All of the reports about the snowstorm slamming into the East Coast have tempered — at least for now — any nostalgia I have for my days living in Brooklyn. The San Francisco Bay Area may be chilly and foggy, but it’s downright tropical when compared to what a New York winter can be. It’s not the kind of weather you want to be homeless in, whether you’re a dog or a person. Being out in that kind of cold can be lethal even in mild years, and far more so when the “storm of the century” is tearing into the entire coast.
A lot of people and animals are facing the storm without homes, but at least one dog was able to return to his family just in time. After missing for five months, a Whippet named Burt was brought in from the cold by the New York Fire Department and reunited with his family.
Burt had been seen hanging around a fire department training facility on Randall’s Island for about three weeks. When reports about the oncoming storm started to come in, Lieutenant David Kelly decided that he needed to get the unknown dog inside, and he captured him by luring him into a cage with some dog food. The first time didn’t actually go as planned; Burt managed to run away with the entire plate of food, which had already frozen in the winter night. Fortunately, Burt soon decided to come back for more and this time, Kelly managed to close the cage on him.
It turned out that Burt had a home, with an owner who wanted him back very badly. In August, Lauren Piccolo was walking Burt near her apartment in Harlem when he slipped out of his collar and ran off. Ever since then, she’s been trying to find him. Burt has his own Facebook page, “Bring Burt Home,” which Lauren has used to spread the word and post updates on possible sightings of Burt. For the first few months, updates on the page came fast and quick. Toward the end of the year, they started to come less frequently and with a more wistful tone. A particularly poignant example came on November 5, when Piccolo posted, “Happy 1st birthday Burt… wherever you are. Mommy misses you and loves you always.”
But the Facebook page did not bring Burt home, even after Piccolo’s messages had more longing than hope in them. That changed two days ago, after Kelly found the page and contacted her. Piccolo’s post for that day says, “After five months, and of course in the middle of a mega snow storm, I get a call from a really nice fireman who has seen a Whippet, nightly for 2 – 3 weeks, near the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island. The fireman has been feeding this dog, but only from a distance because if he gets to close the dog runs – really fast. Sound like my guy? Yup. I can’t believe you are still out there, Burt!!!!!!!!!!”
“As soon as he saw his owner, the dog started wagging his tail, licking her,” Kelly told TV station WABC.
In a statement, Piccolo said, “I am tremendously grateful for the efforts of the FDNY to recover Burt. Burt had been running loose in the city for more than five months and managed to evade capture by friends, family, and many Good Samaritans. While Burt is a resilient dog, I don’t think he would have survived such a fierce storm. The FDNY’s efforts were incredible and timely! Burt is resting at home and is expected to make a full recovery.”
Hopefully the remainder of the winter will be as kind to other people and pets who find themselves stuck outside.
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