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Lost Dog, Panda, FOUND Safe and Sound

  Last modified on May 8th, 2024

Panda, the nine-year-old Shih Tzu reportedly stolen in Central Park last Wednesday, was found safe Sunday night and is back home with his happy and relieved Upper East Side family.

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Panda was found with a homeless couple in a makeshift sidewalk encampment under scaffolding on East 14th Street near Union Square, according to Peter Eliopoulos, a family friend who had been helping the dog’s owners find him. The couple had been caring for him after they say they found him wandering alone in Central Park Thursday, a day after he disappeared.

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A tipster’s text to owner Makiyo Davidson led to Panda’s discovery, Eliopoulos said. She got the text just moments before a CBS News reporter and camera crew arrived at her home Sunday night for an interview about the missing dog. The coincidental timing meant CBS was on the scene for the happy reunion.

Davidson received the text from someone who spotted a dog matching Panda’s description. She then turned to Eliopoulos, who was at her home to join her for the TV interview, and said she had to rush down to Union Square to see the dog. Eliopoulos told her to do the interview first since the dog might not be Panda and TV coverage would be important. He said he would go down and find the dog and let her know if he thought it was Panda. So she went ahead with the interview. In the middle of speaking with CBS, Eliopoulos called her to say he thought it was in fact Panda.

“I said ‘oh my god, I really think this is the dog,’” he said. “I told her, ‘Come down here, come down here.’”

She grabbed her coat and rushed out the door with the news crew trailing behind her. When she got to the homeless encampment and saw the dog, she called Panda’s name and he ran into her arms as she began sobbing with joy.

“I called his name and he ran to me. I knew it was him,” Davidson told CBS News.

The homeless couple told CBS that the dog looked skinny when they found him alone in Central Park, so they took him with them to keep him safe.

“We were scared for him because he was so skinny. So we were like, we got to take care of this baby,” the woman, identified by CBS News as Kimberly Oliver, said.

“No one claimed him so we just took him,” added the man, Franklin Dunham.

The couple bought him food and treats and took care of him for a few days until the witness spotted Panda and contacted Davidson.

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Eliopoulos said the $5,000 reward the family offered for Panda’s safe return will be shared by several people, including the couple. He said that among the others who will share the reward is a woman who is involved with dog rescues and was relentless over the past week, offering advice and tips and encouragement during the search.

“So many people have been so helpful,” he said. “I was getting calls non-stop.”

As East Side Feed reported last week, Panda was taken from the park May 1 where he’d gone with the family nanny and two children to play after the children were picked up from school. When it came time to go home, Panda, who was off leash as were other dogs in the area, was nowhere in sight. As she frantically searched for him, a park-goer approached the nanny and told her he had seen a tall, white man pick up the dog and walk off with him.

The devastated family almost immediately began posting flyers in and near the park and on social media. They also reported the alleged theft to police.

“Makiyo is obviously elated now,” Eliopoulos said. “She was really down. I kept telling her ‘Don’t worry. We’ll find him.’ I’m not sure I believed it but I kept saying that.”

The man who allegedly took Panda from the park where he’d been playing with his family has not been found.


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