Posted Courtesy of the American Whippet Club
I appreciate Jeff Kimmelman letting me use this space to print updates about the search for Vivi. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, it will be five weeks since she was lost at JFK. Having walked the streets and parks of the area where she has been sighted, it is almost unbelievable to me that she is obviously still alive. Having had whippets, Vivis ancestors, for more than 40 years I know how tough and resourceful Whippets can be, but never having lost one before I would not have expected them to survive for so long in the harsh climate and heavy traffic of New York in February and March. Yet judging from all the recent sightings it seems certain that she has done so. I’m not sure if all whippets could do that, but Vivi was always exceptionally strong and resourceful. Perhaps it would have been easier to catch her if she weren’t.
In the future these updates will be brief, pending major developments, but there are a few things I want to address. Some of these may perhaps be useful for anyone who in the future has the misfortune to lose a dog.
Finding an enviroment
It seems certain that Vivi has found an environment where she can cope pretty well. How she got so far from JFK, across so many heavily trafficed roads, we will probably never know. She may have been caught at JFK and transported by someone who then lost her; she may have made it on her own. In any case, over the past ten days Vivi has been sighted at least a dozen times in an area of perhaps a few hundred acres, consisting of a greenbelt of parks and residential areas in Flushing and Bayside in New York. Most of the sightings are very reliable and have been further confirmed by three teams of five tracking dogs: Karin Goin, Laura Totis and her tracking partner Sam Connley. In one single day (Sunday) Vivi was sighted three times by different people at a cemetery; yet she has not responded to calls from Paul, Jil or me. (Paul spent the first 12 days in NY searching JFK and later went back for a few more days search in Flushing. Jil and I went home to California after a few days at JFK but have both been back twice Jil and her fianc, Rick, are in NY now and plan on staying for the rest of the week.)
“Going feral” and surviving
We have learned a lot about how dogs react when they are lost. Much of this may be surprising even to experienced dog people who have a close bond with their dogs. It is difficult to accept, but most dogs become feral fairly soon, go into a survival mode and almost never come back on their own to their owners or people they know, especially when they were lost in the obviously traumatic manner that Vivi was (somehow knocked out of her crate at JFK and chased along the runway by several Port Authority vehicles). The pet detectives told us the same story: the person who finally catches a lost dog is almost never the owner, nor the searchers, but rather some unsuspecting person in whose backyard the dog comes in looking for food. That person must not try to grab the dog but needs to be calm, give it a treat, speak softly and encouragingly, and quietly close a door or gate that precludes further escape. In other words, we are looking for a miracle.