Macon girl reunites with stuffed dog lost on New York subway

lfabian@macon.comDecember 22, 2013 

A scruffy face stood out from all the stuffed animals at the famed FAO Schwarz toy store.

Alyssa Corrigan already had plenty of other plush pals at home in Macon, but she convinced her family she absolutely had to have “Chloe.” The 11-inch Yorkie with its own leopard-trimmed, blue coat immediately captured her heart while Black Friday shopping on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

“I don’t think she went anywhere without it,” said Mike Corrigan, her grandfather.

They were inseparable, or so they thought, until Chloe was left behind in a rush to change subway trains during the family’s Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple.

“She was so devastated, crying and upset,” Corrigan said.

Alyssa wasn’t the only one to shed tears over Chloe.

Her mother, Kristi Corrigan, cries every time she talks about what happened on that blustery, cold day in a city of more than 8 million people.

A bustle of holiday travelers, subway passengers, a U.S. District judge, busy restaurant owners, demanding diners and a retired network news producer made sure Chloe would make it home for Christmas.

‘Special report’: News girl loses dog on subway

During Wednesday’s morning news at Springdale Elementary, Principal Donna Jackson got choked up.

She already had heard what happened to Alyssa, but the girl’s own words brought it to life like a made-for-television holiday screenplay.

“Actually hearing her tell the story, and read it this morning, oh my gosh, it was unreal,” Jackson said, still wearing her red Santa hat from her live broadcast of announcements.

The fifth-grader shared the ripple effect of a random act of kindness in a “special report” on WSEE News, the school’s video morning show that includes a daily greeting from the principal.

Alyssa, wearing her “news girl” badge, told the story even a retired “60 Minutes” producer thought belonged on the evening news.

What the Corrigans witnessed will warm hearts every time the tale is told.

“I experienced a miracle,” Alyssa told the school in her live report. “And since it’s the time of miracles, this would be a great story to tell you all.”

The Corrigans were headed to the Statue of Liberty, but were on the wrong train.

They might not have realized it if Mike Corrigan didn’t offer his seat to the wife of Steve Glauber, a veteran producer for CBS News and its marquis news magazine programs, including “Sunday Morning.”

The kind, Macon grandfather with the white mustache was now standing face to face with the newsman, who was hosting his brother-in-law’s family from Maryland over Thanksgiving.

“Steve is a lifelong journalist, and he’s congenitally interested in people,” said Glauber’s brother-in-law, Judge James K. Bredar, of the U.S. District Court for Maryland.

A conversation began over Corrigan’s hat. The chat abruptly ended with Glauber’s family realizing the crowded subway car wouldn’t get the Corrigans to the Statue of Liberty.

Scrambling to meet the connection they needed, the Georgia party of 10 dashed out the doors.

Chloe kept her seat.

“Is that dog real?” asked a man, who hurried through the doors to the next car. “I’m scared of dogs.”

Bredar’s heart sank. He realized the lifelike, little dog belonged to Corrigan’s 10-year-old blonde granddaughter.

The federal judge is a father who understands the deep bond of child and stuffed animal.

“I know what a disaster that would be in my house,” he said.

The eight members of the Glauber-Bredar party planned strategy to reunite the pair.

Get off at the next stop and backtrack to find them was one thought.

Even though they gave the Corrigans the route they should go, there would be no guarantee they would find them.

Glauber could call the CBS affiliate in Macon and have them put out an appeal on the news.

He knew it would be a great story.

He also had talked to Corrigan enough to know the Southerners were eating at Sal’s for supper.

With Bredar’s sons working their smartphones, they realized the Little Italy eatery wasn’t far from where they were going in Chinatown.

“Steve’s the real hero,” Bredar said. “He acquired the information.”

As the reunion was being plotted, Alyssa’s grandmother noticed the dog was gone as they surfaced from the underground rail.

“I started crying and panicking,” Alyssa would later tell students watching the televisions in their classrooms. “I worried about her all day.”

‘It’s in God’s hands!’

Finding Sal’s was a challenge when the first Internet lead directed them to an old pizzeria.

Once they found the Corrigans’ planned destination, they had to convince the head waiter.

“Are you crazy?” they were asked.

Bredar said the family had enough doubts themselves about whether the reunion would happen. What if the Corrigans don’t come?

“The people are going to come,” Bredar and Glauber determinedly pleaded the case loud enough that the New York diners were injecting themselves into the debate.

“Yeah, keep the dog,” their accents echoed from around the room.

But what if plans changed and the Corrigans grabbed a bite somewhere else, what would happen to Chloe?

The waiter finally threw up his hands and said, “It’s in God’s hands!”

The mantra repeated from different voices.

“It’s in God’s hands,” the chorus agreed.

The Glaubers and Bredars went on their way.

Through all the excitement of skyscrapers, shopping and sightseeing, Alyssa couldn’t get her mind off Chloe.

The little stuffed animal was sitting near the reservation desk when the Corrigans came in Sal’s front door about 6:30 p.m.

Alyssa ran straight for the pint-sized pooch.

“Is this your dog?” a man at the restaurant asked the girl who was gleefully jumping up and down.

That same dog was seated on a stool in the school news studio where a team of a dozen student journalists were producing, directing and running camera for the show.

“I was so overwhelmed with joy, I let out a little squeal,” Alyssa read from the teleprompter.

Glauber had left his phone number on a note in Chloe’s jacket.

When the Glaubers and their guests arrived back at Steve’s, a message from Alyssa greeted them.

“It just melted my heart,” Bredar said of Alyssa’s exuberant thank yous.

When Alyssa got through to Glauber, the fledgling journalist asked the veteran how he tracked down Chloe’s owner.

“He said that it was my grandpa who had started it all by offering his wife a seat on the subway.”

Mike Corrigan and his wife, Cathy, were beaming with pride as they watched Alyssa in the studio.

During the principal’s portion of the broadcast, Jackson used the girl’s report as an example of this month’s character word -- joy.

“I’d like to say, Alyssa, what joy you have given me,” Jackson said in her live remarks.

Back in his judge’s chambers in Maryland, Bredar can still recall hearing Alyssa’s voice:

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said. “Merry Christmas.”

Bredar said: “I got more satisfaction out of that than I could ever tell you.”

He can fully understand the adage that it is better to give than to receive.

Kristi Corrigan, who is an assistant pre-kindergarten teacher at Springdale, had to wipe away tears thinking about how her daughter had just studied before the trip about random acts of kindness at Northway Church.

Now her family has a story to retell for generations.

Closing her report, Alyssa encouraged her schoolmates to be kind.

“It’s always a great idea to do something nice for others. You never know what might happen to you in return.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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