Flynn, a 13-year-old cocker spaniel from Great Neck Estates, battled cold, snowy weather and whatever else the streets of Great Neck Plaza had to offer as an army of people rallied to search for him.
The call for help must have reached hundreds of people, his owner Dahlia Klein said, who were both strangers and friends.
People watched out for him for weeks – but partway through, Klein said she began to lose hope.
“After about two weeks, I was convinced he was gone. There’s no way he’s going to make this,” she recalled thinking.
But then a couple spotted him on Cutter Mill Road and tried to pick him up, Klein said, only for Flynn to bite them – which was something he never did – and make his escape.
Less than a week later though, people in public works found him hiding in a parking garage.
“His eyes were all cloudy, watery and puffy, and he was really just out of it,” Klein said. “When they found him and he allowed them to pick him up, it was a dire situation.”
Flynn, after a trip to Great Neck Animal Hospital, returned home on Dec. 18 for a bath and some rest. Since then, Klein said, he has been “beautifully recovering.”
“That he was found, that he was alive, and that it’s three weeks, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” Klein said. “I do believe that he really wanted to see me again.”
Klein said she was incredibly grateful for the community’s response. She said it shows that, despite how divided the country can feel, people can truly unite to help others.
“I think what is really beautiful is how everybody came together,” Klein said.
Klein and Flynn first came together more than a decade ago, although it almost didn’t come to be.
Klein said she had first been searching online for a cockapoo dog for her son Jonah Hersh, who is now 21.
Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue kept coming up in her search.
Then, after calling the organization, they invited her to their Bayside location, where they showed her two dogs: one of them was a tanned dog, and the other was Flynn.
Dolores Rodrigues, who founded the rescue back in 2003, said the organization has helped more than 4,000 dogs – both cocker spaniel and not – find homes.
Consequently, she said, sometimes it can be hard to remember specific cases.
“But I remember Flynn, because he was outstandingly good looking,” Rodrigues recalled. “He was a sweet boy.”
He was shy and couldn’t walk on a leash, Klein recalled, but the rescue advised her to foster him and see how it goes.
Initially though, it didn’t work out.
“Flynn didn’t stop barking at my husband,” she said. “We learned that he was afraid of men.”
Rodrigues said Flynn was “an owner surrender,” rather than a stray, because his first family was moving to another apartment. She said it’s unclear if any abuse happened to him before, but it wasn’t uncommon for them to see that.
“He was a young dog when he was surrendered, so we don’t really know what happened,” Rodrigues said.
However, the Kleins decided to try again and got someone to help train Flynn so he could acclimate to men – a process which took years.
Ultimately though, Klein said they would go out for walks and meet many people throughout the community.
And while she rescued Flynn, Klein said that he, in a way, helped rescue her as well.
Flynn showed her it’s okay to feel scared or be vulnerable sometimes, she said, and his lack of ego has inspired her.
“He shows me what he feels, and I think that the message for us is to do the same,” Klein said.
Another important lesson Klein learned from the ordeal, she added, is to take special care of one’s senior dogs.
“What I realized now with older dogs is like they’re babies… If there’s a lesson to be learned, don’t take for granted that your old dog is aware of what’s going on anymore,” Klein said.
Rodrigues, who has kept in touch with Klein and many owners who have adopted their dogs, said it was truly a holiday miracle – and a gift – that Flynn made it through.
“That’s my Christmas present, that Flynn was found,” Rodrigues said.