‘My best friend on earth.’ Search for missing dog at Atlanta airport

Maia, the chihuahua mix, has been lost for 10 days after being separated from owner after flight from Dominican Republic
Paula Rodriguez's dog, Maia, has gone missing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Paula Rodriguez

Credit: Source: Paula Rodrigeuz

Credit: Source: Paula Rodrigeuz

Paula Rodriguez's dog, Maia, has gone missing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Paula Rodriguez

A traveler’s dog has been missing for more than a week at Hartsfield-Jackson International after escaping from its carrier onto the vast airfield of the world’s busiest airport.

Paula Rodriguez, who lives in the Dominican Republic, said in a Facebook post that her dog Maia was last seen by Delta Air Lines staff on Aug. 18.

The dog, a chihuahua mix, was placed in the care of Atlanta-based Delta after Rodriguez was denied entry into the United States while traveling from Santo Domingo on a tourist visa. Rodriguez had to stay overnight in an airport detention center, where her dog was not allowed.

After learning Maia was lost, Rodriguez wrote in a Facebook post: “I am truly desperate.”

“She is not just my dog. She is my best friend on earth,” she wrote in another social media post.

The dog, which traveled with Rodriguez as a pet in the cabin, was supposed to be returned to her before she boarded a flight back to the Dominican Republic. But according to Delta, Maia escaped her carrier while Delta staff were transporting the dog in an outdoor area of the airport.

Rodriguez had to fly home without knowing what happened to Maia, and later learned that she had gone missing.

Rodriguez’s mother flew to Atlanta to help search for the dog, and Delta said it shared information about the dog’s escape and granted access to secure areas of the airfield. Her mother was on her way back home Monday, after the fruitless effort to help find Maia. Rodriguez said her health has been compromised by the stress.

Delta said staff have conducted around-the-clock searches of the airfield since Aug. 18, including using night-vision goggles and notifying workers at the airport to be on the lookout for the dog.

“It’s been 10 days today and Delta needs to keep looking for my dog,” Rodriguez said in an interview Monday. “I need to know where my dog is. She is out there, and if she is not out there, I want closure. I deserve closure.”

Hartsfield-Jackson also has operational teams that inspect the runway and airfield regularly.

An aerial photo of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Hartsfield-Jackson

Credit: Source: Hartsfield-Jackson

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Credit: Source: Hartsfield-Jackson

“At this time they have not encountered the dog, but will continue to remain vigilant should she appear. If she is seen, ATL’s staff will attempt to capture her and return her to the airline and her owner,” the airport said.

It’s possible the dog left the airport grounds. Delta and others trying to help with the search have reached out to area animal shelters and vets to watch for the dog, who is microchipped.

Delta said an internal investigation is underway into the circumstances of exactly how Maia went missing.

It’s not the first time a dog has gotten lost at Hartsfield-Jackson. In 2019, a prize-winning show dog went missing at the Atlanta airport. That dog was reunited with her owner days later after being spotted in an airfield thicket.