East Hampton's Yogi Bob Found After More Than a Year

Dominique Garstin was reunited with her dog, Yogi Bob, on Monday at the Hempstead Animal Shelter.

This article was updated with the print version on April 27, 2017.

Yogi Bob, a little dog that captured the hearts of the South Fork when he went missing from East Hampton over a year ago, is home again after being found at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, his owner said.

“Miracles happen!!! Yogi Bob is proof!!!” Dominique Garstin wrote in an Instagram post on Monday after being reunited with the five-pound wonder dog.

“No one is more surprised than me,” she said Tuesday, while returning to the shelter in Wantagh to retrieve the dog.

Posters with Yogi Bob’s picture — some offering a $5,000 reward for his return — remain on trees and utility poles from Montauk to Southampton 15 months after he ran off during a walk near Ms. Garstin’s house on Georgica Road. He was wearing an argyle sweater and had just had a bath, but did not have his collar on and had not been microchipped, she said.

Ms. Garstin’s desperate search for the now 4-year-old dog persisted last year despite a blizzard in early January and frigid temperatures that would have tested even the heartiest of canines. In the early days she got tips from well-wishers who believed they had spotted Yogi Bob in East Hampton, then Bridgehampton, and then back in East Hampton. More than 1,000 people followed her efforts via the Find Yogi Bob Facebook page.

Convinced that he was alive but scared and honing his survival skills to be able to endure the perils of the outdoors, Ms. Garstin hired an Ohio woman and her team of tracking dogs to follow Yogi Bob’s scent and retrace his footsteps in January 2016. They confirmed the callers’ accounts of where he had traveled in his early days away from home, but from there the trail went cold — until this week.

On Monday, Christie Franti, an animal behavior consultant for the Town of Hempstead, sent a photograph of a dog she thought might be Yogi Bob to the Find Yogi Bob Facebook page. Ms. Franti had been an animal control officer for East Hampton Town last year. There was a poster of the dog at her office there, and everyone in the department kept a lookout for him, she said. “Yogi Bob, he’s like a local celebrity.”

Earlier this week, she was evaluating a small stray dog that had been picked up 12 days ago in a Hempstead parking lot. He bore a strong resemblance to the dog on the Yogi Bob flyers, but when she sent a picture to a former co-worker, “I was almost joking that I found Yogi Bob.” It seemed unlikely, but she eventually decided to reach out to the owner. “There are all these unbelievable stories” about people finding beloved pets after long ordeals in all parts of the country. What if this were one of them?”

“The first day, I almost felt guilty getting this poor woman’s hopes up and I gave her a dog that wasn’t him,” Ms. Franti said. Sensitive to a pet owner’s emotions, she did not say she had Yogi Bob, but rather that she had come across a dog that looked a lot like him. Ms. Garstin asked for a few specific pictures, and quickly decided to head to the shelter in Wantagh to see for herself.

“I was very skeptical,” Ms. Garstin said Tuesday afternoon. “I had followed 50 different red herrings.” When the dog was brought out to her, “It was like having a ghost delivered into the waiting room. . . . When you have your animal in your arms, you know.”

The dog has a half-dozen specific characteristics that convince her he is Yogi Bob. He is “an intact male,” not yet neutered; “he has these tiny little feet that are slightly externally rotated,” a distinctly shaped tail, “one little nubby short rib,” and he walks with a slight limp.

“If it wasn’t him, it was a clone,” Ms. Franti said, reviewing all the similarities. She, too, was skeptical, but after seeing Ms. Garstin with the dog, she said she now believes that he really is Yogi Bob.

“What are the odds of that?” she said. “I feel like I completed the last thing that I left unfinished in East Hampton.”

And if this is a clone and not the original? “This dog just hit the lotto on owners,” Ms. Franti said.

The dog’s coat was badly matted and he had a respiratory infection, but he is otherwise well. Although Ms. Garstin identified him on Monday, he could not go home with her right away because he had nipped at someone. “The Department of Health requires that dogs be held 10 days in the event of a bite or a scratch that breaks the skin,” Ms. Franti explained.

He was microchipped before being released and will be neutered when he has recovered from the infection. (Dogs that are not neutered are 75 percent more likely to wander off, Ms. Franti said.)

Ms. Garstin had a new outfit and a live GPS tracking device waiting for the dog at home. He had a bath Tuesday night and she gave him a grooming herself. “He had a trim . . . but he needs some styling this week,” she said yesterday.

“I think we’re all completely shocked,” she added, and then turned to address the dog. “And I would love to know what you’ve been up to for the last year and a half.”

Now that he has his tracker, should he ever go missing again, she will know exactly what adventures he has had.

In East Hampton, Yogi Bob had already become something of a legend, even before he was found — pined for on Facebook, written about in the newspapers, and even immortalized in a song, “Goodbye Yogi Bob,” that Thomas Muse performed at the 2016 Mr. Amagansett pageant to the tune of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

Ms. Garstin’s Facebook post announcing that she had found her dog drew over 500 comments in less than a day.

“People need some good news,” she said yesterday.

This video was added on April 26, 2017:

Dominique Garstin embraces Yogi Bob.