Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Journey Begins............

If you had told me, anytime in my life, that I would drop everything and get on a plane to fly to Paris, and help my bro find his dog, I would think you were crazy. But life seems to continue with the challenges, so here goes!
I decided to write this blog and post it one time on Facebook, for the simple reason that I doubt too many people want to hear about the 'vacation' ahead....
As most of you saw on FB, Ted's dog, Ben, disappeared in Paris, on Wed. Oct. 20. He had gone to a market, ( close to a new apartment he had moved into, that day) and Ben must have become frightened by something in the street, and bolted. He dragged the mag. rack he was tied to, two blocks, before his leash broke, and he was seen racing along the river.
Needless to say, Ted is devastated. For those of you who know him, his devotion to his dog is total.
And his life has come to a standstill while he moves around Paris putting up posters and contacting police, and fire, and rescue agencies.
He had adopted Ben in London in April, and had then taken him to Italy for 2 months before heading to Paris. Ben was having difficulty adapting to the big city, and was nervous in the streets........just as I will be tomorrow.
I don't know if/how I can help him, other than giving moral support, but here goes for 7 days/8 nights! I will try to give daily updates, and pics.....and I ask that anyone reading this, send out some good vibes into the universe, to help us find Ben!


My first day is actually Ben’s 6th day away.

DAY 1:
The trip over was uneventful. Upon landing, an hour late, I decided to forgo the $ 100 taxi fare, and use the money for more ‘Find Ben’ posters.
Of course, the train/metro trip in, wasn’t without incident. While on a crowded subway, a Vietnamese lady triped over my duffle bag and flew into the boarding platform…..sure wish I had a pic of her expression and those of the 2 dz on-lookers…..almost a terrorist attack! After jumping off, and helping her up, she waved me off.
After leaving my bags at his apartment, I found my brother at ‘command central’, a half mile away. He had been putting up flyers around a neighborhood, where there had been 2 reported sightings. The first night, he stayed on the street (all night) watching for Ben, and was offered money by a lady who assumed he was homeless. (good for the ego) The next morning…Wed…..he had rented a car and parked it in front of the police station on rue de l’Universite.

Already he had posted over 500 posters, sent letters to 150 vets, and visited 17 of the 20 police precincts in Paris.

At around 2pm I was thrown into action, and with a bicycle, started putting up posters. That night, he stayed in the car…I slept in his apt….at 3:30 am I arose and started out on the bike. What a surreal experience to ride thru the streets of Paris at that time of night. The streets are well lit.

Hardly a single car or person. Not a single stray dog or cat. In fact, I didn’t see a cat until the 3d morning.

Day 2:

It was my turn to stay with the car for a couple of early hours, while Ted ran a couple of errands. Around noon, I took off on the bike to put up posters in a new area….around the Tuilleries, where Ben often walked.

( Paris is incredibly beautiful in October. Temp at mid day…around 50 degrees, beautiful trees, and packed with tourists despite the terrorist threats)

After several hours of searching, and with few sightings of people walking dogs, I headed for the Eiffel Tower,

where there are extensive gardens. Ted is now convinced that Ben may be hiding somewhere during the day, and coming out later…despite the 2 alleged sightings at 10:30 am, and 7 pm. But all I found were way too many tourists, and machine gun toting 17 yr old soldiers. Ted, again, spent the night in command central. But this time, in an upgraded vehicle, because Jaime had arrived from Holland to help us in the search. ( Jaime is my friend of 20 years, and also one of my partners in Idol’s gym.)

Ted was more comfortable in his audi! As an aside….we have been fortunate to have met a young woman, Sonia, who owns a small boutique, and who had called Ted with a sighting. She has proven to be

invaluable….spreading the word…and attempting to have a newspaper writer she knows, write a story about the search. (rallying the troups from diff. countries!)

Day 3:

Jaime and I have the better deal. I got up, again, at 4 am and took off on the bike. Got lost. Finally made it to Ted’s car around 6 am. Jaime and his lab, Morena, joined me for breakfast, and we headed off to..what else…put up some posters! We headed back to the Tuilleries, looking for people with their dogs…..met a couple, but felt like we accomplished more by talking to the parks gardeners, and a homeless fellow along the Seine.

Ted was afraid to leave the car because we all felt the newspaper article might be the best break. (in case you are wondering how we managed to explain our story, I studied French for 5-6 years in high school, college, and after…but ended up never using it. Amazing how much has come back. And after 3 days, I am even starting to think a little in Fr.!)

And I have to say….all this is an emotional roller coaster. We were very positive on Wed. and

Thurs….but somewhat down on Friday after no additional sightings. ( Tuesday was the last.) We did have one woman stop at the car to ask if we were playing a joke on people…she claimed to have seen Ben all day, the day before, on the next block. Needless to say, Ted was extremely distraught at her comment…..but I later found out that she had only seen a small dog wandering around the street….owned by a café owner, and a local dog who only stayed a block from her café!

Now, at 6 pm, we have new hope. Someone has called to say they had just seen

Ben….some distance away. Jaime is driving Ted to look. I am home with Jaime’s dog. This is day # 9. We can’t think about all the possibilities.

Is Ben alive? Is he sick? ( the nights are cold) Surely he is very hungry. Has someone taken him in? ( a real possibility) Ted cries at the thought of any/all of the above. Jaime will return to Holland, tomorrow…..and Ted and I will probably head out on bikes. Possibly to the Bois de Bologne…which looks huge on the map. Keeping my fingers crossed, that the most recent sighting is real. And that the newspaper article will still come thru. (we haven’t heard back from the writer) Paris is huge. We have only grazed one arondissement….don’t know how we will cover the other 19 if we don’t find him soon…..

And as a postscript: Ted and Jaime didn’t find Ben…. A couple believes they saw Ben following a homeless man near a big art fair…..but they did an exhaustive search, and found nothing. I believe tomorrow we will try there, again.

Also….the response from unknown people has been amazing. People call Ted, every day, asking if Ben has been found.

And an interesting aside….when the call came in at 6 pm…and Ted and Jaime took off to look, I walked the dog back to Ted’s apt….forgetting the bicycle left on the street. Unlocked. Blocking half the sidewalk on a busy street. When we realized, and went back at 9 pm,…….. there it was. My lucky day, because it was my fault, and it was a borrowed bike!

Day 4:

Day 4 started out easily enough. Ted left, early, for the quay close to the Bastile, where a couple was sure they had seen Ben with 2 homeless people the day before. Jaime and I followed a couple of hours later. But several hours of walking up and down the canal and Seine produced nothing. So Jaime and I headed back to Ted’s apt. to leave his dog, Morena, and to rent a bike. The 2 of us rode up and down two sides of the Seine, looking for Ben and any possible homeless encampments. Sadly, all we found was the original Statue of Liberty. (a smaller version than the American one)

At 6 pm, we returned to the Bastile area to look, again, for the possible sighting, but no luck. I have still not seen a single stray dog in Paris. I have seen 2 cats. But it is increasingly frustrating, and hope is fading. I spoke with one homeless fellow, who already knew about Ben, and he told me that he had spread the word, but no one had seen him.

Jaime headed back to Holland tonight.

The only good aspect of this trip, so far, is the incredible scenery everywhere you look. At least, I have taken some good pics!

Ted is receiving a ton of emails with encouragement, and ideas for the search…..just wish we had more sightings, as none can be verified at this point. I am afraid someone has him…..this is day 10.

Day 5:

The time changed, last night, but of course we had no clue….so on a rainy and cool Sunday morning we headed back to the Bastile area where Friday’s sighting was. A most interesting find: Paris is known for the thousands of homeless people, known as SDF’s. (Sans Domicile Fixte) But they have the unique way of dealing with a small part of that. There are 2 barges that are set up as homeless shelters. Beautiful boats which sleep betw. 60-100 people.

And the 2d one allows the homeless with pets.

So we waited until 11 am to speak with people leaving a homeless barge. As Ted is offering a good reward, they are always interested. So we are hoping that there are hundreds of eyes/ears working for us.

After the morning visit to ‘Bateau du coeur’ (the boat of the heart) we headed home for an hour….then off to find the barge for homeless with pets.

A long bike ride up the Seine, past Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty ( about 1/50th the size of NY’s), and we found it. Unfortunately, closed on Sunday. So up went a couple of posters and back we headed. Part way back, Ted’s phone rang….a man had ‘seen’ Ben on Friday near the Trocadero. Of course, we have no way of knowing if it was Ben, but we rode over to the market where he had been sighted, and put up a couple of posters. What would help is several sightings at the same location and by different people!

This was Ben’s 11th day.

Day 6: Nov. 1

A gloomy and cold start. A holiday in Paris. We are out of flyers until tomorrow, so will have to wing it. Around 9 am we bike to Trocadero, close to where Ben was ‘sighted’ on Friday. First a visit with the African trinket vendors, then the market where he was spotted, then off to the Bois de Bologne. ( a huge forested park with lakes, jogging paths and dense woods…a great hide-out for gypsies and Romanian homeless.)

A lot of people walking their dogs, but no strays. A young fellow selling pony rides tells us that a lady with a rescue group comes through the park betw. 4-5 pm, so we plan to come back.

Then off to 2 large train stations on the other side of town to look for the Romanians who supposedly sell dogs.

No luck, but we run into a group of 6 young homeless people we had met 2 days before. Very sad. They are all between 18-25 yrs. Old, and all are drinking beer at 3 pm. And they are accompanied by 8 dogs! They are sympathetic and are on the lookout for Ben.

We are travelling by metro, now, and head all the way back to the Bois to look for the shelter lady. Around 5:30 she shows up walking 5 little dogs.

Turns out she was head of the Paris pound for 20 yrs. ….so she is a great contact. She will call the current director, tomorrow, to make sure they don’t have Ben.

Done for the day….back to the apartment to work on computer leads.

Day 7: 6 pm

Cold and raining in the morning, warmer and cloudy in the pm.

Ted printed 200 flyers and we headed out to the dog pound on the outskirts of Paris. Dogs are taken there, where they remain for about a week before being sent next door to the SPA

…the Paris adoption center. Surprisingly, there are fewer dogs there, than in the Miami shelter. But a sad scene, nevertheless. It doesn’t appear that Ben has been there yet.

Back to the super market where someone was sure they had seen him 4 days before. Another false alarm. So we continue to put up posters and hope.

This was my last day. Sadly, I must return to Miami without success. As I tell my bro… isn’t easy. Full of twists and turns….and he can’t ever give up. I am hopeful that a friend of his from London will come this weekend to boost his morale!

And we hope that where ever Ben is, he is being cared for.

I will keep helping, via the internet when home, and will keep sending positive vibes, in the hope that Ben will find his way back!

**Thanks to all who sent good wishes and thoughts in the search for Ben!**

7:30 pm…….11/02/10


Ted received a call at 6:30, saying that Ben was at the police station in the 16th arr. ( 5 miles away). We rushed over, and sure enough, it was Ben!

A surreal experience! After 13 days, 2 hours, he was in great shape. Nervous, but happy to see us. The whole police station was surrounding us when Ben and Ted were reunited!

Turns out he was hanging around the gardens of an embassy….the fire department was called, and they delivered him to the police station.

So a happy evening was had by all…..and I flew back to Miami this morning….a perfect end to a strange week!

End of story. (and you see…there is such a thing as a happy ending. :-)