Anyone who has ever lost a beloved dog knows the feelings of desperation, fear and guilt that Cynthia Slater is experiencing right now.
Slater's 4-year-old greyhound, Laddie, escaped Dec. 23 when someone left the gate open at her home near Oliver and Kellogg.
He was seen that same day at Clapp Golf Course at Oliver and Harry, but he hasn't been spotted since.
"I'm just hoping that we're able to get him home somehow," said Slater, a grad student, artist and single mom who adopted Laddie, a retired racing greyhound, two years ago. "We really miss him, my daughter and I."
Dogs get lost every day. Why is Laddie's story special?
One reason is that he's a greyhound. They can be harder to find than other lost dogs because they can run 40 miles an hour, covering a lot of ground in a short time.
They also have very little body fat and very little fur, so they are particularly susceptible to extreme weather conditions like the cold Wichita has experienced since two days after Laddie disappeared.
Another thing that makes Laddie's case interesting is the support that Slater has found in her effort to find him — from dog lovers around Wichita and nationwide.
Members of Heartland Greyhound Circle of Friends, Race the Wind Greyhound Adoption, Pals Animal Rescue and other local volunteers posted e-mail pleas for help and conducted neighborhood searches soon after they learned Laddie was missing.
And after Slater posted a "Greyhound Amber Alert" on Greytalk.com, an online site for greyhound owners, members from as far away as New York and Boston joined in the effort, helping to create and fax fliers to pet stores, veterinarians' offices and animal shelters.
Greytalk members have helped search for more than 1,000 lost greyhounds since the forum was started four years ago, said Michael McCann, a member who also runs a greyhound adoption support group in Boston.
The site also offers tips for finding a lost greyhound.
Because greyhounds can travel so far so fast, fliers should be posted on telephone poles throughout a 13-mile radius from where the dog disappeared, McCann said.
If a greyhound or other sighthound sees something to chase — a rabbit, a squirrel, "even a plastic bag flying in the wind" — it will go after it, McCann said, and because the dogs rely more on their sense of sight than smell, they may have trouble finding their way back home.
A shy or easily spooked greyhound — Slater describes Laddie as timid and shy — may run from someone who tries to help it, McCann said. If one has been spotted, the best way to catch it is to set up a live trap with food, he said.
Laddie loves to eat, Slater said. "If anybody sees him, they should approach slowly," she said. "If they have some food and he can smell it, he'll probably come right up to them."
McCann said he has hope that Laddie is still alive, even in this frigid weather.
"These greyhounds tend to be a lot tougher than people give them credit for," he said. One dog was found after being lost for seven months in Vermont, he said, surviving "minus-10 temperatures and lots of snow."
"If they find a source of food, these guys can survive."
It could be "a cat lady in the neighborhood feeding cats, or someone feeding their dog in the backyard," McCann said.
McCann imagines that Laddie is very cold and frightened.
"Here's a dog that raced at a racetrack and knew nothing about living in a home," McCann said.
"Then he's adopted and has a good, wonderful home, and somebody leaves the gate open and he's off.
"He doesn't know where he is and he's lost. The poor guy is totally out of his element. ... He really needs to be in a house."
That's what Slater is hoping — that someone has taken Laddie into their home, where he's happy, safe and warm.
"Hopefully he's giving somebody else a lot of love, and they're giving him a lot of love," she said. "Maybe that's what's supposed to happen."
But Slater loves Laddie and wants him back.
She shouldn't give up, said McCann, who was involved in the unsuccessful search for a whippet that escaped from New York's JFK airport in 2006 after appearing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
Although greyhounds have been found 20 miles from where they got lost, "typically they will stay within a one- to three-mile area of home," McCann said.
The best way to find Laddie is to "get everybody in the area involved in the search," he said.
"The more eyes that look for this dog, the more likely that this dog is going to go home."