Bringing Charlie Home

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The Port community rallies to get a local dog back to his loving family
In mid-February, Christine Dileo made a Facebook post about her family dog, Charlie, who escaped on a walk and went missing. People throughout Port Washington shared the post and commented helpful tips on locating a lost dog. Soon enough, dozens of people contacted Dileo, asking how they could help in the search for Charlie.

Charlie (Photo from Christine Dileo)

The Dileo family rescued Charlie from the North Shore Animal League America in June 2022. Charlie had been abandoned and not taken care of previous to his adoption. He had rashes on his skin and was easily startled by any noise. Despite his happy-go-lucky personality, his PTSD made him jumpy and quick to run.

Christine worked with Charlie to give him a safe space at their home. He had been adjusting well to his new family when he went missing on Saturday, Feb. 11. Christine took him for a walk, but he got startled and wrapped the leash around Christine’s legs causing her to stumble, which was enough time for scared Charlie to run away.

People walking on the road where Charlie ran off helped Christine look for him, but Charlie was already out of sight in the brush of the Sands Point area. Christine and her husband, Tony, walked between 50 and 60 miles looking for Charlie. Neighbors let them walk through their backyards to look for the dog and promised to keep an eye out for him.

After posting about the experience on Facebook, Christine discovered Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue, a non-profit specializing in lost dog recovery. The organization advises on what to do and can supply large flyers and posters. They facilitate drone searches, set up feeding stations/cameras and specialize in humane trapping. From Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue, Teddy Henn, Charmaine DeRosa, and Lynn Fodale worked with the Dileo family to find Charlie.

There was a sighting of Charlie on Sands Point Beach, miles from the Dileo home, after the first day he went missing. Because of Charlie’s PTSD, it was hard to get to him if there was a sighting. The unfamiliar face of a neighbor and loud shouts calling his name would scare him off.

Henn of Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue set up cameras and feeding stations outside the Dileo home and around Sand’s Point to encourage Charlie to return to the area. While the Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue trackers monitored cameras and analyzed Charlie’s behavior, the Port Washington Community helped the Dileo  family in any way possible.

“People walked the beaches, the Sands Point Golf course, and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Christine. “There were so many dedicated people. It wasn’t just like a handful. Day after day, people asked us what area they should walk to try and get a visual of him so that the tracker could do his job.”

The Sands Point Golf Club, the Village Club, the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, the Port Washington Police Department and the Sands Point Police Department all helped the Dileo family’s search. Peter Forman, Mayor of Sands Point and Police Commissioner of Sands Point, sent a blast email and text to Sands Point residents asking them to watch for Charlie.

“It was a miracle to see this community rally to bring our little guy home,” said Christine. “My husband and I grew up here in Port and the community has changed a lot over the years. Port has grown and a lot of, what we call, city folk has moved here. It’s become such a popular place for young families and people who commute. But to see this response to our pleas was overwhelming. It really renewed our faith in not just the community but humanity.”

For ten days, the Dileo family, the Port community and Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue worried for Charlie’s safety. Charlie was dealing with life-threatening situations with cold rains, wild coyotes and foxes.

After days of no signings, Charlie arrived at a feeding station Henn set up outside the Dileo family home. Henn and the Dileo family formulated a plan. They refreshed the food and sat by the back door near the feeding station all night. Henn advised the family to lay out some laundry leading into the house because the smell would hopefully attract Charlie.

Luckily, the plan was successful, and around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 21, Charlie showed up to the backdoor feeding station.

“We led the laundry into our kitchen and into our living room, where I sat on the floor, and my husband was in the bathroom right next to the back door waiting to close the door when Charlie got in,” explained Christine. “Charlie came, he looked in the door, looked at me and I called his name. He ran in and jumped up on the couch in his favorite spot.”

Christine shared that tracker Henn didn’t sleep for days. He was dedicated to find Charlie and promised not to give up till he came home. With the incredible help from Henn and the others at Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue and the support from the Port Community, Charlie is safe at home with his loving family.

To support Long Island Lost Dog Search and Rescue, donate on Venmo to Lynn Fodale (@Lynn-Fodale) or visit https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=68TUUB79BXT7N