Vito, a gorgeous German shepherd rescue dog, is an expert finder of missing people. Now he’s missing.
Let’s find him.
Vito disappeared on Thursday while practicing search and rescues in Bowie, near Whitemarsh Park. Something spooked him, and Vito, a very fast runner, bolted. He was not wearing tags.
“He moved up a hill and was over the hill and was just gone,” said his owner and handler, Sonja Heritage, a professional dog trainer and member of the famed Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team. “I fully expected him to circle back once he had his wits about him again. He didn’t. He was just gone.”
The Fairfax dog squad works locally and deploys to natural disasters around the world. The dogs search the rubble of buildings and clamber through destroyed homes, sniffing out survivors of hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. They are heroes on four legs.
Vito is just nearing the end of a demanding training regimen before receiving his full certification to work in disaster zones. Heritage and other local rescue-dog trainers are crushed that he’s gone.
Search and rescue teams and their dogs have been searching, along with fire department members, friends and family, but Vito hasn’t turned up.
“Hopefully someone is taking care of him and just doesn’t know he’s missing,” Heritage said. “The idea of that makes us very hopeful. We want to be reunited with him. We are dying.”
Vito barks for toys relentlessly, based on his training — finding someone means he gets to play. Heritage wants people to know that if they have found a lost German shepherd that looks like Vito and barks his head off when he spots a toy, that’s probably him.
If you have seen Vito or know where he might be, please call Heritage immediately at 301-655-7643.
Vito is trained to help people. Now it’s our turn to help him.