Toby Wolter is a realtor with Douglas Elliman in Florida. His special interests are animal rescue groups and the First Tee, a golf-mentoring program. "Looking for Ben" is a condensed version of the story, which appeared on his blog.
It was 15 months ago that I received a frantic call from my brother, Ted, who was living in Paris, telling me that his newly adopted dog, a Lurcher (Greyhound/Scottish Deerhound mix), had disappeared. Ted had gone to a market on a quiet street, and tied Ben to a magazine rack. Something frightened Ben, and he bolted, breaking his leash. He was last seen running along the Seine.
I tried to give advice and reassurance, but day after day went by without a trace. After five days, I decided to make the journey and see if I could help. So, seven days after Ben disappeared, I arrived in Paris and began a lengthy and tiring search with my bro. By this time, he had put up more than 1,000 posters around the city, contacted 22 police precincts and dozens of vets, and been receiving advice and support from numerous online rescue groups.
Fortunately, the day before my arrival, a sighting had been made …. we didn’t know if it was real but, at least, we had something to work with. My brother spent nights on the street; I got up and rode a bicycle around at 3 in the morning (a most surreal experience in Paris). We canvassed homeless people, African trinket vendors, Romanian gypsies and anyone who would stop and speak with us. Amazingly, we had a huge contingency of very supportive “lookers.”
But additional sightings proved to be fruitless, and we despaired that Ben might have been hit by a car. It was hard to believe he hadn’t been, as the traffic in Paris is truly crazy. Or he might have been sick or kidnapped. (Rumors abounded that gypsies were selling dogs throughout the city.)
We rode bikes through the Bois de Boulogne (a huge forest/park close to the city), and enlisted the aid of the former head of the Paris dog pound—to no avail.
After six stressful days, it was time to return to the U.S. I hated having to give up, and encouraged my brother, not to, as there were stories of dogs finding their owners after many weeks and even months. But as I packed, the evening before departure, I thought the worst. And then, the phone rang.
A police station, five miles away, called to say they had Ben! (They were sure it was Ben. We weren’t!) We jumped into a taxi, and sure enough, we arrived to find Ben with a group of ten policemen and women who lined up to witness the reunion; a truly elating and emotional experience in a big city that proved to be totally supportive.
Ben was tired, but after 13-and-a-half days, amazingly fit. Turns out he had been “hanging out” in an embassy garden for two days before someone called the fire department, which delivered him to the police. (See Ben after his rescue, below.) And I flew home a happy camper!
Postscript: As the days passed after the reunion, Ted and Ben had a number of interesting encounters. Two ladies stopped them to say they had been on a bus one day and had seen Ben running alongside. They got off in an attempt to catch him, but he was gone. Others stopped, after recognizing Ben, to ask if he really was my brother’s dog. And two others stopped them, and produced the flyers that my brother had posted, which they had taken down to use to identify Ben.
In the past year the two of them have continued to travel. They’ve been to the States, Italy, England, Belgium, Germany, and are now back in Paris. Each day, they go to the Tuileries, where Ben plays, happily, with a Saluki and a Galgo (Spanish Greyhound). And what a beautiful sight it is!