Lost Dog Tale, With A Twist

| 16 Feb 2015 | 11:42

A family hopes that Upper West Siders will help bring their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel back home

Upper West Side For the past week, Eva Zaghari and her three children from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, have been papering the Upper West Side with over 1,300 flyers asking for information on their beloved dog Cooper. "We are devastated, please return our dog," the sign implores.

The catch though, is that Cooper didn't technically get lost, or even stolen. He was given away.

When she explains the story, sitting at Irving Farm coffee shop on West 79th Street before heading out to post more flyers around the neighborhood, Eva and her kids are visibly distraught. About a month ago, on September 5th, her husband Ray had arranged to give the dog away, via a Craigslist ad. He mistakenly thought that removing a source of stress from his wife and kids ? walking and feeding and caring for a dog, tasks which had fallen mostly to Eva ? would make everyone happier in the long term, even if they were initially upset.

"My dad had taken the dog to a park on 52nd [Street] between 11th and 12th, he put out an ad on Craigslist offering the dog for free for a well-to-do family," said the Zagharis' 20-year-old daughter, also named Eva, a college student. "He chose the best-fit couple there was. No one else in the family had any knowledge of it."

"He didn't mean to do it," chimed in 9-year-old Gabriel about his dad. The family, including Saleh, 13, all agree that their father made a terrible judgment call, but they're trying to move past that and just get Cooper back.

"We were completely stunned," said daughter Eva, explaining that this was out of character for her dad. "We still haven't put away [Cooper's] little bed."

The Zagharis have had Cooper, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for five years, and the kids say he became part of the family. Their father didn't feel the same attachment to the family pet, though, and didn't want an added burden in their lives.

"When he did this, he had been saying for five years, 'Oh you guys don't need a dog', because he's not an animal lover, he didn't grow up with animals," said Eva of her husband. A school psychologist, she said that she should know better than anyone that human nature and stress can drive people to commit strange, out-of-character acts; that's the only way she can explain what her husband of 23 years did, she said, since they've always had a good marriage and the family is obviously close-knit.

The Zagharis are hopeful that someone on the Upper West Side will spot Cooper out on a walk with the people who showed up at the De Witt Clinton dog park a month ago and took him home. They also have to hope that whoever may have Cooper didn't know the full backstory and will sympathize with a family missing their pooch. Legally, it's a thorny issue, since a member of their family handed Cooper's leash over voluntarily.

Eva said that she's gotten some calls already from residents who think they may have seen Cooper. Until someone calls with definitive proof ? a name, building or phone number of the people who have Cooper ? there is little they can do, aside from wait and try to spread the word.

In the meantime, the Zagharis keep scouring the Upper West Side, targeting subway stops and schools ? they think perhaps a couple with kids has their pup ? as well as passing out info to local veterinarians and animal hospitals. Since Cooper is microchipped, it would be possible to identify him if the new owners take him in for a vet visit.

As the family walks down Broadway with their flyers, after a stop at Staples to buy tape, they laugh and joke with one another, stopping to admire a chalk artist's sidewalk masterpiece. The kids seem to understand that they may not get Cooper back, and also that there isn't much use staying angry at their dad when that energy can be directed to finding their dog. Their mom may be the most upset of them all.

"I try to tell them, don't hate your dad, but he made an awful, inexcusable selfish act of getting rid of our dog," Eva said. Her husband has apologized, she said, and she doesn't think he would have gone through with giving Cooper away had he known how much it would devastate the family.

"He agrees now that it was the worst mistake," Eva said. "He sees we're just not the same."

If you have any information about Cooper, call Eva Zaghari at 917-468-2279.