Wicker Park Bartender, 'Lost Dog Facebook,' Helps Find Missing Shih Tzu

By Alisa Hauser on February 17, 2014 10:33am | Updated on February 17, 2014 11:16am

 Left: Wicker Park bartender Fabio Brienza at work at Bar Bar Black Sheep and Roger Harris, at home with his dog Gypsy.
Left: Wicker Park bartender Fabio Brienza at work at Bar Bar Black Sheep and Roger Harris, at home with his dog Gypsy.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser (Fabio Brienza)/Roger Harris and Gypsy/Facebook

WICKER PARK  —  A shih tzu named Gypsy who went missing after presumably wriggling out of a fenced-in backyard in Boystown was found within just five hours, thanks to the efforts of a social media-savvy bartender in Wicker Park.

"You can't afford to feel lost right now. Complete that lost dog form Web link now, it will go everywhere," wrote Fabio Brienza, a bartender, to Gypsy's owner, Roger Harris, through Facebook.

Though Brienza and Harris, a makeup artist, do not know each other, the men have a mutual friend, Ryan Steigerwald, who tagged Brienza after Harris posted about his missing 4-year-old dog on Facebook Wednesday.

"You know what to do!" Steigerwald said to Brienza, who works at Bar Bar Black Sheep, 1415 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Brienza reached out to Harris, alerting him to the Lost Dog Illinois Facebook Page, an all-volunteer group that posts photos of lost dogs from 5 a.m. to midnight daily.

Brienza, who lives with his husband in Logan Square, where they have a shih tzu and a Labradoodle, has never lost a dog, but last summer Brienza helped a friend of Stegierwald find a missing shih tzu in a similar way using online tools.

During his shift at the bar Wednesday, Brienza posted Gypsy's information on Craigslist and wrote back and forth to Harris.

"I kept telling customers why I was on my phone, and everyone could relate. They have dogs or know people that have lost their dog. A lot of people got involved. They shared the photos," Brienza said.

For Harris, being on a computer was difficult.

"When you are upset, you cannot even sit at a computer, can't see straight I was crying so hard. [Brienza] did what I couldn't do 'cause I was so emotionally distressed. He facilitated the entire thing. I told him you're my savior. Without you I wouldn't have found [Gypsy]," said Brienza.

Harris said Gypsy disappeared while the dog was playing in the backyard. The wind shut the back door leading into his home and left Gypsy out in the cold.

 The news of Gypsy's safe return went viral on Friday, with more than 700 shares after the photos were posted on the Illinois Lost Dogs Facebook page.
The news of Gypsy's safe return went viral on Friday, with more than 700 shares after the photos were posted on the Illinois Lost Dogs Facebook page.
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Roger Harris/Facebook

Harris, who was on the phone for about 30 minutes, didn't realize Gypsy had not come back into the apartment until he was off the phone.

"I flipped out. I was a mess," Harris said.

In addition to Lost Dogs Illinois, Brienza suggested that Harris call 311, the Chicago Animal Care and Control and the Animal Welfare League, as well as post notices on EveryBlock and Craiglist.

Just two hours after Gypsy went missing, Brienza got a call from a guy who had run into another guy who found a shaggy black-and-white dog and took the pooch to the Animal Care and Control Center at 2741 S. Western Ave.

The man who found Gypsy was a fan of the Lost Dogs Illinois Facebook page, and had seen the photo of Gypsy there, according to the Lost Dogs Illinois Director Susan Taney, who posted news of Gypsy's safe return home on Friday.

Since December 2010, more than 8,000 families have been reunited with dogs because of the Facebook page, Taney said.

Harris retrieved the dog from the Chicago Animal Care and Control center on Thursday after paying $130 for a city dog license, vaccines and micro-chipping.

"When you lose an animal, you start panicking. You think, 'Oh my gosh, I've lost my fur kid.' The best thing [Brienza] did was stay calm. It was awesome what he did. All while behind the bar," said Stiegerwald, a musician.

Brienza credited Gypsy's return to "strangers that work together to achieve a goal because we share the same passion."

"It doesn't take more than a minute to pick up the phone, post a picture of a dog to help somebody," Brienza said.

Have you found a lost or stray dog? There are two agencies in the city that will accept dogs: the Chicago Animal Care and Control, 2741 S. Western Ave. and Animal Welfare League, 6224 S. Wabash Ave.  For more information, click here.

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