Finding a stolen dog

Emmy comes home!
By Shirley Zindler, July 2012

The frantic voice on phone belonged to my dear friend Carrie. “Emmy’s gone and we can’t find her anywhere!”

Oh no! Emmy was a tiny, beautiful and beloved Shih-Tzu. She had just participated in Carrie’s wedding the day before, walking down the aisle with the flower girls. (Emmy was not going on the honeymoon but was going to be looked after by her brother  who lives with Carrie.) “What happened?”

“I was loading up the luggage for the honeymoon and she was in the front yard one minute and gone the next.” Her voice was heavy with despair and she began to sob. “Carrie, I’ll look for Emmy. You have to make your flight! Can you get a ride?” “Yes but…”

“Just go, I’m on my way.”  As an animal control officer, I have a lot of experience with finding lost dogs. In most cases the dog either wandered away or was frightened by something and took off but Emmy is adorable, extremely small and always immaculately groomed. She’s irresistible and I worried that someone would keep her. I threw together some lost dog fliers and starting at Carrie’s house I posted fliers on every tree and telephone pole. I handed them to people out walking, kids on bikes and characters loitering on street corners, but no one had seen her. I called the police and sheriff’s departments, the emergency vet clinics and posted an ad on Craigslist.

I was back early the next morning with friends and hundreds more fliers sporting Emmy’s photo and a $200 reward. We left fliers at every house and business for many blocks without a single lead. Fliers were also posted at every vet clinic, groomer, pet store and shelter in the area but after 24 hours I began to lose hope and Carrie and her husband, calling from their honeymoon, were miserable and distraught.

Around 8:30 the second night I got a call from a woman said that that Emmy had been deliberately taken by a relative of Carrie’s closest neighbor who had pulled into the shared driveway just as Carrie went back in for the rest of her luggage. The woman went on to say that the thief had taken Emmy to her home in another county and had no intention of bringing her back.

I immediately called the police department and made a theft report. An officer went to the address and told the residents that he had reason to believe that they had knowledge of Emmy’s whereabouts and they may be in violation for failure to report a crime. He stated that their relative was under investigation for felony theft and they finally confessed that a cousin took the dog and gave the officer her phone number which he passed on to me. 

After a sleepless night, I was up early the next morning and called the number. A woman answered who sounded very young and barely spoke English. It was hard to understand her but she gave me an address so I jumped in the car and headed out. The street she gave was nearly an hour away and when I turned onto it my heart sank. There was no such address. It had been a wild goose chase after all. I called the number again and when she answered the language barrier was still a problem but finally I understood that she was saying Berk Street and I had been on Park. A few minutes later I pulled up at her home next to graffiti covered fence.

A young woman and a little boy came out holding Emmy. She had been gone only 3 days but already she was a mess.  Her normally immaculate coat was disheveled and her little topknot had been removed, causing her hair to hang into her eyes and mouth. I looked at the woman. She was obviously poor, uneducated and had no idea how serious the situation was. I wanted to explain to her about doing the right thing and setting an example for her little boy but my minimal Spanish wasn’t up to it.

I called Carrie with the good news and she was ecstatic and able to enjoy what was left of her honeymoon. All the way home I kept glancing at Emmy settled on the seat beside me. I couldn’t believe she was safe. We could so easily have never seen her again. She was microchipped but I doubt she ever would have gone to the vet or groomer.  

I wished I had a way to reach my informant to give her the reward. It had been a restricted number and she would only give me the name Sandra. A few days later Sandra called me to see if Emmy had been found. I thanked her again from the bottom of my heart, knowing that it’s very unlikely that we ever would have gotten Emmy back without her tip. I told her I would meet her anywhere, anytime, with the cash reward but she declined and told me that she didn’t do it for the money; she did it because it was the right thing to do. My faith in humanity is restored.

I would love to hear reader’s experiences with losing a dog and how they got them back.


Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

Sponsored Content