24 Nov 2006

Escaped Champion Whippet Becomes Urban Legend

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In the nine months since escaping her travel cage at Kennedy airport to answer the call of the wild, Vivi the wayward whippet has joined the Central Park coyote, high-rise tiger, Harlem Meer caiman and Molly the fugitive feline in New York’s ever-growing pantheon of urban animal legends.

She also was reported dozens of times, roaming cemeteries with other dogs, or hanging around stores in Queens, in some cases miles from the tarmac where she disappeared while awaiting a flight home to California on Feb. 15. A day earlier, she had won an award of merit at the annual Westminster Kennel Club show, the Super Bowl of dogdom.

Vivi’s owners, Jil Walton and Paul Lepiane, offered a reward for Vivi’s return but kept a low profile. This week, their lawyer, Joyce Randazzo, said they still hope to recover the sleek, 4-year-old brindle and white whippet, known formally as Champion Bohem C’est la Vie, and the reward, an unspecified amount, still stands.

According to a map published Nov. 18 by The New York Times, Vivi was reported at more than 45 different locations prior to Aug. 7, when the sightings suddenly stopped, raising fears that she might be dead or had left the area.

Richard Gentles, director of administration for Animal Care and Control of New York City, said his organization dispatched rescue teams after “five or six calls” on Vivi in the past couple of months, but all proved negative.

“For a dog like that to be able to survive this long would be very difficult unless somebody picked it up,” he said. “I hope it’s true that somebody has the dog and doesn’t recognize it. It does happen.”

Meanwhile, the search continues, and on Wednesday, a volunteer group that devotes itself to finding Vivi reported a new lead — an anonymous caller who had seen her neighbor with a dog that resembled the elusive canine.

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