prospect Park. I was freezing and hoped Maggie was inside somewhere warm.
I ran home for a coat and to take my dog, Phoebe, out. She could be a wirey cousin of Maggie. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if a walker lost Phoebe. Getting angry at anyone was pointless, it was an accident and we were all trying to fix it. Phoebe, Dennis, and I walked back over to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie and headed home exhausted and depressed around 10 p.m.
I could barely sleep that night. In the morning I got up and sent a million emails with her photo and info to local dog walkers, shelters, day cares. I posted her picture on blogs. I printed up more flyers and flyered Park Slope asking friends to help. A friend took me all the way out to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control. After a long wait they took me for a walk through to see if she was in there. I looked through the bars at all the shivering desperate dogs but she wasn’t there. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at shelters so I think I handle it better than most people but I still got nauseous from the fumes and wanted to take everyone home.
I spent the rest of the day walking around with Phoebe and Dennis flyering and periodically checking in with the owners to see if there was any news. Nothing. Where could she be? This is every dog walker’s worst nightmare and I was living it. Not only was I worried about Maggie, but I also worried about the reputation of the business I’d been built over the past 12 years. Would people think we were irresponsible? Would we lose clients? It really didn’t matter anymore, all that mattered, was that we find Maggie. Surprisingly though, everyone was really supportive.
Sunday Dennis and I went to Manhattan’s branch of Animal Care and Control. If Maggie was picked up in the middle of the night, when the Brooklyn center was closed, they would have taken her up there. Another wait—I did see a touching scene of some owners finding their dog there—but no one was moving fast enough for me. Didn’t they see I had to find this dog now? She wasn’t there, so we walked down from Spanish Harlem to the ASPCA and checked there. Nothing.
Meanwhile, Maggie’s owners headed back to Brooklyn AC&C and did another walk through with a woman named D-Light (Of course). Nothing. Dennis and I headed back to Brooklyn to feed some cats and continue the search. Around 4 p.m. I got a call from a woman who’d seen our flyers in Park Slope. “I think I saw your dog running on Pacific and 3rd Avenue in Boreum Hill on Friday afternoon.” I couldn’t believe it was her. She would’ve had to have run over a mile and crossed the busy thoroughfares of Flathbush and 4th Avenues without getting hit. But she was a terrier—never underestimate a terrier.
I called the owners and we all headed to Boreum Hill to flyer. We started writing “reward” on all of the flyers, after hearing that sometimes people only call if money is involved. That night around 9 p.m. Maggie’s owners called me. “Someone called and said they have Maggie. They wanted some ‘compensation.’ They’re headed over,” she said.
“Ok Dennis and I are headed over,” I said. We debated calling the cops but didn’t want to spook the people who may have Maggie. We hopped in a car service and headed over in case shit was going to go down. I called a dog walker I knew in Prospect Heights and told him to go over to their house in case we couldn’t make it there in time. I figured the more people we had there the less likely someone would try to pull something.
By the time our car had pulled up Maggie was sitting on the stoop with her owners in a happy reunion. The people that had her had accepted their $500 and left with their son in his boy scout uniform. I pulled some cheese out of my bag for Maggie and hugged the owners. I offered to reimburse them the money and buy her a GPS collar.
“We need a straight jacket for that dog,” I said.
Maggie jumped up and licked my face like nothing had happened. I wished I could’ve had a video camera to witness her big adventure. I was so thankful she made it home. “What a troublemaker you are!” I said to Maggie scratching her ears. Dennis and I headed home and finally got some sleep.
The next few days we spent recovering at work, tearing down flyers, and thanking everyone for helping us to find Maggie, the tenacious terrier.
On a side note—I will be reading more tales from DOGS OF BROOKLYN this Wed May 2 at 7 p.m. at Pianos on the Lower East Side at Freerange reading series. Come on down and say hello—never a dull moment!