It was the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 13 when retired NYPD
lieutenant Tom Tierney got the call. “I got a missing dog,” said a voice on the
other end of the line.
It was Rich Hogan, Mr. Tierney’s sometime employer from IPSA
International, a firm that does high-end corporate investigations and security.
A five-year-old black Labrador, George, had left his Fifth Avenue home two days
earlier with a dog-walker and had not been seen since. Since George belonged to
millionaire sugar baron Jose (Pepe) Fanjul, IPSA, which usually cracks
corporate espionage and white-collar crime cases, had been hired to bring back
the canine-with a $5,000 reward as bait.
And IPSA wanted Tom Tierney as its pet detective. “I never had a
case like this,” said Mr. Tierney, 55, who worked undercover in the Mayflower
Madam sting and then headed Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s security detail before
retiring in 1996 and going into business for himself, protecting clients like
the Sultan of Brunei.
“I got very involved very quickly because I have four dogs,” he
said of George’s case. “You know, I’m picturing this dog and how frightened it
must be. You know, the beautiful house it lives in-obviously it’s well taken
care of-and, now, it’s really the
wilderness for this animal.”
Of the three Labradors and
one cat owned by Pepe and Emilia Fanjul, George was Mr. Fanjul’s baby. A shy
dog bred in Ireland, according to his master, he followed Mr. Fanjul
everywhere-from Fifth Avenue to Palm Beach, where Mr. Fanjul owns a 26-room
mansion, to Casa de Campo, the family-owned resort in the Dominican Republic.
When not jetting back and forth, George spent most days under Mr. Fanjul’s desk
at Flo-Sun, the sugar consortium founded in the 1960’s after the Fanjul
family fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and most
nights tucked in next to the other pets at the foot of the couple’s bed.
“Such a sweetie, so docile and calm,” Mr. Fanjul’s assistant,
Caroline Lowe, said of George. “He was Mr. Fanjul’s shadow.”
On Feb. 11, as Mr. Fanjul was
getting ready for an 8 p.m. business dinner, George had been underfoot in his
owner’s Fifth Avenue dressing room. But when Mr. Fanjul returned to the lobby
of his building at 77th Street around 11 p.m., his doorman announced that
George had escaped from the dog-walker and was loose in Central Park. Mr.
Fanjul put on a hat and scarf, grabbed a flashlight and ran back out into the
night with his family to hunt for George. At 3 a.m., his voice hoarse, the
25-degree temperature forced him back home, dogless.
The next morning, Mr. Fanjul opened up his Rolodex. He enlisted
publicist Paul Wilmot to post flyers on the Upper East Side, in Central Park
and on car windshields. His daughter’s dog-walking company, the Canine Club,
posted them farther east and on the west side. Beneath a sketch of George’s
profile, the flyers mention the hefty reward and the fact that the dog is
“micro-chipped” and therefore could be properly identified by most
veterinarians. Mr. Wilmot also delivered two items in Neal Travis’ column in the New York Post about Mr. Fanjul’s
predicament. Employees at the Central Park Zoo, where Mr. Fanjul’s
sister-in-law sits on the board, were asked to be on alert. And Sherlock Bones,
a pet-recovery company based out of California-founded by “the original pet detective,” John Keane-was
hired to mail red-and-white notices to veterinarians and groomers around the
“There’s quite a few people involved in this effort,” Mr. Fanjul
Mr. Fanjul called IPSA
International, which he had used in the past for business, to find someone in
New York who could coordinate the search-and-rescue operation. They immediately
contracted Mr. Tierney, who called in a few favors.
Within 48 hours, after schmoozing the female commanding officer
of the Central Park Precinct and dropping in on a major dog shelter, Mr.
Tierney began hearing reports of injured black Labs and potential sightings,
including one near the zoo. He also called his friends at Channel 11, where he
has a regular gig taking care of the celebrity guests, and got Mr. Fanjul on
the news on Valentine’s Day.
Looking more like an F.B.I. agent than Ace Ventura, with his long
dark coat, charcoal-gray suit and mini pompadour, Mr. Tierney headed to the
Central Park Zoo at dusk, Feb. 15. “Really, who knows where this is leading
now,” he said. “My God, this space. This is Central Park. There are so many
hiding places! But I’m more positive that this dog is going to be found than
I’m negative. I really am.”
He theorized that someone had just taken the beautiful lost dog
in. “Maybe it’s someone who’s just come to this country and doesn’t know the
procedure,” he speculated. The Central Park Precinct officers were under orders
to approach all black Labs, even those on leashes.
Mostly Mr. Tierney was
looking forward to the holiday weekend, when he would “flood” the area with
flyers. “You keep it simple,” he said. “‘Excuse me sir, have you seen this dog?
Do you know anybody who might? Do you mind taking a flyer?'”
Then there was the dog-walker. For the past three years, a friend
of the Fanjuls’ maid had been walking their dogs. The woman (whose name Mr.
Tierney did not want disclosed) walked the dogs in the evening and the Fanjuls
were happy with her. On the night George was lost, however, the dog-walker’s
15-year-old daughter had taken him out instead of her mother. According to Mrs.
Fanjul, who was home, the girl came back in tears and announced that George had
gotten loose from his collar in Central Park. Since the girl had brought some
friends with her, the Fanjuls suspected that the dog might have been scared
away by the crowd.
It made Mr. Tierney a tad suspicious.
“I won’t know what happened,” he said, “until I can look her in
the eye and, as politely as possible, ask her what happened. But to climb out
of the collar like that …. ”
It didn’t seem like a thing a well-bred Fifth Avenue dog would
Five years ago, when an Irish trainer called the Fanjuls offering
them George, Mrs. Fanjul said her husband’s response was, “Oh no, we don’t need
another dog.” Hers was, ” Oh yes we do .” An animal lover, Mrs. Fanjul
was once spotted feeding a bone-shaped blini with caviar to George’s mother,
Avis, during a gala for the Animal Medical Center, where she is on the board.
Mrs. Fanjul won. On the same day in 1997 that George was
scheduled to arrive in Miami, Mr. Fanjul’s favorite Labrador, Mambo, was
diagnosed with cancer. Mrs. Fanjul decided to put her to sleep. “That
afternoon, the dog we ordered from Ireland was shipped,” she said. “God had
ordered it that way.”
On the morning of Feb. 16, with George still missing, Mr. Tierney
returned to Central Park, canvassing south from 110th Street toward 60th Street
and back up again, to no avail. Around 3 p.m., he took an interpreter and a
female police officer up to East 118th Street to the dog-walker’s apartment.
The girl recounted the story Mr. Tierney had already heard, but she couldn’t
provide the last names of the people she was with or their addresses or phone
numbers. The timing of events in her story nagged at Mr. Tierney as he drove
home to New City.
When he got there, he found a frantic message from Mrs. Fanjul.
The girl’s mother had called Mrs. Fanjul to say her daughter had
lied. That night her daughter and some friends had driven down to Fifth Avenue
at 77th Street, picked up George in the car and driven back up to Spanish
Harlem. George was supposed to wait in the car with the girl’s friends while
she ran up to her apartment and dressed for a party. When she came back down,
George had escaped. He was last seen running away near 112th Street and Third
“She was gonna bring the dog back and collect her money.
Unbelievable,” said Mr. Tierney. The Fanjuls, he said, were pretty mad. And
he’d lost precious time. “It was all B.S.,” he said, getting louder. “She was
going to a party, a 15-year-old girl, on a Monday night.”
By that point, the Fanjuls were down in Palm Beach for their
grandson’s christening and Mr. Tierney was in charge of the rescue efforts. He
alerted the 23rd Precinct on East 102nd Street. “I called them up and said,
‘You gotta do me a heavy, man. This happened last Monday, get the words out to
the cops. I know it’s a dog, but it’s $5,000 if they find the dog.'”
He immediately arranged for another 1,200 flyers to be printed,
in Spanish and English, to be passed out uptown, to “flood the area- just flood it .”
On Sunday, Feb. 17, Mr. Tierney’s 21-year-old son, Tom, who wants
to get into the NYPD, and Mr. Tierney’s daughter’s boyfriend, a police officer,
canvassed Spanish Harlem, passing out flyers. Despite dozens of sympathy calls,
there was still no news.
After checking the pounds Monday morning, Mr. Tierney and his son
hit the bus depot on 126th Street in Harlem and the Willis Avenue Bridge to
post flyers targeted at truckers.
Later that morning, taking a break at a diner near 86th Street,
Mr. Tierney seemed upbeat again. “Know what I believe? I believe someone has
it,” he said, slathering his eggs with ketchup. “I believe someone found the
dog, it’s in beautiful condition and [they don’t know] that someone’s looking
Back in the cold at 112th and Third Avenue, across the street
from the James Weldon Johnson Houses and the Thomas Jefferson Houses, Mr.
Tierney, the flyers flapping in his hands, said, “Tommy, you know what’s a good
idea? The best people to go for are kids …. Kids see everything, you should go
over to the playground.
“When you give the Spanish one, say ‘ Hola ,'” he added.
Four kids wanted to know whose dog this was and how they could
possibly get the money. Pretty soon, still standing under a basketball hoop,
they started screaming, ” George ! George !”
Earlier, a woman asked Mr. Tierney if he was Donald Trump. “No,
honey,” he said, “if I were Donald Trump I wouldn’t be handing out those
freakin’ flyers.” Another woman approached him. “You must love your dog,” she said. Mr. Tierney said, “Hey, if I had this
dog, I’d be in Palm Beach!”
The trail was cold until, on
Feb. 19, as Mr. Fanjul was flying back to New York, a call came in to his
Florida office. A man named Chris said his girlfriend had George and he could
be picked up later that afternoon in Queens. Mr. Fanjul prepared to head there,
but IPSA discovered that the Queens location did not exist. A man named Chris
answered the phone, but he claimed to know nothing about George.
Pepe Fanjul wasn’t shaken. He said, “I haven’t given up. I’m