Fear has been Sandy GreveyÕs worst enemy since her three ÒbabiesÓ mysteriously disappeared from her home in Great Falls. Her panic at not getting the trio back has driven Grevey and her husband to extraordinary measures.
On Monday, Sept. 20, Grevey returned from London, where she dropped her son off at a musical academy. When her husband, Kevin, met her at the airport, he delivered the devastating news that her three beloved dogs were missing.
ÒBy Wednesday we were getting very nervous. This isnÕt like them. By Friday we were absolutely panic-stricken,Ó said Grevey. ÒItÕs like losing a child. The unknowns, you just torment yourself. WeÕre exhausted but donÕt want to stop,Ó said Grevey.
Unable to limit their search, the Greveys have traveled hundreds of miles to other states and remote animal shelters searching for the three dogs. Because the trio is related Ñ the pure-bred Dalmatian is the mother of the two, 3-year-old, mixed-breed dogs Ñ it is likely they would stay together rather than run in different directions.
The Greveys also hired professional pet detective Carl Washington, who has come up from Georgia to search for the dogs. ÒThis is a strange case,Ó said Washington. ÒItÕs unusual that I canÕt find one. Maybe if one was hurt, the others would stay with them, but thereÕs no sign of that.Ó
WASHINGTON HAS THREE tracking dogs of his own, which have scoured Great Falls for any trace of the dogs. ÒIÕve come up with nothing,Ó he said. His tracking dogs are efficient detectives. They just returned from an extended stay in Florida, where they have been instrumental in finding dogs lost during the recent hurricanes and reuniting them with their owners.
The pet detective is doubtful the dogs are still in Great Falls. ÒThey are nowhere in the vicinity. TheyÕre not dead on the road or anything like that either, and theyÕre not hunting at night in this particular area,Ó said Washington.
HeÕs conducted a 5-mile search, baited areas where the dogs might show up, and staked out the back of stores that could be a source of food for the dogs. The fact that heÕs turned up nothing is perplexing and distressing for the pet detective.
Grevey believes itÕs possible that the dogs were purposefully brought to a rural animal shelter and are now in danger of being euthanized if they are not located soon. The "Wanted" posters that are blanketing Great Falls say there is reason to believe the animals were dropped off at one of these out-of-the-way shelters. The poster reads, ÒDisappearance may have occurred under suspicious circumstances. May be at a shelter or elsewhere in the state. Any location is possible. The dogs may no longer be together.Ó
Grevey declines to go into the evidence that led them to that assumption but concedes her little darlings havenÕt always been angels. ÒI have to admit they have been a community nuisance and that we have let them out. Some people around here that doesnÕt bother, some people it does and rightfully so,Ó said Grevey.
Officer Lynn Reid with the Fairfax County Police, Animal Services Department, said the Grevey dogs Òhave been cited several timesÓ for running loose. ÒUnfortunately, these dogs have habitually run loose in that neighborhood,Ó said Reid.
The Greveys have visited shelters in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to search for the three dogs. ÒOne of the hardest things has been to go and look at these beautiful dogs in the shelters. There are hundreds of them that deserve homes, who did nothing to get there but have been thrown away or lost their owners, and thereÕs no way to get them back to their owners,Ó said Grevey.
GreveyÕs husband recently traveled to Shepardstown, W.Va., in his quest to alert as many people as possible to the missing canines. ÒHe didnÕt just go to the shelters, which he did. He went around town meeting people and left fliers with everyone from the town barber to the butcher,Ó said Grevey.
THE GREVEYS' DOGS do not have microchips and were not wearing collars because they were not supposed to be outside the house. Workmen doing renovations on the house inadvertently let the dogs out and the ÒescapeÓ was only noticed hours later, when her husband returned from work.
Reid said the microchip is one of the best ways to be reunited with a lost pet. ÒIn all shelters in Virginia, they do check for the chip. If these animals were dropped off within 100 miles of here, that would get them home nine times out of 10,Ó said Reid.
ÒHow do three dogs just disappear without a trace? ThatÕs what I want to know,Ó said Grevey. The pet detective has given her hope that the dogs will return safely. ÒWeÕre holding out any hope. TheyÕve just dropped off into thin air. Even the pet detective thinks itÕs weird. Someone should have seen them, said Grevey.
ÒI donÕt think somebody would take three dogs. One, that happens, but not three,Ó said Washington. Grevey said, ÒI donÕt think anyone would kill them. I just canÕt think that.Ó
However, there is a statute on VirginiaÕs books that would have allowed the dogs to have been killed under particular circumstances. Virginia State Code 3.1-796.116 states, Òit is legal to shoot dogs that are attacking livestock. It does give the property owner the right to do so,Ó said Reid. ÒGreat Falls has a lot of horses and livestock, and there have been people who have had run-ins with these dogs before. If the opportunity presented itself, that would be their defense. ItÕs certainly an alternative to the kidnapping theory,Ó said Reid.
There have been two credible sightings of the three Grevey dogs. ÒThey were seen heading across Georgetown Pike from Riverbend,Ó said Washington, who searched that area without developing any leads. Grevey said, ÒA Pepco guy called to say heÕd seen a Dalmatian with a limp. He didnÕt think anything of it until he saw one of the posters, and then he called.Ó
Reid said, ÒDogs are pack animals, so its not uncommon for them to run together. They could have run off and received the same fate together, whatever that fate may be.Ó Reid states that the kidnapping scenario is just one of hundreds of possibilities. ItÕs probably the most palatable for the GreveyÕs as they continue searching for their pets.
ÒThe more people we reach, the more someone might report something,Ó said Grevey. The pet detective, who the Greveys are paying out of pocket, has stationed himself around town in his conspicuous truck with rotating yellow light, to allow people to drop in and give him their tips.
ÒI really hope they find their dogs. The posters are everywhere all over town. It sounds like a mystery. I think everyone would like to know what happened. ItÕs disturbing to think that all the dogs in a family could just disappear like that. It does make you wonder what really happened,Ó said Kimberley Wilkenson.
WASHINGTON HAS positioned himself outside the Great Falls Volunteer Fire Department and at community events to maximize his exposure because the more time goes by, the less likelihood there is of finding the dogs.
ÒHe really knows what heÕs doing. HeÕs a pro. He thinks someone could be sheltering them,Ó said Grevey.
Initially Washington was not going to take the GreveysÕ case. ÒI just finished up in Florida. I was tired and been on the road for a long time. But I talked to her and decided to come up anyway,Ó said Washington.
ÒHe thought IÕd lost my mind when I called. Then he came up here, and thereÕs nothing. We just had to do something,Ó said Grevey.
In addition to hiring the pet detective, the Greveys are offering a $3,000 reward for their dogs or for any information Òleading to recovery or location; no questions asked.Ó
The mother of the three, 10-year-old Phoenix, is a spayed Dalmatian weighing about 75 pounds. She has stretched tendons on her front paw and runs with a slight limp. Big, her 3-year-old daughter, is a Dalmatian/Lab mix weighing approximately 90 pounds, mostly black with patches of white on her chest and rear paws. Big has a front paw that is white with black spots. The third dog, Mango, is also a Dalmatian/Lab cross and from the same litter as Big. Mango, also a female, weighs about 85 pounds and is predominantly black with white on her chest. The dogs are described as friendly and approachable. The Greveys use Georgetown Pike Veterinary Clinic to treat the dogs.
Anyone with information or tips can call the Greveys at 703-759-0367 or the pet detective at 706-792-1854 or send information to his Web site, www.carlwashington-petdetective.com.
The passage of time, Grevey recognizes, Òadds a level of urgency.Ó
ÒI just want a 'Lassie Come Home' story to enter my life soon,Ó says a distraught Grevey. ÒThe thoughts about what could have happened torment you.Ó