On New Year's Eve, a dog owner in Dundee, N.Y., experienced a miracle of sorts when he was reunited with his 17-year-old mixed-breed pet, Maggie, which had been lost in a snowstorm for five days until the nearly deaf animal responded to an 11-year-old boy practicing his turkey call.
Jordina Ghiggeri has awaited the same miracle for a year. It was on Dec. 31, 2011, that her beloved 11-year-old, tan-and-white Pembroke Welch corgi, Andy, ran from a Westport backyard after being frightened by a celebratory fireworks display. Ghiggeri, then a resident of Plymouth, Mass., took weeks off from work on a horse farm to search for Andy. She posted thousands of signs throughout Fairfield County, spent thousands of dollars on gas and printing costs, and even brought a professional dog tracker to Connecticut to aid in the effort.
All, however, was to no avail.
Ghiggeri and her husband, Michael, celebrated this New Year's at the same Westport residence as last year. "I use that term `celebrated' loosely," she said.
Ghiggeri may not have her happy ending -- although she hasn't completely given up hope of finding Andy -- but she does have a new address, as well as a new line of work that was a direct result of Andy's disappearance.
"We sold our house in Massachusetts and moved to Weston," said Ghiggeri, who gave up her work as a horse trainer and riding instructor to become a professional animal tracker. "I have three tracking dogs with me. I decided I was going to do something to help other people," she said.
Ghiggeri said one owner of a missing pet asked about her motivation. She said it boils down to empathy. "I know exactly what they're going through. I know how they feel. I was at such a loss. I was so far behind the Eight Ball (when Andy went missing) so it's nice to get people some answers," she said. "It's difficult not to know."
Additionally, she said, such tracking services are needed. "There are so many lost dogs," she said.
To prepare for her new line of work, Ghiggeri trained all summer with Karin TarQwyn, a private investigator and missing pet expert from Nebraska who searched for Andy with her own tracking dogs, one of which is now with Ghiggeri. Ghiggeri is now working with TarQwyn under the business name Lost Pet Professionals.
Ghiggeri said Andy made huge changes in her life, from the time she got him as a puppy to his year-long disappearance. She learned a lot about dog searches and she said other pet owners have learned from her unfortunate experience about what to do when their pets disappear.
"It's unbelievable how many other lost dog Facebook pages there are now," she said. Social media can play an important role because it can make people quickly aware of lost pets and can provide immediate updates.
In the case of Andy, it has also created a fan base. Almost 5,000 people have "friended" the Bring Andy Home Facebook page. They post hopeful messages to Ghiggeri, write personal messages to Andy and compose poems about him.
On Nov. 23, Dawn Dutra wrote: "Andy, love you little dog but you are REALLY starting to annoy me with your hide and seek game. Come on out and we'll crown you the winner!"
Fairfield County resident Marci Caporizzo posted a poem on Andy's Facebook page on Nov. 25. It reads, in part:
"Oh what could it be that you do all day / Of whom do you see, and with whom do you play / Have you learned from this journey of things very deep / And where is it Andy at night do you sleep ... For you are the Corgi we've come to adore / For we worry and fret `ore the life you do lead / And pray for your health and safety ... indeed / We all hope and pray that you're not all alone / And most especially that you'll soon come on HOME."
Just before Christmas, Ghiggeri posted: "Interesting observation, Christmas card count thus far -- Michael and myself 3, Andy 49... Wow, I am speechless, what a heartfelt wonderful gesture from all of you sending Andy (and his fur siblings in most cases) a Christmas card! Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!!"
Ghiggeri said the outpouring of love and support is "touching and special." Calls about Andy sightings continue to come in. The latest was on Dec. 18 on the Wilton-Norwalk border. "There's no pattern that I can establish," Ghiggeri said, but she continues to remain optimistic. She recently printed new posters about the continuing search for the lost dog.
"It's extremely discouraging. It's extremely frustrating, but I can't give up hope on him unless it's Guinness Book of World Records impossible for him to still be alive," she said.
If anyone sees Andy, Ghiggeri asks that she be contacted at 781-264-5243.
Follow the efforts to reunite "Andy" and Ghiggeri at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Bring-Andy-Home/323338351030976