2016-02-24 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Pie ran off and we are still looking for her!” On Sun., Feb. 14th when the temps dropped to zero and the wind whipped, this text from the pet sitter shattered our pre- Westminster world. “Pie” is my friend Mary Bloom’s Cardigan Welsh Corgi. We didn’t learn until hours later Pie had already been missing 24 hours during frigid weather in the unfamiliar town of Pleasant Valley, NY about a half hour’s drive from her home.

Mary Bloom was Westminster’s staff photographer for over 25 years. For the last few years we’ve worked together collecting Best of Breed cards and preparing info and graphics for the Westminster TV broadcast viewed by millions of people. The task is wonderful but very tense even without a pet emergency. Mary was not free to leave and drive three hours north to search. Plus, by the time we got the bad news at our hotel, it was getting dark. There was so much lost dog networking to do first. Pie was micro-chipped and wearing a collar with her license, Mary’s cell and a therapy dog tag.

“Pie” - the missing Corgi, now home and safe “Pie” - the missing Corgi, now home and safe Mary lost her beloved cat to cancer the week before, and had a premonition Pie was in danger. Her regular pet sitter was not available, so Pie stayed with a lady who’d come to care for her cats. She did dog sitting at her home. Pie was the only boarder last weekend. Mary kept worrying her grandchildren would let Pie out (which may have happened.) I was uneasy because Mary said Pie put her paws up on the back window and stared at her as the lady drove her away, like a child being taken to an orphanage.

The circumstances of Pie’s escape kept changing. Either her pet sitter fell and let go of her leash, or Pie rushed out the door. The pet sitter had a group of people helping her search the woods, which was why she didn’t return Mary’s frantic phone call until late Sunday.

To make matters worse, the next day Feb. 15th, was the 10th anniversary of Delta Airlines losing “Vivi” the Westminster Whippet on another freezing day as she was about to fly home to California. Despite a massive search lasting over a year, Vivi was never recovered. Instead, her disappearance sparked a well-organized lost dog network led by my friend Bonnie Folz. Many pets have been reunited with families because of the bonds formed and lessons learned by Team Vivi. First call was to Bonnie. She set the Queens Lost & Found network in motion even though Pie was missing in Dutchess County. Expert eyes combed lost & found posts, while Pie’s situation was posted on Lost Pets of Hudson Valley as well as NYC-area lost pet Facebook pages too.

Mary has dedicated her life to helping people and animals in need, and is revered in the dog world so people near and far began sharing Pie’s Facebook post. At last count, there were 1,287 SHARES (not LIKES) about Pie being lost. Mary notified Home Again. The microchip company sent out email alerts.

Next came the late night calls to Pleasant Valley offices made more difficult because Monday was President’s Day, a national holiday. Pleasant Valley doesn’t have its own police department. We were told to call State Troop K. The animal hospitals didn’t have voice mail; only one pet emergency clinic picked up the phone. The most helpful municipal employee was Steve at the Pleasant Valley Highway Department. He promised to send a crew to the area where Pie was last seen, and then posted the plea for Pie on his own Facebook page because he had many friends in that area.

Meanwhile the Queens Lost & Found team found a message from the pet sitter’s neighbor saying Pie escaped on Saturday afternoon, not Sunday morning, and was last seen running down the middle of Route 44 toward Poughkeepsie. This upset us more because we misunderstood the initial text and thought Pie was only gone a few hours. Now we realized she was about to spend her second night in the life-threatening cold, and there were no new sightings. We didn’t sleep Sunday night.

Mary’s local friends sprung into action. Pat Tetrault made a flyer and faxed it to animal hospitals. Pat owns “Ringo” a Siberian Husky therapy dog who spent time at a Bronx nursery school for homeless children for a visit arranged by Madison Square Garden. Pat was showing Ringo at Westminster on Tuesday. Mary’s friend Jill Conroy hung the fliers, stuffed mailboxes and coordinated the searches. “Murphy” the Conroys’ Chesapeake Bay Retriever competed in Westminster Agility.

Next morning at the Piers, Mary got a call from a man who saw Pie near backyards in the same area Sunday afternoon. He heard about Pie on the radio. The news was heartening. It meant Pie survived the first cold night and had not ventured further away. Soon after, Mary left Westminster with her nephew to join the search. It took hours to get upstate due to icy roads. Mary got four more calls from people who wanted to help, or had seen Pie in the same vicinity which helped track her. Finally around 5:30 Monday as it began to snow, a woman who lived on Easy Street (of all places) called: “I found a therapy dog.”

“Do you have her?” cried Mary. “I have her on my lap. She’s beautiful. She came into my yard. I have five rescue dogs in a pen. My son heard barking. He pet her and rubbed her belly,” said Sally Rich who runs Kraze Animal Rescue in Stanfordville, NY. Pie knew just where to go. She and Mary were reunited moments later. Mary spent the night at home comforting Pie, and when her Corgi was safely nestled with caretakers, returned to the Piers, eternally grateful to everyone. Next day a woman called about the flyers in hopes Pie had been found. “I want to cheer up my toddler son. He’s so sad that cute doggy is lost”, she said. We were so touched by the child’s compassion.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Maxwell” 16-55, a nine-month old Greyhound/Dane, entered in neglected condition. He is tall, dark and handsome but needs TLC and more socialization. “Rusty” 6-13 a long-haired gray cat with beige highlights comes from a hoarder eviction. This week’s mystery: Why is her real name “Rusty”?

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