An East Hampton dog has been reunited with his owners after nearly a year-and-a-half on the run and a twist of fate.
Yogi Bob, a 5-pound, 4 1⁄2-year-old Yorkshire terrier mix, was picked up by the Town of Hempstead on April 14, more than 75 miles from where he was last seen.
Christie Fanti, an animal behavior evaluator for the town, was asked to evaluate the dog after a caller reported a stray near an apartment complex, she said. In a strange coincidence, Fanti recognized Yogi Bob from her previous job in the Town of East Hampton’s animal control department.
Yogi Bob’s owner, Dominique Garstin, 34, of East Hampton, said the dog disappeared after being let off leash on a walk on Jan. 7, 2016.
“It’s so wild. He’s so tiny, he’s such an itty bitty little creature, that it’s just amazing he survived this long,” Garstin said.
When Yogi Bob went missing, she and her family tried desperately to find him, setting up social media pages and printing hundreds of dollars worth of flyers and signs to distribute on the East End, Garstin said.
She said she spent another $5,000 to hire professional dog trackers from Ohio, who were able to follow Yogi Bob’s movements around feral cat feeding stations, but the little dog ran off whenever someone got too close. His trail went cold after a few weeks.
Fanti, 32, said she was aware of Garstin’s search efforts before she switched jobs. When she was asked to evaluate a stray dog to be put up for adoption on Monday, the animal looked surprisingly familiar, she said.
“The dog looked so much like him. I sent this picture to my old co-workers and said ‘Doesn’t this look like Yogi Bob?’ ” she said.
Fanti couldn’t shake the resemblance and messaged a photo of the dog to Garstin on Facebook. Garstin said she’d received dozens of tips and checked out nearly 50 dogs in person, but Fanti’s looked the most like her dog out of any leads she had received.
Garstin drove out to the Hempstead Animal Shelter on Monday afternoon and sure enough, Yogi Bob crawled into her lap and began to lick her face. Fanti said the shelter confirmed the dog matched Yogi Bob’s description in medical records — namely, a distinctive knee condition — before releasing him to Garstin on Tuesday.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever seen or heard” of a dog being gone and recovered, Fanti said. “I really thought I was almost doing a rude thing by sending the picture because it had been so long.”
Garstin said it’s not clear how Yogi Bob ended up in Hempstead. She believes he may have been picked up by someone before escaping again or being abandoned.
Still, she’s happy Fanti contacted her and that Yogi Bob is back. He’s had a bath and is receiving medical care for a respiratory infection he picked up during his time away, she said.
“He’s been through hell and back,” she said. “What are the chances someone would have recognized him?”