A Thank You Story with Gratitude: The Runaway Whippet of La Jolla


By Joni Lovci

There are senseless moments in life when devastating gratuitous pain and adversity render us speechless and sobbing in the wake of human suffering. September 11. The horrific wildfires in San Diego. A lost and frightened whippet roaming the streets of La Jolla for three days. (Well, at least to me, his owner, this event ranked right up there with the big ones.)

Paradoxically and fortunately, these are also the moments when true magic occurs in the universe, when people hold your hand and touch your heart, when despair is transformed into beauty and gratitude. These are the moments that restore your faith that the world is indeed a magnificent place in which to live.

I’d like to share the following such moment with the people of La Jolla as a way to express my gratitude to many of them:

Andrea the whippet bolted out of my physical therapist’s office on Fay Street at noon on Columbus Day, Oct. 10. I had taken my dog with me to physical therapy because he was four days out of surgery for a serious leg laceration. He wore a wide “bite not” protective collar and needed monitoring.

During his escapade, he ran loose for three days, and was sighted on Girard, La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla Cove, and the Children’s Seal Pool before he was finally apprehended and recovered


days later.

One minute Andrea was securely snoozing next to me on the massage table. The next minute he had made his way to an open reception area door and was bounding down the stairs en route to Girard Avenue. I knew my too-smart-for-his-own-good boy had exploited human error, when I heard the panicked voice of my therapist Nick, yelling, “Andrea! Andrea!” and then heard the thump, thump, thump! of fleeing dog paws down the steep, concrete staircase.

Nick was in hot pursuit by the time I found Andrea’s leash and hobbled down the stairs in a vain attempt to join the sprinters. I searched for about four blocks before I was exhausted and turned back to the office to get my car keys and cell phone for what was to be a six-hour search without catching a glimpse of Andrea.

A woman named


said she had cornered him and attempted to catch him at an intersection on Dowling, but by the time I drove by, Andrea had apparently moved on. I continued on my search and drove for hours, intermittently parking the car, opening the door, calling his name, getting out and searching on foot — always just missing him, or so others told me.

I didn’t get many names, but here are some of the heroes:

• Thanks to the

folks at the veterinary clinic on Fay Avenue

that I raced into, who took Andrea’s description and my cell phone number.

• Thanks to the

two gardeners

who completely stopped their work and escorted me down the street they had witnessed the wayward whippet running. Or as they described it: “Black dog. Fast.”

• Thank you to the

reception people at La Jolla Veterinary Clinic,

who were also on the lookout for Andrea and took the call that he had been sighted again, although it was from Anne who had been unsuccessful cornering Andrea, and asked if they could provide her with a trap.

• Thanks to

the jogger

who told me he had indeed seen the dog, stressed and limping, making his way to the beach. He held my hand when I was crying and reassured me, saying, “Hey, this is La Jolla. We love dogs. You’ll get him back.”

• Thanks to

the deaf man

, who, realizing he couldn’t help me, took my hand and went over to some


who heard my story and looked for Andrea on their bikes.

• Thanks to the

two lifeguards

who didn’t yell at me for parking in their spaces, but rather, greeted me with: “Still haven’t found him? You will. We’re looking for him, too.”

• Thanks to the

UPS man

who stopped to draw me a map because I didn’t know the area.

By this time, I notified my

dear dog friend, Kay

, who posted an SOS on the Internet, but advised me to put up missing dog posters immediately. I was losing ground and soon daylight, so I drove home to eat and regroup.

When I got home, Nick had e-mailed: “I feel horrible about Andrea. I sure hope you found him safe and exhausted. He was sprinting back and forth. I am sorry. I thought the front door was closed. I was not aware that he could or would run that fast with his leg injured. Please contact me and let me know what transpired. I wandered around the village, but as I talked to others, fewer people witnessed him running as opposed to the first people I talked to. I feel sick and hope that you have re-united. If I can do anything, please call.”

I e-mailed Nick a photo of Andrea and copy for some computer- generated lost-dog posters. By the time I reached his office, he had already printed the signs and we were off again to distribute them. They noted that Andrea wore a rhinestone collar with his name and my cell phone number, and was micro-chipped by his breeder in Virginia.

Nick drove me around La Jolla way past 6 p.m. I headed home to San Diego. I called another friend, Becky, who was also exhausted, not from chasing a whippet all day, but from chasing students, nonetheless, she insisted we drive back to La Jolla to search some more.

We ended our search with dinner and my spirits were restored by some hot won ton soup and the assurance from

the restaurant owner

that I would find my dog. But that first night was the hardest … what if someone had picked Andrea up and taken him home? Why hadn’t anyone called me? If he was still loose out there, where was he and what had kind of hazards had he encountered? My sheltered little dog was now running amok out in the big, sometimes bad, world. Everything was out of my control.

The morning of the second day, I went to the Humane Society to see if Andrea had been picked up, or as Kay phrased it, his body had been recovered. No little Andrea, dead or alive, although 100 pleading canine eyes were upon me in an effort to take Andrea’s place, as I searched the public viewing areas. I put the 8 x 10 photocopy of Andrea and lost dog poster into the lost dog catalog.

The morning of Day 3, Kay e-mailed again. She advised me to soup up my search and get out there with a trap myself. Health constraints would not allow me to do so. However,


a woman who had helped train Andrea, learned about his missing status. She contacted me that she was forming a search party to look for Andrea the next morning. She would use a small Chihuahua to coax Andrea out, dog treats, and lots of manpower.

She also enlightened me about the


lost dog service. I got on the website and e-mailed a photo and description of Andrea. It is reassuring to know you can buy the services of “pet detectives” to search for your pet via hundreds of mailings to dog businesses, residences, companies in the area. I had just inputted all the information to hire the service with my credit card number and “send” when suddenly the cell phone rang.


apparently a foreign student from her accent, told me she had found my dog. She had to get to class. Could I come out right now and get him?

I told her I was about 15 minutes away, and if she had to get to class, would she first drop Andrea off at either vet clinic in La Jolla? She said she would take Andrea to the vet, although they would probably “charge me.” I didn’t have time to tell her that I would give them the deed to my upside down townhome to get this dog back!

I asked what her name was and what I could do for her, but Laurie refused to take any money for Andrea’s return. She responded, “I just want to see this dog back with you.” By the time she called me back to tell me she had delivered Andrea to the Fay Avenue clinic, just down the street from Nick’s Neuromuscular Fitness Center, I was speeding along on I-5 North.

My friend,


is still disturbed that we will never know the story of how Andrea was reigned in. But in any case, I want to thank Laurie, with these words: I’m not sure you understand the enormity of the deed you did. I hope you didn’t get in trouble for being late to class. You were of the many people who were links in the chain that made it possible for me to watch Andrea sleeping at my feet tonight.

About the Whippet

• The breed is playful and semi-active with a gentle and loyal nature.

• A whippet’s sleek, muscular and aerodynamic body (and long powerful muzzle), serve its lightning-quick getaways and prey drive. Its real forte is its double-suspension gallop, and the resulting speed is breathtaking. A strong, flexible back and powerful hindquarters allow acceleration to a top speed of 37 mph in 15 seconds. They are the fastest dog on the sprint. Only a Greyhound can outrun a Whippet, and only if the race is long-distance.

• In 2000, among the 148 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds, Whippets ranked 63rd with 1,914 registered dogs. Source: Brystal Whippets