The Case of the Missing Dog, the True Story Behind the Urban Legend

Oil painting by R. Marshall, 1855.

A long time ago I once worked at the American Kennel Club's executive offices located on Park Avenue and 21st Street, around the 30th or 40th floor of this office building with two towers. Stepping off the elevator, I was greeted by a burnished wood paneled corridor graced with ornately framed oil paintings of past AKC dog champions lit by overhead sconces. The reception area reminded one of the elegance of a bygone era featuring gentlemen and dogs.

Behind the ornate decor was an altogether different thing.

The office for the editor of the AKC magazine, The Gazette, was down a bare-walled hallway populated with cubicles flanking both sides. Each cubicle held one person and one dog. Yes, employees were allowed to bring their dogs to work. It was the AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB, after all.

An inveterate dog lover, I fit in quite well at the AKC. It took around 45 minutes each morning to make my way down the corridor for I had to greet each dog en route, a ritual that included petting, kissing and conversation. The dogs suffered through it all. There were the whippets, the Welsh terrier and Italian greyhounds to name a few breeds, each corralled within their respective owner's cubicle.

My favorites were two Papillons owned by the editor. I taught one how to type. Okay, I held his chopstick legs and simulated typing. That kept me amused. My job was temporary executive secretary although I edited quite a few pieces for the magazine as well as ghost wrote others.

Don't trust that puppy dog look
The only dog permitted to stroll uncorralled was this tiny black Dr. Zeus-like creature. His owner worked at the AKC for 12 years as Art Director and Sparky came to work every day those 12 years giving him seniority over all the other dogs.

Needless to say, Sparky had a shitty attitude. He walked around the office like it was his personal fiefdom, sometimes with a bright red plastic hamburger toy in his mouth. Sad to say, he was very unpopular with the AKC staff.

One day, the Art Director ran up to my desk. Upset, he cried out, "Have you seen Sparky lately?"

"He came by an hour or so ago with that damn squeaky toy of his," I said. "Then he went that way," and pointed down the hallway.

"Thanks," he said, running in that direction. Half an hour later, he returned. "I still haven't found Sparky."

This was an unusual event. So unusual, in fact, my boss emerged from her office where she holed up for hours on end. "Let's have everyone check under their desks and in boxes, closets and storage rooms."

The entire office came to a standstill in search of Sparky. With no success. Frantic, the Art Director phoned the building's security. In minutes, a fire alarm was pulled and the entire building evacuated. Milling outside on the Park Avenue side with hundreds of people, I overheard bankers from other floors grumble about being pulled from their trading desks.

"What's going on, is this a fire?" asked one banker near me.

A security men responded, "No, lost dog."


"Yes, from the American Kennel Club."

"THEY CAN BRING DOGS TO WORK?" shrieked the bankers. "We're losing money standing outside while you guys closed the place down for a LOST DOG?"

Two hours later, security allowed us entry for they found Sparky the other side of the building. Upstairs, at the AKC, we pieced together what may've occurred:

Sparky walked unimpeded down the executive corridor where he more than likely followed someone and boarded an elevator heading down to the ground floor. No one bothered with the dog as he crossed the giant lobby to the opposite tower and followed someone else to board an elevator to another floor. There seemed to be no other explanation although I insisted this was his attempt at a great escape.

Days later, I was in a packed elevator going to the lobby when we heard an echoed dog yelp.

A banker from another floor said out loud behind me, "Oh, poor Sparky's stuck in the elevator bank." All the passengers erupted in derisive laughter.

And that's how a legend is born.

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