Deployed sailors ask for public's help to locate their missing dog
By SUSANNAH BRYAN | The Sun Sentinel (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 29, 2017
FORT LAUDERDALE — When the family dog goes missing, you find him — unless you’re serving your country and can’t join the search party.
That’s the dilemma facing U.S. Navy couple Christopher and Summer Burgos, whose 2-year-old dog Joker went missing on Dec. 21 after a long flight from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale.
Now the couple are relying on the help of strangers to find their dog – a 40-pound white Canaan with brown specks on his ears and tail. The dog, microchipped and wearing a green and purple collar, was last seen on Sunday near the Harbor Shops on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.
“I don’t have any control over this,” Summer Burgos said Thursday from Pensacola. “I just can’t believe he’s still out there. It’s killing me. My husband feels just as helpless as me. He feels like everything is in God’s hands at this point.”
Christopher Burgos, a 23-year-old rescue swimmer in the Navy, has been on the USS America since July and will remain stationed on the warship through February.
His wife, a 22-year-old hospital corpsman, reported to Pensacola in November to undergo training. She left Joker behind with a roommate in San Diego, the couple’s home base.
But when her roommate said Joker was experiencing anxiety, Summer decided he’d be better off at her in-law’s home in Davie, where he’d get one-on-one attention and have access to a large backyard.
“He’s a very special dog,” Summer Burgos said. “He came from Fallujah in Iraq. We wanted to get him to a place where he could run around and not feel so trapped.”
Joker boarded a Delta Air Lines flight on Dec. 21, spending nearly 12 hours crated in the cargo hold from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale, with a layover in Atlanta.
At 11:30 p.m., Summer got a call from her mother-in-law saying Joker bolted out of the crate when she opened the door to put on his leash.
“He pushed past her, knocked her down,” Summer Burgos said.
Officials working at the airport told the family they spotted the dog heading toward Fort Lauderdale.
“He was in a cage for over 11 hours with no food, water or medication,” said Ivan Burgos, Christopher’s father. “My son is heartbroken. The dog is very, very loving but he tends to freak out when he hears loud noises or when he’s alone. He was on medication to keep him calm.”
Summer Burgos, who spent Dec. 22-26 with her in-laws, posted “Lost Dog” fliers in Fort Lauderdale and on social media sites. Before leaving for Pensacola the day after Christmas, she left one of her shirts near a bush in the Harbor Shops plaza, hoping Joker would stay in the area if he could smell her scent, making it easier to find him.
Fort Lauderdale dog owner Melinda Steinbacher saw a flier on Christmas Eve and has been out scouting for Joker ever since.
“There are three or four of us trying to find him,” she said. “The dog is in a strange city, so he doesn’t even have a home to go to.”
Summer holds out hope Joker will be found.
She asks anyone who spots him to call Broward County Animal Control, so he can be picked up by a professional.
Then call her, she says. Her number is 619-952-2027.
©2017 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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