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2006-03-01 / Columnists

by Joanne Anderson
Pets, Pets, Pets...

Viva, in photo taken at the show. Viva, in photo taken at the show. Desperately Seeking Vivi! She's the Westminster Whippet who bolted from her damaged crate at JFK Terminal 3 during loading at Delta Airlines on 2/15. Worry grows with each passing day since the Whippet is a consummate canine racer without an ounce of fat or fur to shield her from the NY winter. Although Vivi sped down the runway, then vanished into the marsh, we know she is out there, somewhere. Her searchers battle time, frigid temperatures, and the logistics of one of the planet's busiest airports because we're determined to find her.

The Whippet's escape captured world wide attention, including a headline on the AOL screen. When Vivi (aka Ch Bohem C'est La Vie) turned the "gypsy" implied in her pedigree name, a massive search began: Port Authority helicopters, search dogs, concerned volunteers in cars and on foot, following maps, instinct, and even tips from a dozen psychics who semiagree that she is in a warm building surrounded by yellow machinery.

Vivi's California owners have flown back and forth to hunt for their cherished champion and pet. The microchipped 30 lb., white with brindle, mini-Greyhound was last seen wearing a black wool coat and tags. Five humane traps, baited with tantalizing cat food and strips of her bedding along with her handler's clothes, checked 3 times a day, await the hound in the marshes. Keep in mind there are about 5,000 acres of dense reeds that could camouflage King Kong.

Two Saints (minus the "Bernard") coordinate the search strategies. Denise Flaim, Newsday's esteemed pet columnist, updates the recovery efforts via her "Vivi Watch" Animal House interactive blog. Denise announces searches, dispels rumors, and displays advice from Whippet watchers across the US. The FBI could learn from her blog because critical analysis by Vivi's supporters, near and far, delves deeper than the Jimmy Hoffa investigation.

Bonnie Folz, Pharaoh hound owner and dog trainer, organizes the grid searches. Her van, covered with a huge map of the JFK vicinity, serves as the command post, parked right outside the Vetport. Bonnie, the Sacagawea of Queens, divided the area into 24 sections that she assigns to volunteers. The wind blown teams thrive on her hot chocolate and Scoopy Snacks (tasty dog biscuits for humans). Bonnie fields the constant emails and cell calls. Both are founders of the Big Apple Sighthound Association which promotes lure-coursing on LI. Whippets are the show-offs of their sport. That's why these ladies understand how Vivi could be gone with the wind.

I had to help. Vivi's plight is an owner's worst nightmare. Besides, in the '90's, Vivi's owners published The Afghan Hound Review and printed my stories. Before Tues. night's search, I tried to channel the sighthound psyche. Wearing an Afghan Rescue sweatshirt, Afghan hair scarf, and a ring that belonged to my dog-loving grandmother who lived a stone's throw from old Idlewild, I pressed my forehead to my sighthound's skull and asked the Beauty Queen for help. Then I came back to my senses, packed pastrami, flashlights, and a leash, while waiting for Bonnie Bassey, dog catcher extraordinaire, to finish work at Babylon Shelter. We had company in her SUV. A lady who shows Pulik (I finally got to use the Hungarian plural) and the Ch. 11 camera man climbed in the back seat. Reporter Arthur Chi'en followed close behind. 'Tis hard to read a map with a video camera aimed at your back. The vastness of JFK hits youso many nooks; piles of debris; open doors, fences and trucks; abandoned, inaccessible buildings, monuments to defunct airlines, many lit up. All this gives you the eerie feeling that despite persistence (and pastrami), you may have passed right by the tiny waif.

Sharon Veltre, who has 2 gorgeous, rescued Greyhounds, was my search partner Saturday. Pony and Sophie borrow my yard as their track since they live on the canal. The Beauty Queen eggs them on with a few lightning laps, and then we let the duo rocket up to speed. Vivi pre-empted track time last weekend.

Sharon and I wandered the Inwood neighborhood, adjacent to JFK. We hoped we'd find Vivi snuggled among the Rolls Royces at a perfect spotthe "Westminster Auto" garage. No such luck. Next stopa Rosedale marsh with incoming jets so low, we could almost read the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign with our binoculars. A machete would have been more useful than my squeaky toy in this brush. The ground is tenuous, as soft grass hides the water below. Whippets are hunters, yet the meals seem scarce. We spied only gulls, a cardinal, and a burned VW Rabbit beyond the FAA warning. So much for Homeland Security.

Vivi's become the proverbial needle in a haystack. Formal volunteer searches are stalled until the wayward Whippet shows herself again. Monitoring the airport and traps will continue. More boats and a pet detective may be called in next. Hope is still alive. I'm heartened by my Garbo, a Brookhaven Afghan, I rescued years ago who showed up, resting in a yard, 2 weeks and 17 miles from her point of escape.

Please ask all your friends around JFK to keep their eyes open, spread the word, and call 917-626-1374 with any leads. Too many neighborhood people are unaware. If you want a Vivi flyer to copy, please contact me at the BEACON. Prayer can't hurt either. As one "Vivi Watch" blogger suggests: Invoking the triple blessings of the canonized SaintsFrancis, Anthony, and Jude-might spark the reunion miracle Vivi's many well wishers want.

Rememberplenty of other lost and surrendered dogs and cats languish in town animal shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home. "Rusty" is a handsome, neut. 3 yr. old Retriever mix at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. He's in Cage 27. Even though Rusty has a tag, this sweetie remains unclaimed. See more Babylon Shelter adoptables online at Petfinder; zip code: 11704. Also available:

Female: a beautiful, declawed torti Siamese mix in C-5; "Queenie" a small Husky/Akita in Cage 95; a purebred Boxer in Cage 59.

Males: a frightened, microchipped Pomeranian in the Puppy Room; "Moose"99% Great Dane in Cage 45.

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