A dog that went missing in midtown Manhattan in December was reunited with his owners on Tuesday thanks to fliers, Facebook and the kindness of plenty of strangers.
Tigger, a year-old lab and pit-bull mix, was being walked by the daughter of a friend of the couple who owns him, Manny Benor and Valerie Aranov, when he broke free as they were leaving the dog run in Madison Square Park. (Benor believes she accidentally attached the leash to a key ring on Tigger's collar.) The 13-year-old chased after the pup for several blocks, but Tigger vanished — and the search for him began.
"I immediately went out in the streets," Benor, 32, told Yahoo News. "We put up fliers on the same day." That was on Dec. 20.
The couple launched a Facebook page — "Help Find Tigger" — and enlisted friends and co-workers to canvass the city. Their doggie day care service sent out a search party, Benor said, and a dog walker and trainer searched Central Park for Tigger every day.
"We called every shelter, every precinct," Benor said. "We would stop by the shelters twice a day."
Tigger was microchipped, he said, but the couple went anyway. "I would go in the mornings before work, and Valerie would go at night," Benor said.
"Tigger is quite possibly the sweetest dog out there," the pair wrote on Facebook. "Even if you don't live in New York, please please please like the page Help Find Tigger, share the post, anything would really help! Let's bring Tigger home. #findtigger"
There were several false sightings (a boxer on 35th and Park was mistaken for Tigger several times; a pet detective thought he saw the missing pooch on 38th and Broadway) and a few pranks.
"People who saw the fliers would call and tell us, 'We sold him,'" Aranov, a 30-year-old attorney, said. "We went to the Bronx and to Queens and followed every lead."
Yet Tigger was nowhere to be found. The couple even hired a company that used the scent from Tigger's bed to try to track him down. (The scent hounds led the group to the Lower East Side, but freezing rain cut the search short.)
But Benor and Aranov refused to give up hope, updating their Facebook page, which had accumulated more than 1,600 followers and tens of thousands sharing their online fliers, with messages like this one, posted Monday:
We are still searching for our Tigger [...] We miss him so so much. We wanted to ask you to please share and like our page to get the word out. We also wanted to ask all of you in New York City to help us. If you are able to, if you could please print up a few flyers (just 5-10) and post them at intersections within a few blocks of your apartment and let us know where you are located. We believe we can get more of the city covered this way and hopefully faster replace the flyers that have been torn down. Thank you so much!!!!!! We need your help to bring our puppy home!
The next day, they got a call from someone whose friend had found a dog matching Tigger's description. He was found underneath an East River pier and was taken in during the polar vortex that gripped New York City and rest of the nation.
"We thought it was probably another hoax," Aranov said.
Benor went to the good Samaritan's apartment, and there was Tigger, wearing his collar — though his tags were gone.
According to Benor, the man who found Tigger thought he had been abandoned and was worried about what might happen to him, especially given the bad rap pit bulls often get.
Tigger is "a little freaked out" but otherwise healthy — and happy to be home.
"Guess who snuck into bed and isn't getting kicked out!!!" the couple wrote on Facebook late Tuesday. "Soooooo happy to have Tigger home. Can't believe it!!! It's almost like the last 3 weeks were just a bad dream. Thank you to everyone for your amazing support, prayers, messages, and incredible efforts and help. We love you all!!!"
The couple said they offered the man a reward, but he refused, saying he just wanted to "see Tigger every once in a while."
For dog lovers, the story gets even better. During their search, the couple discovered a stray dog and wound up fostering him.
"How could we say 'no'?" Aranov said.