Vito, the missing search and rescue dog, has been found.
His owner and handler Sonja Heritage got a call at 10:30 p.m. Saturday from a man who had seen media reports telling the story of how Vito went missing Thursday after getting spooked during a training exercise in Bowie.
“You’re missing a dog, right?”the man said. “I have your dog. I have him. He’s safe.”
Heritage, a member of the elite Fairfax Urban Search and Rescue Team, could barely contain her emotions.
“He was so sweet,” she said. “What an amazing man.”
His name is Omar. On the night of his 38th birthday, pushing midnight, he met up with Heritage and reunited Vito with her. He brought along his brother and father.
“We were all crying and Vito was jumping around and everyone was so happy,” Heritage said. “What an amazing ending.”
Omar is mechanic and Vito had been riding to work with him in his truck, enjoying a hard-working blue collar life. Heritage’s husband does similar work, so Vito was a natural for the role.
Heritage doesn’t know all the details of how and when Omar found Vito, but the dog’s rescuer works near Whitemarsh Park, which is where Vito went missing.
“This is an amazing man,” Heritage said. “He took such good care of him. He understood what a special dog Vito is.”
Omar turned down cash. All he asked was for the chance to visit Vito. “So now Vito has an uncle Omar,” Heritage said. “There is nothing but love coming from that man.”
Vito slept soundly last night, at home, in bed with his owners.