One Sunday last winter, Peter Fisher decided to take his one-and-a-half-year-old Boykin spaniel named Waylon for a long walk across the Manhattan Bridge. They often made this journey to Fisher’s girlfriend Olivia McCausland’s place in Chinatown. Waylon started out from their home in Carroll Gardens in his usual good spirits, fluffy hair blowing in the breeze as he strutted the walkway to Manhattan.
Waylon had never before noticed the Mahayana Buddhist Temple, guarded at its entrance by a pair of imposing stone lions, just past the bridge. But on this day, he saw the statues and, Fisher says, just froze: “His little animalistic brain was like, Predator alert! We’re about to be eaten.” To make matters worse for him, someone then began chanting through a megaphone beside one of the lions. The next thing Fisher knew, Waylon had slipped his collar: “His head went right through it and then he’s running across Canal Street and the lanes of traffic where everyone’s entering and exiting the bridge.”
Waylon dashed down Bowery, away from the noise, away from the lions, with Fisher in pursuit. Passersby joined in, one man going so far as to sprint along next to Fisher. Just as Waylon was running across the intersection where East Broadway hits Chatham Square, a car sideswiped him.
“He just really took off then,” Fisher says. In despair, he called McCausland. She ran out of her apartment in pajamas and some off-brand Crocs-style slippers she would soon come to regret. Together, they canvassed the area where Waylon had last been seen, walking what McCausland estimates was about 26 miles in circles. Her shoes filled with blood; she was so adrenalized she hardly noticed. They brought in friends. “There was like a massive information-dissemination campaign,” she says. “My whole family was paying these companies. Basically, if you lose your dog, they post on a bunch of different Facebook accounts and call every shelter, every vet.” Everything was closed because it was a Sunday, and some scam artists had started calling Fisher claiming to know Waylon’s whereabouts and demanding he click sketchy “verification” links.
The streets darkened. It began to rain and then to sleet. Fisher’s phone was dying. They took comfort in the fact that Waylon is microchipped, so at the very least his remains would be identifiable. Fisher swore he would spend his life walking the streets looking for his dog.
Earlier that day, Flora Cen was leaving a doctor’s appointment at 128 Mott Street when she spotted a beautiful dog wandering around with no leash. She approached him gently, calling him “baby.” Holding Waylon by the scruff of his neck because he had no collar, Cen stayed with him in the rain for about half an hour, scanning the area for possible owners. All she saw were “Chinese old ladies.” (Cen herself is Chinese.) Soon, it was time to pick up her sons from their kung fu class at the nearby A&C Culture Center. She carried Waylon there — no small feat as Cen weighs 114 pounds and Waylon is about 40. Without other good options, she decided to load him into the car with her family and take him back to her home on 86th Street in Bay Ridge.
She and her son gave Waylon a shower because he was wet and muddy, dried him off, and fed him. “He ate three times as much as my own dog,” Cen says. Her sons and husband were scouring Facebook. By evening, they had found the paid post and responded.
Something about this call seemed unlike the others Fisher had received. Cen was able to send a photo, though even that was strange. “We almost couldn’t tell it was him. He just had such a different look on his face, and, I don’t know, he was obviously confused,” Fisher says. They raced to Bay Ridge. “Peter knelt down after we got him, and Waylon put his paws on Peter’s shoulders as a hug. Like, Sorry, Dad,” McCausland says. Cen was offered the customary reward; she suggested they make a donation to the A&C Culture Center, which had hosted Waylon briefly.
The next day, a vet gave him a clean bill of health at an exorbitant cost. Finally, back at home, “he just passed out immediately and slept for two days,” Fisher says.
Cen says she sometimes thinks about Waylon: “He’s such a good boy. Very good dog, very loyal.”
Waylon now wears a harness for walks. There are still a few things that spook him, some more easily explained than others. He doesn’t like crosswalks, loud noises behind him, and certain types of cars. On January 19, 2023, Waylon made his first journey over the bridge since his disastrous adventure. He walked triumphantly past the temple lions, giving them only the briefest sniff of assessment. — Emily Gould
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