A chihuahua lost at Atlanta’s airport for three weeks was found on Saturday, thanks to the remarkable effort of a total stranger who went out on a limb to locate and secure the missing dog.
Ms Paula Camila Rodriguez, 25, told The Washington Post she was separated from Maia, a chihuahua mix, at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Aug 18 after she was denied entry due to issues with her visa.
She flew to Atlanta from Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, intending to go on a two-week vacation in California.
Instead, she had to spend the night at a detention facility at the airport, and was instructed to fly back to the Dominican Republic the next day.
She was assured Maia would be with her on the same Delta Air Lines flight, but the dog was not on the plane.
Delta informed Ms Rodriguez that Maia had escaped her kennel.
The airline promised to continue looking for the dog, telling her its employees had already posted notices at the airport and at nearby animal shelters.
Ms Rodriguez herself sought help online.
It was then that Ms Robin Allgood, who lives south of Atlanta, Georgia, came into the picture.
Ms Allgood has been spending much of her retirement days helping reunite lost pets with their owners. Friends describe her as a “pet recovery specialist”.
When she got wind of the missing Maia, she reached out to Ms Rodriguez on social media.
“I will not charge you anything. I will go put signs up. I’ll pass flyers out,” she told her. “I will be you in Georgia because you’re not here. I promise you I’ll find your dog. I promise you.”
‘Wild goose chase’
On Saturday, Ms Allgood made good on that promise.
She got a call early in the morning that day about a FedEx employee spotting a black chihuahua at the airport.
The employee recognised Maia from one of the flyers Ms Allgood put up. He tried to catch her, but the dog ran away.
Ms Allgood remembered jumping out of bed, putting on some clothes and heading to FedEx’s facility at the airport.
“I don’t even know if I brushed my teeth,” she told the Insider online news site.
But what should have been a simple retrieval turned into a five-hour “wild goose chase”, she said in a Facebook post.
She was denied entry to the FedEx facility without a Delta employee escorting her. So, she drove back and forth between Delta and FedEx.
Delta eventually told her she had to produce a picture of the dog seen at FedEx to confirm it was indeed the one they were looking for.
But she did not have one, and she was on a deadline. She was scheduled to take a 7.30am flight that same day to Hawaii with her husband.
Her husband said, “Quit worrying about the flight.”
“Just stay and find Maia,” she recalled her husband telling her.
Without security clearance to enter FedEx, Ms Allgood decided to stake out the facility. She kept driving around it.
“I probably put 300 miles (483km) on my van riding the inner loop road in front of FedEx,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I circled and circled that FedEx facility. I parked and watched with binoculars a few times hoping to see her move around. I rode the entire day hoping to get a glimpse of Maia and watching for a FedEx employee.”
She finally caught up with one employee at the parking lot at around 3pm and asked him to keep an eye out for the dog.
Two hours later, she received a call. Someone had spotted Maia hiding somewhere near the FedEx facility underneath a rack used to move large cargo.
After pleading with airport security, Ms Allgood was eventually led to the area where Maia was hiding.
Soon, a crowd from Delta and FedEx had gathered.
“This turned into a scene,” she wrote on Facebook. “Numerous people started showing up from air operations: Delta, and the wonderful FedEx employees who were all such a huge help.”
Amid the commotion, Ms Allgood said she quietly walked towards the rack that was about 25cm off the floor, got on her back, and “started scooting under it”.
“I got to her, and she still hadn’t noticed I was behind her,” she said. “I took a deep breath and just grabbed her around the waist without hesitating. The next thing I hear is someone yell, ‘Robin’s got her!’”
Delta told Insider it was now working on flying Maia back to her owner, Ms Rodriguez.
As for Ms Allgood, she said she was just glad she was able to help reunite another pet with its owner.
“This is a passion. I feel like it’s a calling from God… I love dogs,” she said.
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