Owners Put Life on Hold For Lost Dog

Jeddah, who was to accompany John Weisner to Saudi Arabia, was reported missing from Dulles International Airport.
Jeddah, who was to accompany John Weisner to Saudi Arabia, was reported missing from Dulles International Airport. (Family Photo)
By Kameel Stanley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008

John Weisner, a U.S. Army soldier on his way to a year-long assignment in Saudi Arabia, learned that his dog, Jeddah, was missing 15 minutes before he was scheduled to board a plane last week at Dulles International Airport.

Jeddah, a 4-year-old tan and white rescue dog who resembles an Ibizan hound or Pharaoh hound, was supposed to make the July 10 flight with Weisner, but a United Airlines employee told him that Jeddah was missing from her airline-issued kennel.

Weisner and his wife, Ronia, who drove to the airport with Jeddah from their North Carolina home, have been in the Washington area ever since. Ronia Weisner, who was on her way home after dropping off her husband and their dog, headed back to Dulles after she heard the news. The couple said they could not leave the area without Jeddah.

"She's our baby," said Weisner, who has always fed her food that people eat. "She doesn't even know what dog food is. Hopefully, her instinct takes over."

The couple's search for Jeddah has touched strangers throughout the region. Hearing about their plight through the media and on the couple's "Help Find Jeddah" Web site, volunteers have posted hundreds of fliers in and around the airport, Dulles employees have spent hours canvassing the airport's nearly 12,000 acres, and a Reston neighborhood was searched after someone thought he saw the dog.

The Weisners have put up a $2,500 reward, which United Airlines agreed to match. Animal shelters in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties are on the lookout. And a growing number of people around the world are monitoring the progress of the search on the Weisners' Web site ( http://www.helpfindjeddah.com ).

"We don't know at this point how she got out," United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said yesterday. "It's unfortunate, and it's very rare."

Jeddah, who weighs 55 pounds, went missing about 9:30 p.m. July 10, about an hour after the Weisners checked her through security. When the couple arrived at the airport, they were told the kennel they brought for Jeddah could not go on the plane, and she would be placed in an airline-issued kennel.

The airline has made a strong effort to find Jeddah, including searching until 1 a.m. after she disappeared, Urbanski said. "It's an ongoing and cooperative effort," she said. "We are absolutely doing everything we can to help with the search."

Kate Bland, 44, of Lovettsville, who does not know the couple, heard about Jeddah on Monday and wanted to help.

"The thought of being in a strange town and having something tragic happen to you," Bland said of the Weisners, who are staying in a hotel. "I am not doing anything for them I wouldn't want anyone to do" for me.

Bland, who works in marketing for a technology company in Arlington County, persuaded Balmar Inc. of Falls Church to print hundreds of fliers. She persuaded Matrix Group International of Alexandria to design the Web site.

Since the Web site was established, tips and e-mails have poured in from areas near the airport. A Reston woman said she thought she saw Jeddah during a storm earlier this week. A Reston man said he thought he saw the dog running through his back yard.

Weisner said he was doubtful one person would be able to catch Jeddah, who can be skittish and has the speed of a Greyhound. He is also not sure how much longer he can stay in the Washington area and search for his dog.

"It's just a tragedy, and it's such a shame it happened to someone who is serving all of us," Bland said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company