Search for Missing Dog Soldiers On After a Month
Saturday, August 9, 2008
It's been a month since her dog vanished from Dulles International Airport, but Ronia Weisner is still in town, doing everything she can to find Jeddah.
The Fayetteville, N.C., woman has slept in her car for 2 1/2 weeks and has stayed with strangers who have invited her into their homes. She's spent hours chasing shadows through wooded areas in Centreville and winding paths in Reston. A few weeks ago, she set out steamed chicken -- her dog's favorite meat -- all around Northern Virginia, hoping to lure her out of hiding.
She's filled her gas tank every other day so she can drive to the most recent place where people might have spotted Jeddah. She has even set out pieces of her clothing in the hope that the tan and white rescue dog would pick up her scent.
"Many people would think that I was a crazy woman. I don't care. I will do whatever it takes to find her," Weisner, 42, said. "I still cannot believe that this happened. It's a nightmare. I still can't comprehend how it happened."
The 55-pound, 4-year-old dog, who resembles an Ibizan hound or a pharaoh hound, was supposed to be on a July 10 United Airlines flight to Saudi Arabia with Weisner's husband. John Weisner is a soldier on a year-long assignment in the Middle East. He had permission to take Jeddah with him but found out 15 minutes before boarding that Jeddah was missing from her airline-issued kennel.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said this week that the airline is still investigating how Jeddah got out of the kennel, which was found dented and broken.
The couple put their life on hold to find their pet.
John Weisner had to report to his overseas post July 27, but Ronia Weisner has stayed in the area, relying on help from strangers and volunteers. The search for Jeddah has touched off a major response from people throughout the region. The couple have a Web site, helpfindjeddah.com, which has gotten more than 100,000 hits and thousands of e-mails.
Sightings of Jeddah continue to be reported daily. However, because the dog is skittish, volunteers ask that people not chase her. It's better to gently call her name or snap a picture.
Jeddah could be in the Centreville area. Someone might have seen her Monday in the Sequoia Farms neighborhood and at Chantilly National Golf and Country Club.
"We will overcome this tragedy," John Weisner wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. "Jeddah will be found. It's just a matter of time."
For the past several days, Ronia Weisner has been staying with Cindy and Curt Gallenbeck, who opened their home to her after being involved in the search.
The Gallenbecks' two-story house near Deer Park Elementary School in Centreville has become the makeshift headquarters for the search.
Hundreds of posters and fliers litter the porch. Volunteers come in and out, updating one another on progress.
"It's really been this organic event -- people who get it. We all understand that love," said Kate Bland, 44, of Lovettsville, who began helping the couple coordinate their search efforts after hearing their story a few weeks ago. "There's still hope; we won't stop."
Bland, who works in marketing for a technology company in Arlington County, said the widespread effort is an example of a community of strangers coming together. Volunteers have rescued a half-dozen missing or stray dogs while searching for Jeddah.
Still, the experience has taken a toll on Weisner, who will be traveling to Saudi Arabia at the end of the month to join her husband. Until then, she said, she plans to stay and search.
"Jeddah has brought a lot of good out of a lot of people," Ronia Weisner said. "I can't just turn my back. She's part of our family, and part of us is missing."