In early December 2022, it seemed that the entire town of Gardiner was motivated with the help of social networking to assist in finding a lost dog named Freyja during an extremely cold and snowy snap of weather. She was found after 12 long, frigid days. This is the story as communicated by Freyja’s owners, Victoria and Joe Santiago, of Marlboro, NY.
The saga started when the Santiagos planned to take Victoria’s parents to Disney World to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They hired a pet sitter to stay with their dogs at their home. At the last minute, the pet sitter canceled, so they boarded Freyja and their other two dogs at the Gardiner Animal Hospital (GAH) where her husband had been bringing the family’s animals for vaccinations for many years. A few days later, while they were standing in line at the Magic Kingdom, Joe got a call from the vet’s office. The next thing Victoria heard her husband say was, “She’s gone…she’s gone…they LOST OUR DOG!” Joe continued, “They said someone was walking Freyja and her leash got wrapped around a pole, so the walker dropped the leash to unwrap it and Freyja bolted.”
Unable to get a return flight immediately, Joe and Victoria contacted Gardiner Animal Control Officer, Andrew McKee, who reassured them that they’d do their best to find and trap Freyja. Days went by with plummeting temperatures and snow. Friends of the Santiagos picked up their two remaining dogs at GAH and started posting Freyja’s photo all over social media. The post on the Gardiner NY Facebook page about Freyja went viral with over 100 people sharing the post. Victoria commented, “Buddha Dog Rescue and a local dog trainer named Jorge Rodas were a ‘Godsend’.” The Santiagos estimated that 20-30 Gardiner residents were patrolling the streets of Gardiner on foot and in their vehicles looking for any sign of Freyja. A few traps were set out, but days passed with no luck.
Once they arrived home, the Santiagos were out every day and evening searching and started noticing other cars driving very slowly through Gardiner’s side streets. They would roll down their window and ask, “Are you looking for Freyja?” Phone numbers were exchanged to help with the search. When I asked Victoria what their primary concern was besides the brutal weather, she said, “I read that typically when dogs are away more than a couple of days they revert to a survival mode, so we stressed in all the social media posts, “DO NOT CHASE. If you see her, just report it.”
During the interview the Santiagos were in awe at the level of support they received from Gardiner residents saying, “People in Gardiner care and they showed it through their actions.” Victoria said that one resident, who lived near to where Freyja was lost, contacted them and offered to leave the heated shed in her backyard open with a bed, blankets, and hot dogs to try and lure Freyja to a safe spot. Another resident, Mary Meyer, texted Victoria paragraphs of how-to-search tutorials which were very helpful. However, one cold day after another passed. Then, Mr. McCord, the owner of McCord’s Welding contacted them to say that Freyja was howling by his back door on Route 208. When he opened the door to lure Freyja in with a deer carcass, she wouldn’t come in. The next morning Joe Santiago went to McCord’s house and sat in a chair in the backyard calling softly, but no Freyja. He thought, “If I was a dog where would be a good place to hide around here?” That’s when he noticed some large pine trees in the back of McCord’s property that were so dense there was little snow under them. Slowly he walked over and found Freyja hunkered down under a tree. When she recognized him, she came out and leaped into his arms. Joe hugged Freyja tight and called his wife at work. Victoria said, “When we got the news everyone at my job was crying tears of joy. I quickly updated the Facebook page and called all the people I had numbers for who helped us. It was an amazing and powerful experience to have a community rise up like the people in Gardiner did. Gardiner is the most wonderful town I have ever experienced, and my dream would be to move there.”