Our puppy mill rescue, Luna, escaped on the evening of August 31, 2020 by sliding out of her halter on lower Wacker Drive. She was seen shortly thereafter on a construction site along the Riverwalk after several well -intentioned people tried to capture her. That night after our family searched the area for Luna, we began posting on social media (pawboost.com, lostmydoggie.com) that we had lost our dog.
It was hard to search with no success, and at times to be completely ignored by many passersby and our spirits were challenged from the start. What turned it around for us was the knowledge that our story was being shared within the community. We received not only advice, but unconditional support started to pour-in to us as well. From lists of websites to check, to warnings that opportunists might try and scam us, to advice on leaving food out and clothing with our scent on it, to instructions on who to contact and where to distribute posters, we were given really helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, fearing the worst and guilt stricken, my initial thought was that I had to personally fix it and find Luna myself.
The day after her disappearance, armed with a poster my wife printed out, I went to UPS for copies of the poster. There I was immediately given a huge discount on the entire order because of content and the story surrounding Luna. I walked 17 miles that day, looking under every dumpster, talking to every stranger that would listen, and posting as many signs as I possibly could but there were no leads.
That evening, during our third attempt to locate Luna (she had been missing now for one day), we received our first call from Superintendent Eric Carter of Riverwalk Security, after he saw our sign posted. He was the one that told me of Luna’s sighting the night before on the opposite side of the river along the Riverwalk. He immediately hung Luna’s poster in the security office and notified every shift that she was lost on the Riverwalk. Superintendent Carter walked me through everywhere Luna had evaded capture and where they left her hiding under a large dumpster within a construction site. As a dog owner himself, he kept in constant contact with me and asked for updates on Luna. His support and his help gave us real hope that we might get Luna back.
Day two (12 miles of walking), the goal was to reach out to as many dog owners as possible in our search area. The very first flier that I handed out was to Armando Garcia of Bulley & Andrews Construction. I made him aware that Luna was last seen at his worksite and that she was a puppy mill rescue. This meant she would be very skittish and if he were to ever see her to please call me and not try to capture her himself. Still, there were no signs of Luna.
After another day of no Luna-sightings, I was met by my very concerned wife at the door of our apartment. My wife told me that killing myself by walking a daily half-marathon would not find Luna. We needed to “search smart” and marshal as large a team as possible to look for Luna. My wife emphasized that we needed help to find Luna. This is when I realized we needed our whole community to assist in the search, and our community really rose to the challenge.
One of the first people to contact me after seeing our online post was Susan Donner. She helped us create a game plan. She gave us some sense of control over a situation in which we had none. Informed by her advice, I posted fliers all along the lakefront between Belmont Harbor and 31st Street Harbor, including McCormick Place, Soldier Field, Navy Pier and the Field Museum. I hung posters up and down the Riverwalk and in Grant Park. I visited three Police Stations, all of which posted our flier. I spoke with a security guard for the City tow truck company and asked him to hand out fliers to every driver. I spoke with the City Streets and Sanitation Department and asked them to post the flier. I notified the microchip company that Luna was missing. I called Chicago Star Media, Jay Kopp, who without hesitation used his platform to spread the word. I also spoke to the Anti-Cruelty Society and to Paws, and our daughter spoke to nearly every other shelter and rescue organization in the City. Between our daughter and I, we also spoke to 43 veterinarians and asked them to keep any eye out for Luna in case someone brought her in to be checked. I also spoke to street vendors, grounds keepers, restaurants up and down the lake, construction workers at five surrounding construction sites, various pet walkers, pet groomers, and I visited with homeless individuals on Lower Wacker Drive, handing out donuts and asking them for their help. Every person I spoke to responded with compassion, sympathy, empathy, and support. Their kindness meant everything to me and the feeling was overwhelming.
As dog owners who lost a dearly loved dog, we felt completely out of control. We received phone calls at 3:30am from someone claiming to have our dog. It was cruel. At the same time though, the overwhelming support from the local community - calls, texts, messages wondering if there were any updates, volunteers forming search parties to look for Luna - we also felt the love of Chicago.
Still, after no sightings of Luna for eight days, our optimism was challenged.
On the morning of Wednesday, September 9, 2020, 9 days after we lost Luna, we received a call at 6:36 am from Armando Garcia, the very first person to whom I handed a flier 8 days earlier. “I have found your dog”, he texted. That text was followed by a picture of Luna’s little nose sticking out from under a crate at a construction site on the Riverwalk. We were there within 5 minutes with Luna’s “big brother” Teddy.
Once I saw it was Luna, I called her name and she stuck her head out from beneath the crate. She did not come out though. It took her big brother Teddy to lure Luna out. Teddy went over to the crate and ultimately Luna followed him.
Armando was our hero. He would not accept a reward. He told me that his sister fosters animals and that he too was a dog owner and couldn’t imagine losing his own pup. He also told me that he remembered me saying the way to keep a dog in one spot is to provide food. To our surprise, without knowing who was eating it, Armando was leaving food daily in the hope that it was Luna eating his food.
Teddy has not let Luna out of his sight since this incident, and Luna has not been happier. Our family - me, my wife, our daughters - we are all beside ourselves that Luna is home. Plus for me, notifying all those with whom I spoke and who offered to help that Luna was found was the best part of this ordeal. We later found out that people who had not checked Luna’s status online and did not know she was found, were continuing to walk the lakefront with their dogs searching for Luna. We also learned that Susan Donner who had so kindly helped us through the entire process was herself going through personal challenges and had to put her own dog down the night before Luna was found. She purposefully withheld her sad news to keep me in a positive frame of mind. The original rescue company (Bluegrass Shih Tzu Rescue Inc.) and its Executive Director, Donna Turner, not only had all of Luna’s microchip information to me within minutes but had also reached out to multiple rescue centers in the surrounding areas to help. Everywhere we turned, there was evidence of how the community rallied around us to find Luna.
If that were not enough, once we had Luna home, when we were walking her, we were approached on multiple occasions by strangers asking if she was “Luna from the fliers”. Many tears of joy were shed by complete strangers over Luna’s story, “the dog from the flier”. We heard about their prayers for Luna and their hope for her safe return. It was heartwarming.
During this masked and separated time, and given the divided state of our country, we were so struck by how diverse but uniformly kind people came together to bring Luna home safely. We are so grateful to this community of caring Chicagoans.