Every week, dozens of dogs and cats go missing in New York City. Their distraught owners put up signs. Some turn up alive. Some do not. Bailey the goldendoodle somehow became a phenomenon, a cause, and in her rarefied corner of Brooklyn and beyond, a social-media star.
NEW YORK — Bailey, a 2 ½ -year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 the morning of Oct. 24.
That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.
Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.
She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”
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Bailey ran diagonally through the intersection at Carroll Street. Then the chair snagged on something. Bailey broke free, leaving the chair and her leash and ID tags behind. She turned right at the When in Rome hair salon onto her block, President Street.
She ran right past her house, and she kept going.
Le Pape, 47 and fit but no match for a sprinting dog, lost sight of Bailey at the next corner, but passers-by yelled directions: “She went that way!”
Bailey went left and left again, toward the waterfront. When Le Pape got to Columbia Street, on the far side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, no one was on the street. She screamed Bailey’s name. She guessed at a direction to run. She passed people. No one had seen her.
Every week, dozens of dogs and cats go missing in New York City. Their distraught owners put up signs. Some turn up alive. Some do not. Over the next few days, Bailey somehow became a phenomenon, a cause, and in her rarefied corner of Brooklyn and beyond, a social-media star.
Now it was around 7:30 on a Monday, a school and workday, though Le Pape, a psychotherapist, had no patients scheduled until evening.
She ran home, got her car and began an aimless, frantic drive in search of the dog. She called home and told her 14-year-old son to find photos of Bailey (a dog with a shaggy tan-cream coat, a chestnut beard and enormously long eyelashes) and start printing out fliers. She drove home, picked them up, walked to a nearby copy shop to make more and started posting them, crying all the while.
Le Pape canceled sessions with her evening patients, citing a family emergency. All day, she wandered the tidy precincts known collectively as Brownstone Brooklyn. Up Columbia to Atlantic Avenue, down Hicks Street by the expressway, west to the factories and warehouses of Red Hook, swinging by the dog run beneath the highway overpass.
Everywhere Le Pape went, people seemed compelled to help. They asked for an extra flier so they could post it on Facebook, or make copies and tape them up elsewhere. They offered suggestions — call vets, call shelters, call animal rescue places, go to the police.
“I went to the sanitation garage, down by the water, and the guy said, ‘I’m announcing this on roll call until they find her,’ ” Le Pape said. “I ran into absolute strangers who said they were going to church to pray for my dog.”
Le Pape spared no expense. For $149.95 she registered with LostMyDoggie.com, which robo-called 1,250 of her neighbors, alerting them to look out for Bailey.
She printed over 1,000 fliers. Omar at the copy shop would not take her money.
In the evening, Le Pape became fixated on Brooklyn Bridge Park, a mile and a half north of her house — a quiet place to hide for a dog who hates loud noises. From 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Le Pape and her mother, who had come out from Manhattan to help, wandered the deserted park, calling the dog’s name.
Tuesday: Day 2. Le Pape started getting calls from people who said they had seen Bailey the day before.
She was able to reconstruct some of Bailey’s route: 7:30 a.m. Monday near the Brooklyn Bridge, 1 mile and a half north of her house. Then 1 mile and a half southeast of the bridge at Nevins and Degraw streets. At 10:30 p.m. Monday, Bailey had been spotted on Henry Street, five blocks from her house, but running the wrong way. That first day she covered at least 4 miles, probably considerably more.
In the late afternoon, Le Pape’s mother noticed signs for a beagle named Edie, who lived three blocks from Bailey and had also run off while leashed to a chair on the same day as Bailey. “I thought it would be a great idea to join forces,” she said. She called one of Edie’s owners, Olly Smith. “I can’t talk right now,” he said. “I think we’ve just found our little dog’s body.” Edie had been hit by a car on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
At 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Le Pape was awakened by a dream: Bailey is downstairs, go downstairs.
“I didn’t listen to the voice because it was crazy.”
In the morning, Le Pape went on Facebook. Under “Trending” (a list based on her location, her own social network and broader algorithms), the top topic was Bailey.
Outside, she found dog poop on the sidewalk in front of the house. It appeared to be a few hours old. It looked like Bailey’s.
“I thought, ‘What if I pick it up and took it to the vet and had them analyze it?’ ” Le Pape recalled. “I was reaching for anything.”
Le Pape canceled her Wednesday appointments to continue the search. “We heard you have to do at least a 3-mile radius,” she said.
In her part of Brooklyn, there are something like 1,500 blocks within a 3-mile radius.
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, more than 60 hours after Bailey dashed off, Le Pape was riding a bike two neighborhoods from home, calling Bailey’s name, and her phone rang.
“This woman is panting and puffing,” she recounted. “She says, ‘I’m following your dog, trying to stay with her.’ ” Bailey was on Sackett Street, just a few blocks from home. Le Pape flew down Columbia Street. She ran into the woman: “She said, ‘I was trying to call you again — we lost her.’ ”
The phone rang again. Someone had just seen Bailey in Red Hook, on Van Brunt Street.
And again: “I see your dog,” a man told her. Bailey was on Degraw Street, heading in the direction of home.
Le Pape called her mother. “I just sort of screamed something to the effect of, ‘Everyone get downstairs!’ ”
Le Pape’s older son opened the door. There was Bailey, at the top of the stoop.
She was starving and dehydrated. She had lost weight. Her paw was bleeding. But she was intact.
Le Pape and her mother began to notify everyone who had been helping with the search, including Edie’s grieving owner, Olly Smith. “This is the most wonderful news,” he wrote back. “We’re so, so happy for you all.”
Bailey has resumed her old life, with one notable change: the coffee place.
“I still go there every day,” Le Pape said. “But without her.”