More than 1,000 miles separated Nathan Grier and his best friend, an adoring 2-year-old pit bull affectionately named Booger.
The 13-year-old sixth-grader tearfully waved goodbye to the dog in September when his parents flew north from Ocala, Fla., in search of a better school system for their two sons. But with help from a determined Scotia-Glenville social worker, a pair of business associates from the Midwest and some luck, Nathan and Booger were reunited on Saturday.
“It was something that he never imagined,” recalled his mother, Bonnie Grier, on Wednesday. “He never thought he’d see his dog again.”
The Griers decided to move to Scotia after Nathan — a quiet boy who copes with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — began struggling in the Florida school system. The family spent nearly every dime they had to relocate and lacked enough to bring the pit bull aboard their flight.
Instead, the Griers found a Florida family to adopt Booger and tried to assure Nathan he would be safe. When the time came to say goodbye, the boy collapsed to his knees and cried.
“All we could do is say it will be all right,” his mother said.
But being apart from the pit bull wore on Nathan much more than his parents expected. When he enrolled at Scotia-Glenville Middle School in the fall, social worker Jessica Brennan noticed Nathan’s anxiety over the loss of his friend and decided to do something about it.
“He was heartbroken,” she said. “Even his mom said that was the one thing she couldn’t do for her son.”
Brennan scoured the Internet for a way to somehow reunite the boy and his dog and happened upon Pet-Togethers, an Arizona-based animal dietary supplement company that had a record of helping out pet owners in need. On a whim, she sent the company an e-mail explaining Nathan’s situation and asking if there was anything the company could do.
Her correspondence landed on the desk of company President Mike Fantetti, who was touched by the story of the boy’s bond to his dog. Fantetti then relayed the story to his friend and associate, Bill Marino, the chief operating officer of Bark Busters, a Colorado-based pet training company.
“We looked at it and decided we wanted to do whatever was necessary to bring the dog and Nathan back together,” Fantetti said.
Marino, a cousin of Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, had lived in Florida for many years and was acquainted with several services specializing in transporting pets. Fantetti agreed to pay to move the dog and Marino agreed to coordinate the effort.
“He said ‘Bill, we should just make this happen,’ ” Marino recounted. “I said ‘I’ll do the leg work if you fund it.’ ”
But what started out as a simple operation was quickly complicated by a blast of wintry December weather. When Marino and Fantetti tried to fly Booger out of Tampa International Airport to Albany before Christmas, they found flight delays throughout the Northeast meant the dog could be left out in the cold for hours.
“At that point, we thought we were going to need to fly to Florida and drive the dog up ourselves,” Marino said. “But we were going to do it.”
Ultimately, the two arranged for a van service to pick up Booger, which brought him to a veterinary clinic for an evening for shots, and then funded a special air travel service to ensure he arrived in the Capital Region unharmed and in comfort. When the dog touched down at Albany International Airport Saturday, Fantetti and Marino had arranged for a service to deliver him to the Griers’ apartment, where Booger promptly charged through the door and ran to Nathan’s side.
“He ran past us just to get to him,” said Steve Grier, the boy’s father. “That’s a boy and his dog right there.”
For the Griers, the experience gave them renewed faith in the goodness of people. For Nathan, the reunion was the best Christmas present he could expect, even if it was a few days late.
“Because he’s the best dog in the world,” he said with the dog curled by his legs.
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Categories: Schenectady County