Volunteers, in person & online, doggedly search for Andy
Jordina Ghiggeri was present for the birth of a litter of Corgi puppies in New Jersey 11 years ago and settled on one in particular based solely on his mesmerizing eyes.
"Ever since he was a baby, when he looks at you he's got these human eyes. It's like there's a person in there. There's so much expression and intention. He has the most unbelievable eyes," said Ghiggeri, who hopes she will have a chance again to gaze into the eyes of her brown-and-white Corgi named Andy.
Her beloved companion has been the subject of an intensive, region-wide search since he became lost Dec. 31 in Westport.
Ghiggeri, who lives in Plymouth, Mass., was celebrating New Year's Eve with friends in Westport when Andy became frightened by fireworks, and bolted. She hasn't seen him since.
In the meantime, Ghiggeri has taken a temporary leave from her job as a horse trainer and riding instructor at River Wind Farm, and spent thousands of dollars in an effort to find him.
Ghiggeri has lost count of the number of lost dog flyers she's had printed and posted -- there is a $2,000 reward -- with help from dozens of volunteers in four area communities as they press the search for Andy. She has hired an animal tracker from Maryland, who made a second trip north Monday to check out leads in neighboring Norwalk. And she has filled up her gas tank more times than she remembers as she drives around posting flyers and searching for Andy at dusk, dawn and late at night.
"I would never give up looking for my dog. He's out there and if he's finding running water he's surviving," said Ghiggeri, who is encouraged by numerous sightings of the dog in Westport and Norwalk. She parks in neighborhoods where people have reported seeing Andy and checks trash bins where he might go in search of food.
Since Andy disappeared, Ghiggeri said she has been overwhelmed by the support of the Westport community and beyond. People brought together through social media and a shared love for animals have rallied around the cause of finding Andy. Ghiggeri said she and her pet have found themselves at the center of a growing circle of kind-hearted people willing to donate time, money, effort and support.
It's another "circle" that Ghiggeri also is banking on to help bring Andy home. Ghiggeri said Corgis are herding dogs, and as such, instinctively travel in circles, meaning Andy may not wander far from Westport.
"What the tracker told me is that herding dogs, such as Corgis, tend to circle. She said when they initially depart from an area, especially if they're running in fear, which he was from the fireworks, they just straight line run and run and run ... and then their instinct is to circle as if they were herding something," Ghiggeri said, adding that the sightings of Andy seem to reveal a somewhat circular pattern.
Ghiggeri's friends, Erin and Todd Orr, with whom she and her husband Michael Ghiggeri were staying when Andy disappeared, have offered food, shelter and comfort, but Erin Orr is heartened by the number of strangers who have gone to great lengths to help recover Andy.
"I was getting a lot of interest on my Facebook page and getting new friends and comments on my profile, so I decided I would make Andy a Facebook page," Ghiggeri said. As of Monday morning she said the dog's Bring Andy Home Facebook page had 1,600 followers and 1,200 people were actively talking about him. That led to calls from a woman in London, and Twitter conversations about Andy, including from the dog whisperer Cesar Millan and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. A picture montage of Andy on You Tube has generated 2,500 hits.
"He's a very popular little man right now," said Ghiggeri, who takes Andy -- one of her four dogs -- to horse shows throughout the country.
"This animal is beloved. He's special. There's no other way to explain it," Erin Orr said. Her son, 3-year-old Logan, is trying to will Andy to come home with a "golden cord." He goes to bed with a poster of Andy and, "Every night he shuts his eyes and he throws out the golden cord for Andy and pulls him home," Orr said.
"He feeds the (other) dogs every night and he always says `We have to feed Andy too,' " Orr said.
"This puppy has to come home," Orr said.
One Westport woman who has joined the search efforts has encouraged Ghiggeri not to give up hope. Nicole Asher said an out-of-state family abandoned a Bernese mountain dog at Lake Mohegan in Fairfield last Easter Sunday and left Connecticut without participating in the search. "I searched for her for daily for three months. There was not a single sighting of her for two months but never gave up on her and I found her in Trumbull three months to the day she went missing," Asher said.
Anyone who sees Andy is asked to call Ghiggeri at 781-264-5243. Follow the efforts to reunite "Andy" and Ghiggeri at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Bring-Andy-Home/323338351030976 .