Janet Mihalyfi doesn’t understand the hate.
The resident of D.C.’s Palisades neighborhood has gotten threatening calls and messages from people who say they’ve seen enough of her signs, which ask for anyone who sees her missing dog to give her a call.
Mihalyfi lost 4-year-old Havoc, a neutered, mixed-breed male, on Nov. 9 while walking him near the Dalecarlia Resevoir on the Bethesda side of the D.C./Maryland border. Since November, she’s embarked on an aggressive campaign to find him, starting a website, enlisting the help of trained K9 dogs and getting volunteer help from a network of about 200 very gracious people.
But to a few folks, her posting of signs with a photo of Havoc and her phone number (in case of a sighting) has gone too far.
Take, for example, this anonymous complaint we got on Wednesday:
Can anything be done to put a stop to the constant postering of missing dog-Havoc-that has been going on along MacArthur Blvd, Mass Ave, Sangamore Rd, and throughout our neighborhoods? While I’m sure most everyone sympathetically wants this individual to find her dog, this assault/nuisance has been going on since November, with posters covering just about every surface (street signs, lamp posts, utility poles, trees) at every major intersection, as well as very poles on the side streets. Recently, the Westmoreland traffic circle had posters taped and/or stapled to every traffic light/sign post/trash can both outside and inside the circle. I thought that MD had a new law against illegal postering along state highways (which includes Mass Ave), with a fine of $25 per poster.
It had been occurring along the Capital Crescent Trail and C&O Canal as well, but that seems to have subsided for now since it was reported. Ironically, one of the photos submitted [Ed. note: see photo after the jump] is below the sign which says all dogs must be leashed; this dog was lost when the owner had it off leash and it took off after deer.
Mihalyfi said most who have contacted her have been supportive. She got a sympathy call from an unknown number during an interview about Havoc and the signs.
There are, however, a number of people who have expressed their distaste with her search.
Mihalyfi said D.C. police even checked out the source of one of the calls. She said he was a mentally disturbed man with a similar name to Havoc who was apparently confused by the signs.
“Even worse, there are these stalker-like men who aren’t stalking me. They’re stalking the signs. They rip every sign down, like with a vengeance,” Mihalyfi said. “I’ve gotten overwhelming support. But on the darker side of things are these cranky people and I really don’t understand it. It’s a piece of paper. If it means getting this living, breathing dog that’s scared out of its mind and hungry and cold home, then what harm is it doing to have this piece of paper up?”
Mihalyfi said none of the signs are in Westmoreland Circle and none are on the Capital Crescent Trail, except for on a community bulletin board where such announcements are allowed.
“Every time a sign comes down, it’s a chance at not getting Havoc back,” Mihalyfi said. “What kills me is when people see the signs and see him and I get the calls hours or days later. What I need is people to save the phone number. That’s the reason the signs are up.”
Mihalyfi estimated she’s spent about $15,000 so far on the search. She’ll typically spend all day on the weekends and about four to six hours daily during the week trying to find the dog.
The Washington Humane Society has helped by loaning her cameras and traps. She’s tried grilling food in areas Havoc is known to frequent to attract him. She has tried stakeouts and last week, went door-to-door in neighborhoods to give out her phone number.
Havoc was lost when he chased after a deer in the woods near the reservoir back in November. For the first three to four months, there were consistent sightings (confirmed from scent-sniffing K9 search dogs for hire) in Bethesda and the Spring Valley and AU Park neighborhoods of D.C.
“That’s where I’m lucky, because it’s a very small area he’s been roaming in,” Mihalyfi said. “Where I’m unlucky is just how good Havoc has become at hiding. Most people get a lot more sightings.”
The website has recent sightings, photos and contact info for Mihalyfi, who had just moved to D.C. from Boston when Havoc ran off. There’s also a Facebook page.
Large, no-expense spared searches for missing dogs aren’t uncommon and Mihalyfi’s search has gotten plenty of press recently. On Feb. 19, she said a group of teenagers prank called her and sent her and a friend on a fruitless search around an area McDonald’s.
Mihalyfi just hopes someone provides the key phone call at the moment of a Havoc sighting, and she doesn’t care how many signs she must put up to make it happen.
“Taking away the signs would mean zero chance of that happening,” she said.
Top photo via Janet Mialyfi; sign photo via anonymous tipster