Minutes after her three-pound Yorkshire Terrier went missing last Tuesday, Nida Chaudhary embarked on an intense hunt to track it down, enlisting the help of neighbors, relatives, and even other dogs. Nearly every waking hour of Chaudhary’s past week has been devoted to finding ten-year-old Lexington, but she’s losing hope with each passing day.
“We can find her if we all just continue to believe we can,” Chaudhary says. “I just can’t believe we’re not catching a break at all.”
Immediately after Chaudhary’s neighbor called to tell her Lexington had slipped through her Park View house’s backyard fence, she hit send on the email draft that’d been sitting in her outbox for two years for exactly this reason, printed 20 “missing dog” fliers at work, and “booked it home” to start the search. The dog’s Bluetooth tracker was out of range, and “that’s when I realized that this dog was gone,” she says.
So she canvassed the neighborhood with hundreds of small fliers and taped posters up on the streets near her house between Georgia and Sherman avenues, Northwest. As of Wednesday on one Georgia Ave., block, there were no fewer than 13 posters—some laminated and secured with zip ties. You would have to be blind not to notice them. There are about 90 laminated posters and over 500 leaflets floating around DC right now.
While Chaudhary is worried she could be fined for posters (police threatened another missing dog owner canvasser with a $750,000 fine last April), she’s not stopping.
“This has become the talk of the area for the past week,” says Max Zuckerman, owner of the Georgia Avenue coffee shop Colony Club. (Disclosure: Zuckerman is a friend of mine.)
Lexington reportedly has been spotted twice since she went missing. One of the witnesses told Chaudhary that he saw someone snatch the dog up from the sidewalk and drive away. A certified search-and-rescue dog from the non-profit organization Dogs Finding Dogs tracked Lexington’s scent to around the same location of the potential dog-napping—strengthening the case that she was stolen.
“We can make a strong assumption that that is probably what happened,” says Anne Wills, the executive director of Dogs Finding Dogs. Since she founded the group in 2008, she’s been a part of over 4,000 lost dog cases in the Washington area, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York—94 percent of those dogs were reunited with their owner. About 65 percent of them were stolen.
“The process can take two days, one day, one hour, three weeks, three months,” Wills says. “It can be like leading bread crumbs with Hansel and Gretel.” The longest case she’s ever worked on lasted two years before they tracked the dog down.
Along with posting fliers and reporting Lexington as lost property to the police, Chaudhary has also laid out her socks to attract Lexington to her scent. She plans to soak dirty clothes in water and spray the neighborhood for the same purpose. Her sister came down from New York to run Facebook and Twitter pages devoted to the search, which are frequently updated using the hashtag #HelpFindLexington. Chaudhary also tried to get security camera footage from outside Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School on Kenyon Street, Northwest, where Lexington was last spotted, with no luck. She’s made a map to keep track of the sightings.
It’s hard to imagine anything else she could be doing to find Lexington.
“We get so attached to our pets they become like a child to us,” Wills says. “How do you tell somebody to give up looking for their missing child? Unless you find closure, you’re always gonna wonder if it’s still out there. Only God is gonna tell you that you’ve had enough.”
Wills was involved in the highly publicized search of a Rottweiler named Havoc, who went missing nearly three years ago. The dog’s owner, Janet Mihalyfi, is still looking for him, and has spent more than $35,000 along the way.
As long as people keep reporting sightings of Lexington, Chaudhary will keep looking. “Feeling like you’re a day or two behind is so exhausting, and it makes me feel like I have to work so much harder.” In the midst of all this on Saturday, Chaudhary tried to help an abandoned dog in the back of her alley. The dog bit her and she had to go to the emergency room. She has to go back to the hospital this week for rabies vaccines.
She’s taken almost a week off of work and is hardly sleeping, but she says it will all be worth it if Lexington is recovered.