Anyone who reads my column every week is aware that our dog Charlie went missing a month ago. What people might not realize is that more than a few dogs in West Kelowna have vanished, and they’ve all been small to medium sized purebreds or purebred mixes.
After viewing the six pets on the handouts circulated by the other owners and I, many people thought there was a criminal dog-ring in town, while others attributed the sudden disappearances to wildlife attacks. We fully admit that we don’t know what happened to ours.
What we do know, however, is that there has been no evidence that would confirm the latter, and we’ve all looked high and low for it.
We’ve also learned that dog flipping – the business of stealing dogs and selling them – is happening all over, including right here in the Okanagan.
Before Charlie went missing, the idea of my pets being nabbed had never crossed my mind. Wildlife and traffic were my big concerns when it came to their safety; never did I consider they might be dog-napped. But after talking to almost every owner who’s lost a dog in the Okanagan recently and finding out just how many people suspect their pet was stolen, or know that they were, I started to investigate.
One of the missing West Kelowna dogs from our handouts is Shylo, a Chihuahua Pomeranian, whose owners live in Glenrosa, like I do. Three days before his mysterious disappearance an unknown middle-aged woman with short red hair had approached Shylo on their porch where he was sitting in the sun. She was holding a bowl of water and quickly fled when she discovered he was not alone.
His family can’t help but wonder if she is the reason he vanished.
“If there’d been coyotes or any animals, Shylo would have been barking like mad and jumping up at the door,” her owner, Chakara, said. “And there would have been pee, poop, blood or fur left behind.” But after looking all over their area and finding nothing, they started their search with posting ads, then going door to door and putting up flyers – which would end up getting torn down like many of ours were. Eight months later they still have no idea what happened to him.
Other cases have been more obvious, with people actually seeing their pets being stolen, paying a reward to get them back, or tracking them down at drug dealers’ houses to rescue them.
Sometimes dog theft happens for ransom, but there are several other reasons as well. Selling to people wanting to pay less for certain breeds who don’t care about the right paperwork or adequate background checks is a common one.
Not having a clue what happened to our pets makes things more difficult because the search for a lost dog is very different from a stolen one. But thieves prefer we don’t know, which is why they’ll leave the gate of a fenced yard open so we think the pooch has merely gotten loose, or why they’ll lurk around waiting for opportunities to snatch a dog by itself.
This past Sunday, some of the other owners and I participated in a large search party along with many supportive friends and strangers to look for our pets and inform the public about lost and stolen dogs. We wanted to encourage them to take notice of unfamiliar people and suspicious behaviour in their neighborhoods and to report anything questionable.
We also urged them to keep their own pets safe by keeping them leashed, not leaving them unattended in front of a store or in an unlocked house, not leaving them alone in a car if possible, and installing locks on fenced yards.
Bobbie, one of the dogs on our flyers, gave us all hope when she arrived home the day before our search party. After surviving 14 days on the lam, the short-legged little Dachshund came home on her own, skinnier and smelling like a horse among other things.
Farms are an ideal spot for a frightened lost dog to hide out, but so are many typical backyards. Please check your property to see if you’ve got an animal fugitive like Bobbie in your midst, and if you do, don’t chase or scare them away. If they’re skittish, take a picture and call dog control or the pet’s owner as soon as possible.
And that same advice extends to anyone trying to help an elusive dog seen alone in public. Lying down and encouraging them to come to you works far better than standing tall or even crouching.
And if you haven’t done it already, register, microchip and GPS your pets if you can. The cost is minimal compared to the heartache and financial expenditures we’ve all endured. None of us would wish this experience on anyone.
To see the missing West Kelowna dogs or contact Lori, please visit LoriWelbourne.com.