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A woman's letter for her missing dog

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On March 16, 2014, Cecilia Nan Ding took her dogs for a walk in a wooded area of New Haven and it turned into a nightmare when one of her beloved dogs, Baobao, went missing. Searches, postering and even a pet tracker have yielded nothing.

The heartache continues for Cecilia as she wonders what has become of Baobao. Support has come through total strangers via social media, but the emotional ups and downs are many.

In a candid letter about and to Baobao, Cecilia writes:

"What if I’d never gone on that walk on that fateful Sunday, March 16th, 2014? What if I’d never let my dog off the leash? What if I’d been a better dog trainer so he would not have left my side without my permission? What if there hadn’t been so many deer to distract him and my other dog, who loves chasing deer? What if there had been a coyote waiting nearby? What if I had searched a bit longer that day, at that place? What if, what if, what if…?

As anyone who has lost a loved one, 4-legged or otherwise would know, we can list a hundred 'what ifs' in five minutes, meanwhile stabbing ourselves with guilt. My dog has been missing for a month now. It sounds strange, but I’ve tried my best not to think of him just so that I can have the strength to look for him. The pain is fresh and raw.

I also know, I still can’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes every time I think about another dog I lost to kidney disease about 6 years ago. The pain and guilt simply refuse to depart. Anyone who has searched for their pet and not given up easily would also know we have to bury the pain and sorrow as much as we can, because we need to keep going and continue the search. We cannot afford to lose time on guilt trips and sadness. There'll be plenty of time for that as long as we live, because the hole in our hearts from losing a pet never goes away.

Middletown Avenue. Ferry and Grand. Curtis Drive. Rimmons Road. Quinnipiac, Lexington and Lennox. These are all the places I have been told that my dog has been sighted by people who saw my neon posters staple-gunned to all the electricity poles I could find at major intersections. Every time I get a call, it’s the same. I find the street on Google maps. Then my mind races to that street and my heartstrings tighten as I visualize my scared and by now filthy dog, Baobao, as he runs along, frightened, trying to find a hiding place somewhere. The cold wind at night or the rain that I know he hates brings pain to his old back with its bad disc and at the same time, brings pain to me.

My Baobao, who was so pampered and spoiled and loved, is wandering the streets like a homeless child. He is not a pure-bred, nor is he particularly handsome. He’s never had the courage to go up to most people, even when he was younger. Sometimes I wonder if age has made him even less willing to open up to others, and now he’s just wandering the streets, trying to survive. And I pray to the higher powers and spirits, please, please, do not let him suffer.

I found Baobao back in 2009 when he was roaming the streets of Beijing, China. Can I do it again? Can I find him roaming the streets of New Haven, CT, USA? Can I? When I found him, I believe he was almost a year old. Almost mature but still very playful. He was sniffing other dogs in the neighborhood, including mine, but would run away from anyone who tried to touch him. I don't know if it was my scent, my posture, my voice, my other dog, or the name I made up for him, but he came over to me and put his front paws on my knees while I was squatting down with an extended hand to talk to him. From that moment on, he trusted me implicitly. He let me carry him home wrapped in a towel. He let me give him a shower in my tiny bathroom. His fur was filthy with a gasoline-like liquid that had stuck to his body. He let me cut off most of his dirty coat with scissors. He let me put him in a basket in front of a bicycle and he stayed there, quietly, all the way to the vet. He let me do anything and everything with complete trust. The only time he rebelled was when I tried to put a harness on him. He hates any kind of clothing and restrictions on his body. If I tried to put a collar on him, he would refuse to move and would just lie down on the ground in protest. I found what I thought was a really good home for him in the apartment complex where I lived. But after just two days, he bolted out of the door of his new home the first chance he got and came straight back to wait for me in front of my apartment block. At the time, I didn’t think I could keep two dogs, with such a small apartment and a busy job. But I realized then that he was meant to be my dog, and I kept him.

I do believe he was meant to be my dog. Strangely, I never liked his breed before I took him in. I always thought they weren’t the smartest-looking dogs. But a mother’s love knows no discrimination, and it was easy and natural for me to pamper and spoil him like a baby. He was meant to be mine. He is a one-person dog, and even if he did get used to my roommate, and later to my fiancé, he was only truly attached to me. He would bark to warn me when anyone came to the apartment. He always saw guests as intruders. And yes, this did cause a little trouble sometimes when he’d nip the heel of a new visitor as a way of guarding “his” territory. So I had to keep him locked up at those times. But then again, he always wanted to be where the people were so he would bark whenever he was locked up. He wanted to be sociable, but on his own terms. A little dog with a big personality. My dog.

Yet some part of me can’t help but ask those difficult questions. Did I prepare him well enough? Maybe if he had understood that he was a small, helpless animal, he would not have ventured too far away from me. And there I go with the 'ifs' again — the endless possibility of 'ifs'. But no 'ifs' can help me bring him back. So I have to put those aside. The search for Baobao goes on just as the search for that missing Malaysian jet goes on. For those of us who miss an important member of our family, the heartache is the same.

My Baobao, a.k.a Bullet, Buddha, Yoda, Chou Bao, please come back to me. Even if you have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, give me a sign, so I know you are close by and your spirit is not suffering. Love, Baobao’s Mom"

If you have any information regarding Baobao or can help post flyers please contact Cecilia at (857) 452-7202. To follow his story, visit Find Baobao in New Haven on Facebook.

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