They may be frustrated, but the volunteers hoping to help rescue a missing champion whippet are doggedly determined to keep up the search even though it’s been three months.
The volunteers—mostly women and all dog lovers—come every Saturday to a Fresh Meadows park to pick up new posters to hang in northern Queens in hopes of finding Vivi, the missing whippet.
Vivi disappeared on Feb. 15 when her crate opened on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport en route to her home in California. She had just competed in the Westminster Dog Show. Initially, the sightings centered around the airport, but about a month later, she was seen in the Bayside area.
That’s about 10 miles from the airport and searchers say the dog is more than capable of covering such a distance. Others speculate that she was taken by someone in the airport area, was moved and escaped. Her collar was gone and witnesses have seen Vivi with a rope around her neck.
For three months since her disappearance, a major volunteer effort has been undertaken by local residents and other dog fanciers. At first, they concentrated on finding the dog and rescuing her. But that became counterproductive when Vivi journeyed farther afield.
“She is definitely in survival mode and we believe people trying to catch her made her retreat even further,” said Bonnie Folz, a volunteer coordinator from Howard Beach.
Now, the effort is on keeping the public informed about what Vivi looks like and that she is still missing. Posters urge people not to attempt to catch her, but to call the experts immediately with her location.
Honi Reisman, the other search coordinator, lives in Baldwin, Long Island, and explained that the dog may respond negatively to being called by her name. “Whippets go into the feral mode so quickly,” she said. “Vivi probably wouldn’t even recognize Jil, ( the co owner, who the dog lived with).”
Last Saturday, volunteers met once again at the Peck Avenue and Utopia Parkway park to get additional posters and fliers to put up. All expressed frustration at not finding Vivi, but none have given up.
Diana McConnell comes all the way from Wilton, Conn. She owns two whippets and has been involved in the search since Vivi disappeared.
“It’s just a matter of time. I hope the warm weather will bring more people outside and she will allow herself to be seen,” McConnell said.
Reisman describes the missing whippet as very independent and a good hunter who can travel 35 miles per hour. She is knee high, white with a brindle saddle and weighed 30 pounds before her escape.
Diane Tamm lives in Flushing and also owns whippets. She has been involved in the rescue operation for two months primarily by printing and distributing fliers. She is also encouraged by the warmer weather.
“I think the smells of people barbecuing in parks will bring her out,” she said. “I believe she’s around because whippets are not that common and the descriptions given by those who have seen her fit Vivi perfectly.”
Carmen and Jennifer Armstrong, sisters from Freeport, Long Island, have helped with the search from the beginning. “It is discouraging, but when Vivi is seen, you get hope again,” Jennifer said.
Kathleen McGurty Weiser of Bayside has been volunteering since March. “I’m weary and frustrated,” she said, but promises to keep putting up posters.
Reisman got involved because she knows Vivi’s owners. “I do think the dog is out there,” she said. “But she could be out there a long time. She loves to kill and eat squirrels.”
Bo Bengtson, Vivi’s breeder, who also lives in California, is appreciative of the continued support in Queens to find Vivi. “We are very grateful for the volunteers who devote their time and energy to help,” he said. “We know it could take months before Vivi will allow herself to get caught.”
Vivi was last seen in Bayside. She seems to be making a large circle around green areas including Kissena Park, Flushing Meadows Park, MacNeil Park, Powells Cove Park, Francis Lewis Park, Oakland Gardens, Crocheron Park, Alley Pond Park, Cunningham Park and back through the Peck Utopia site.
Anyone seeing Vivi is asked to report sightings immediately to 877 JFK VIVI or (917) 647 4848.