Wednesday, April 20 began uneventfully, as most momentous days do. I remember biking across New York’s Manhattan Bridge and admiring the sun on the water that morning, unaware that in a few short hours, I was in for one of the worst experiences of my life.
I’ve known my dog, Esteban, since the day he was born. It was the windiest night of Hurricane Sandy, the giant glass windows of my Brooklyn apartment building bending and buckling with each gust when my neighbor’s Chihuahua gave birth to a surprise litter. That was the first time I laid eyes on him. I never planned on owning a pet as long as I lived in New York, but Esteban quickly claimed me as his human. It wasn’t really up to me—little dude was determined. Since then, I’ve become a full-blown dog owner.
Esteban is silvery gray with tiny white socks. He weighs three pounds and is loving, gentle, and sweet. His size allows me to take him with me everywhere, so we share all of our adventures—he has become, in effect, an extension of me; a friend once described us as one soul split between two bodies. Suffice it to say, I never imagined a life without Esteban because it was unfathomable to lose a piece of myself.
On the evening of the 20th, I arrived home in Bed-Stuy and noticed that Esteban was out of food, so I decided to take him for a quick walk to the market at the end of our block. I tied him up outside of the door—as all New Yorkers do—in the same spot with the same knot that I had used countless times over the years. I cruised in and out of the store in just a few minutes. I stepped outside, walked the two feet from the door to where I left him, and stopped short—my jaw literally dropped and I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach that words can’t even describe.
He was gone. Not hiding behind anything. Not loose and dragging his leash along the nearby piles of trash. Not up or down any of the streets in which I spent the next hour searching for him. I called for him; I cried for him; I desperately asked strangers if they’d seen him. Eventually, I just sat down in the middle of the sidewalk as I was hit with the reality of his disappearance, and the likeliness that he was purposefully taken. I emailed my supervisors at work to let them know I was going to be late the next day so I could put up fliers in the morning. Then, I posted a photo of Esteban to my Instagram account to let my online community know what had happened.
The response was overwhelming. Moments after posting, a friend sent me a text with detailed directions on how to make a “Lost Dog” flier. Another text came in advising me to file a police report. I went out two more times to try finding him, asking clerks from the store if they had outdoor security cameras and workers from nearby businesses if they’d seen anything, but to no avail. I called 311 and two officers arrived at my door to take my report, confirming that Esteban was most likely stolen, and left me with some more suggestions. I added details to my flier, posted it to my Instagram, and I went to bed.