My beautiful dog Biscuit, a liver and white Springer Spaniel, went on his final adventure yesterday. I am more heartbroken than when my dog was stolen.
Biscuit is well known on Facebook. He has hundreds, if not thousands of fans. There is a page called ‘Biscuit’s homecoming’, to celebrate the fact that he miraculously found his way back to me after having been stolen. That is very rare and was made possible because so many spaniel owners and other dog owners and lovers plus a pet detective agency had joined me in my desperate search for him.
My dog was stolen in November 2010
On 10 October 2010, someone broke into our home and took Biscuit. Nothing else was taken. I came home from work and he wasn’t there to greet me. I searched the little cottage, even looking under the bed. Then I called Sheila, the wonderful dog walker who boarded him each day. She had dropped him home, as usual, at 6pm. I got home at 6:30pm and he was gone. Sheila came round within ten minutes.
Sheila felt terrible. She kept reassuring me that she had shut the front door after she saw Biscuit run up the stairs to jump up on my bed. We knew he did that as he left a little dip there. He always ran down the stairs to greet me at the front door. First, he heard me open the garden gate and by the time I got to the door, he did his typical Springer dance of joy to greet me. His tail always went in circles like a ventilator. I always laughed and said a helicopter’s wings were slower than his tail.
When I called the police to report the theft, they said they would come in the morning as their burglary team could see better then. They would also want to speak with the dogwalker.
When Sheila left crying with a promise to return in the morning, I called my family and friends and the search began.
I left a message at work that I needed the next day off.
In the morning, after a sleepless night, I had a visit from the police. I had woken at every little noise in my old cottage, thinking it was Biscuit coming home. Or the burglars returning.
The police were thorough: they dusted all around the window and doors but found no fingerprints. They said this was a professional job. One of the officers had a Springer spaniel and told me he understood my distress. They assigned a key worker to the case and I was given a form to fill in.
Dogs are not goods!
It was one for reporting a theft of goods. I was devastated to see that dogs are classified as goods. The form asked for the value of goods stolen. How much is a family member who loves one unconditionally worth? I said he was priceless and I wished they had taken my car.
A window company came to install a secure window to replace my original 19th century, now broken, window. I felt very vulnerable without Biscuit who would bark any time anybody approached the front gate.
A friend of mine, who I had met while we both walked our dogs 30 years ago, is much better organised than me. She had made a to-do list. Call dog wardens, all local vets, dog rescues, pet shops and the voluntary organisation doglost.co.uk. They recommended to make loads of posters and go to parks and pet shops to display them.
Get Biscuit home calls on Facebook
I had just joined Facebook recently and hadn’t used it much. But I posted a call for help with a photo of Biscuit on my page. I also searched for dog owner and dog rescue groups and posted his picture. The response was amazing. Conversations began, messages of support and encouragement came day and night. I spent half the night there, finding more and more followers who shared my call for help: get Biscuit home.
One of the nationwide voluntary organisations is doglost.co.uk. Through them, the message about the loss for a dog is passed on across the UK.
I hadn’t realised that dog theft was so common. I found hundreds of owners on Facebook desperately looking for their beloved pets. There were groups with several thousands of dog owners sharing information. I scrolled through all of them every evening after work for pictures of found dogs. My boss noticed that I was tired all the time and was not working as efficiently as expected. She told me she understood but it must not impact my work.
Even a Pet Detective Agency
My poster had my mobile number and I started to receive calls about dogs who looked like Biscuit. Some jokers thought it was funny to tell me they had seen a body of a dog who had been hit by a car. I would drive to the spot and there was nothing. Thankfully most calls were from people who wanted to help. The pet detective agency came to see me and took notes. Colin, the ex-police officer who started the agency, started an investigation of my area and even talked to neighbours.
After a month, there was still no sighting of Biscuit. I knew that dogs not found after two weeks often were never found. Some of my friends, especially those without dogs, were getting fed up with my preoccupation with the search for Biscuit. I cried when I saw a dog in the street and refused to walk in the park opposite. I was utterly miserable.
Social media to help distraught owners
I got into a routine of spending long hours on social media. In addition, I wrote to the local paper and I appeared in articles on dog theft in a national paper. I wanted people to become aware of this crime which was so devastating to families. There was an old hearing dog whose elderly owner never got him back. There was a woman whose little Yorkie was stolen at gunpoint.
So much heartbreak caused by greedy thieves who use innocent people’s ignorance when selling illegally bred dogs on the cheap. Most use stolen dogs to breed cheap puppies. But there is even worse. Some even use stolen dogs as bait to train their psychotic fighting dogs. There is still dog fighting in the UK, where pets are torn apart to amuse sick humans.
On 20th December I saw a photo of a dog on the Internet. Her one ear was up, the other floppy ear down, her head turned sideways. She had been in kennels for a long time and was looking for a loving home. I was persuaded by friends that taking on another dog was not disloyal to Biscuit. Instead, it would mean company for him when I got him back.
Bonnie girl decided to adopt me
This is how I gave myself the best Christmas present possible. I picked up Bonnie on a dark December evening, in a snowstorm. She adopted me immediately and jumped straight into my car. I had someone to go for walks with and someone who made my house feel like a safe home again. Dog owners know what I mean.
My search for Biscuit continued even when Bonnie and I went off to Strasbourg for a year for my work. I found that she is an amazing, intelligent dog who just wants to please everybody, unless they are strangers knocking on our door. Of course, I still missed Biscuit and carried on worrying if he was treated well wherever he was. If he was with a loving new owner for over a year, I had decided that I would leave him there. Even though I still missed him, I would not put him through another upheaval. I feared that he was not that lucky.
In June 2012, that call came at last
It was in June 2012, 18 months after Biscuit disappeared, while I was in Vienna visiting my brother that I got that phone call. At 11pm, a grumpy male voice said, “We have your dog. We like him. We want to keep him. He deserves better.” It turned out that a man had tried to sell Biscuit in a pub. The manager saw the dog was unwell and took him off the old man.
He thought that it was because of me that Biscuit was in such bad shape. He had a Springer Spaniel as well and thought Biscuit would be good company for her. But when he heard my story, he told me he’d wait for me to get Biscuit as soon as I could get there. I made some calls and some of Biscuit’s followers went to the pub to see him and report back. I used the German motorway’s generous speed limits to get back to England to be reunited with my Biscuit. There is a video of that joyous moment ://youtu.be/UV9Yso0EV6M.
My two @dogs4EU, my constant companions
My two dogs, ‘B & B’, came with me everywhere. They marched with me on anti-Brexit marches and came to SODEM and No10 Vigil protests. They have a Twitter page @dogs4EU. Both had travelled with me by car on long trips across Europe. I was planning a journey with them starting next Friday. But fate has decided that Biscuit was going on a different journey.
Yesterday, cancer and most probably a brain haemorrhage forced me to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I had to let Biscuit go.
My other dog Bonnie misses him too. She is putting her head where he used to lie. Our family is mourning.
A warning about pet theft
There are two reasons for deciding to write the story of his theft. Firstly, to warn people of this horrible crime. Also, I want to express the gratitude I feel for all the wonderful support I received when I searched for Biscuit.
Once we were reunited, he gave me joy every day and I know, despite the deep pain I feel right now, that I have been doubly blessed.
Farewell, my little cheeky spaniel. You live on in our hearts.