It was three weeks ago Thursday that Yogi Bob went missing in East Hampton, but Dominique Garstin has not given up hope, even through below-freezing temperatures and last weekend's blizzard, and she has hundreds of well-wishers from Bridgehampton to Montauk following Yogi Bob's saga.
Some of that may have to do with the reward. Desperate to find her five-pound mixed-breed dog, she offered $5,000 cash for his return, no questions asked. Still, many fellow dog-lovers and friends -- nearly 900 people have liked the Find Yogi Bob Facebook page -- are merely hoping for a happy ending to this story, and what a story it is.
Ms. Garstin, who owns Yoga Lila in Montauk, was walking Yogi Bob and her two other dogs near her house on Georgica Road on Jan. 7 at around 4:30 p.m. When she got to Georgica Close, she let the dogs off their leashes as she usually does on that quiet side street. Noticing that a car parked in a driveway seemed to have an interior light on, she went to knock on the door of the house and lost track of Yogi Bob. It was only a matter of three minutes, but he was nowhere to be found. Ms. Garstin stayed out searching for him until 11:30 that night. The next day she continued to search in vain.
After receiving a number of calls from people who believed they had spotted Yogi Bob during the first week he was missing, Ms. Garstin decided to hire Jordina Thorp of Ohio and her team of four tracking dogs to aid in her search.
"This dog is very unique," Ms. Garstin said Wednesday. "He's traveled with me all over the world, he rides on paddleboards with me, he sleeps with my infant son. . . . If he hasn't given up on survival, I can't give up on him."
Ms. Thorp and her dogs -- a weimaraner, a Jack Russell, and two mixed-breed hounds -- arrived on Jan. 20 to follow up on leads from the week before. "It's pretty amazing to watch them work. They are so professional," Ms. Garstin said. One picks up scents in the air, "another was meticulous about foot placement."
Almost a week before, someone had reported seeing a small dog fitting Yogi Bob's description being pursued by a fox in East Hampton near a railroad trestle. Using a scent article, in this case his collar, the tracking dogs confirmed that it was him and that he had been chased by a fox. They picked up his scent and kept going, following it all the way to Bridgehampton. The next morning, Ms. Garstin heard from someone who had seen him around Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton. The dogs tracked him heading south across the road and behind Cafe Max. And the day after that, Friday, Jan. 22, the dogs confirmed a sighting that morning in the long-term parking lot off Lumber Lane in East Hampton Village.
"He's a 3-year-old dog; he's in great shape. He can travel quite a bit for a little guy," Ms. Garstin said. He is blond to beige in color.
Ms. Thorp and her dogs left on Tuesday, and Ms. Garstin has had no further tips since last Friday, but she remains confident that Yogi Bob is alive. "When you talk to someone like her who does this for a living, they point out that the failure in most dog searches is the dog owner giving up too soon. We underestimate the survival instinct of our pets."
She has learned that pets begin to behave differently when they're in survival mode, drawing on those more primal instincts to find food, escape predators, and make it through subfreezing temperatures. Surprising for such a small dog, Yogi Bob, for instance, has "great traveling potential," covering far more territory than she would have guessed possible. "For a dog his size to make it to weeks, he's got a skill set that's only going to improve," she said.
"He's amazingly small, which makes him tough to follow, slipping through tiny cracks and under fences," she posted on the Find Yogi Bob Facebook page on Jan. 21. The next day she implored people not to attempt to catch him: "It will only scare him further and push him from the area. He has always been timid of people. Now he has been chased by predators, cars, people, trains, and lord knows what, and he is really frightened."
She believes he could have easily weathered the snowstorm by finding a warm hiding spot and was heartened that temperatures never got that cold during it. "If he already survived 9-degree temperatures and 11-degree temperatures, this week has been balmy."
As for the reward, she worries it was a "rookie mistake." Early on someone was convinced Yogi Bob had been taken, and she just wanted him back. Now, she said, "I feel more like I've put a bounty on his head and put other small dogs at risk."
As of Friday morning, he still had not been found, and there had been no sightings for a week. Ms. Garstin's advice, which owners of other lost dogs might find instructive, is to avoid approaching a dog that is "in flight mode." The experts "are still of the opinion that it's most likely that he's still hunkering down and getting better at hiding."
She has asked anyone who believes he or she has seen Yogi Bob to call her at 914-575-9739.