Yogi Bob is home.
And while dog lovers reading about it here might be happy for his family — who has missed him for nearly a year-and-a-half — locals on the East End of Long Island are amazed.
They remember when Yogi Bob, a a 5-pound, 4 1⁄2-year-old Yorkshire terrier mix, went missing back in January of 2016 after being let off the leash on a walk.
His owner, 34-year-old Dominique Garstin of East Hampton, tried desperately to find him. Her family set up social media pages, printed scads of flyers and signs and hammered the East End with Yogi’s pictures.
She said she spent another $5,000 to hire professional dog trackers from Ohio, who were able to follow Yogi Bob’s movements around feral cat feeding stations, but the little dog ran off whenever someone got too close. His trail went cold after a few weeks, but all those blasts — media and otherwise — paid off.
People remembered Yogi Bob.
And so when Christie Fanti, an animal behavior evaluator in the town of Hempstead, 75 miles west of East Hampton, was asked to evaluate the dog after a caller reported a stray near an apartment complex, she recognized him.
Back when Yogi Bob went missing, Fanti worked in the Town of East Hampton’s animal control department.
Fanti, 32, told Newsday she was aware of Garstin’s search efforts before she switched jobs. When she was asked to evaluate a stray dog to be put up for adoption on Monday, the animal looked surprisingly familiar, she said.
“The dog looked so much like him. I sent this picture to my old co-workers and said ‘Doesn’t this look like Yogi Bob?’ ” she said.
Fanti couldn’t shake the resemblance and messaged a photo of the dog to Garstin on Facebook. And though Garstin had received dozens of tips and checked out nearly 50 dogs in person, Fanti’s looked the most like her dog out of any of the leads she’d gotten.
She went to the Hempstead Animal Shelter earlier this week and the pair were at last reunited. Fanti said the shelter confirmed the dog matched Yogi Bob’s description in medical records — specifically, a distinctive knee condition — before releasing him on Tuesday.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever seen or heard of a dog being gone and recovered,” Fanti said. “I really thought I was almost doing a rude thing by sending the picture because it had been so long.”
It’s unclear how Yogi Bob ended up in Hempstead. Garstin theorizes he may have been picked up by someone before escaping again or being abandoned. But she’s thrilled that Fanti reached out and that her pup is back home.
Yogi Bob has since had a bath and is receiving veterinary care for a respiratory infection.
“He’s been through hell and back,” she said. “What are the chances someone would have recognized him?”