It’s a brisk December morning and I am doing something out of character – taking an early morning walk to the dog park. Walking up from the ferry landing with the rising sun splashing onto the eastern bank of the Island and casting geometric shadows from the temporary fencing, I see a blond woman in a beige coat playing catch with a little brown, black and white dog. She tosses a green tennis ball toward the pet who is leaping and running excitedly to catch it in its mouth. They loom larger in size as they move toward me.
This is long-time Island resident Bojana Zezelj and her dog, Nina. Zezelj has a story to tell about the harrowing day last week when Nina broke free from her dog walker and ran off, circling the Island for hours. “I was in such a panic. “Somebody would call me and say she was all the way south, then somebody would call me and say they saw her north. And it went on, and it was horrible because it was getting dark and it was cold. “
Zezelji and Nina at the dog park
“We spotted her in the car and went after her but of course she turned left. I would get out of the car and run after her, and I was shouting, Nina! But I think by then her mind was so filled with fear that she didn’t register much.”
I first notice her name embossed on her dark blue uniform when I walk into the Public Safety Department. Officer Madigan is at first officious in her demeanor but once I tell her I am with The WIRE, and ask her if she knows anything about about the lost dog with the happy ending, her face breaks into a huge smile. “I’m the one that found her.”
According to Zezelj, Madigan literally saved the day about ten days back when the officer rescued Zezelj’s tiny dog Nina after a long, hard chase.“Nina the Speed Dog,” said Officer Madigan affectionately. Officer Madigan showed me the card adorned with a photo of the small mixed rescue dog in her festive red and white sweater, beaming proudly.
She explained that they should have started out on foot, because the small canine was afraid of their vehicles. Once they realized, she radioed the other officers and they changed their approach. “I developed a relationship with her. I approached her slowly, and I said, “It’s okay, Nina.” Madigan raised the timbre of her voice in what I call “Motherese”- the language of mothers. A tone that imbues a sense of familiarity and safety.
According to the accounts of both Madigan and the dog owner, the tiny pup scampered at lightning speed from one end of the Island to the other, from Lighthouse Park to Four Freedoms Park. It took almost three hours for them to finally catch up with her.
Island resident Amanda Sadlier was out jogging on the promenade on the West Side when this tiny dog overcame her from behind and took off at high speed into the distance. She soon realized it was not just a dog out for a casual run when she saw the blue and white public safety vehicles coming along in hot pursuit.
If you were out walking or running along the river that afternoon you might well have encountered the high velocity game of cat and mouse going on between the dainty pooch and several uniformed patrol officers. Nina eventually exhausted herself and lay down near the break wall north of the fire station and The Octagon.
Officer Madigan displays the card Zezelj bought along with chocolates to the Public Safety Department after they found Nina.
“I told everyone not to touch her,” said Madigan. She radioed the other patrol car, who had Zezelj in the back seat. They came as close as they could with the car but not too close, parking in the fire station parking lot, but then Zezelj just ran to Nina, even though she was in high heels. “Nina, why are you running away?”she asked. When she scooped the dog up, Nina’s paws were bloody from the miles she had run over the asphalt. One loop of the Island is about four miles, so just picture this little dog running that a few times over. “Does she need any water?” Madigan asked.
Zezelj describes how patient the officers were with her, and how kind they were to her in her distraught and panicked state. She said she appreciated so much the earnest and persistent effort they put into looking for her beloved Nina.
Police Chief McManus is known to be a big lover of animals, and wanted them to keep looking for Nina until she was found.
Zezelj brought the officers a card and a box of chocolates. “I put them in the Mustard Room,” said Madigan. “That is where we go to be debriefed on what is going on that day. I told them the chocolates were to thank them for finding Nina.”