THE DAY OUR DOG WAS KID­NAPPED

While my fa­ther was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, our fam­ily’s loyal hound was kid­napped. We had to get him back— for his own sake, but also for my dad.

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Front Page - BY COURTNEY SHEA IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GENEVIEVE SIMMS

MMy dog, Trevi, had been gone for al­most two weeks when I fi­nally got the tip that would lead me to him. I was tap­ing yet an­other “MISS­ING” sign to a lamp­post when a young woman named Melissa ap­proached.

We were stand­ing out­side a Tim Hor­tons in down­town Toronto—Trevi’s last known where­abouts. “I’ve seen him,” she told me. At this stage of the search I had got­ten a lot of false leads, but some­thing about her solemn eyes made me be­lieve her.

If I wanted to find my dog, she said, I would first have to find Cat Man.

TREVI JOINED MY FAM­ILY twenty years ago—a Shih Tzu poo­dle mix the colour of fresh baked bread. In my house there were three girls and with two of us leav­ing for board­ing school in Italy, my par­ents rea­soned a puppy would help fill the void for my youngest sis­ter. We named him after the foun­tain in Rome.

Cue the movie mon­tage in which a pet be­comes fully in­te­grated into a fam­ily: birth­days, mov­ing days, heart­breaks and hol­i­days, Trevi was there for all of it. Ex­cept Christ­mas. For what­ever rea­son he hated that day and would skulk around on the third floor, re­fus­ing to join in the fun and earn­ing one of his many nick­names: the Grinch.

Trevi loved spend­ing time at our cot­tage in Huntsville, Ont., where he was once al­most cap­tured by a hawk. Per my dad’s ac­count, he walked out the front door one day to see a gi­ant set of talons swoop­ing down on our tiny pup, and hurled a laun­dry bas­ket in the bird’s di­rec­tion just in time. I am not 100 per cent sold on the par­tic­u­lars of this story, but it is now fam­ily lore.

After my dad was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, the cot­tage be­came a sanc­tu­ary and the site of many happy me­mories along the way to good­bye. I of­ten think of him driv­ing his Jeep through the back­woods, blaring Frank Si­na­tra or John Den­ver, his “loyal hound” hang­ing out the back.

As my dad’s health de­clined, Trevi was a com­pan­ion and a com­fort, for­ever crooked in be­side him on the couch. When he moved into a home, we would of­ten bring Trevi along on our vis­its— his fa­mil­iar pant made dark times a lit­tle brighter.

IT WAS ABOUT FIVE months later, in the spring of 2012, that Trevi went miss­ing. My mom had tied him up

out­side Tim Hor­tons while she popped in to or­der the usual (cof­fee for her, a plain Tim­bit for Trevi). When she re­turned, the dog was gone. She scanned up and down the block and across the street. Noth­ing. She spent the next sev­eral days search­ing.

By the time she fi­nally told my sis­ter Cyn­thia and me what hap­pened, Trevi had been miss­ing for 10 days. I was gut­ted. And dumb­struck. Why hadn’t she said some­thing? But I also un­der­stood. My mom shoul­dered so much dur­ing my dad’s ill­ness—an eter­nally brave face in spite of her pri­vate grief. At first she didn’t tell us Trevi was gone be­cause she hoped to find him on her own. And then I think it was just too sad to say out loud.

Her daily check-ins with the city’s an­i­mal ser­vices depart­ment had pro­duced one use­ful tip: the day after Trevi’s dis­ap­pear­ance, some­one had called to re­port a man walk­ing a small dog on a red leash out­side Jack As­tor’s on Front Street. The anony­mous tipster said it was odd to see a man who ap­peared to be liv­ing on the street with a pet who looked re­cently groomed.

It was our only clue, and we ran with it—“we” be­ing me, my boyfriend, John, my sis­ter Cyn­thia and her new boyfriend (now hus­band), Chris. If he had any reser­va­tions about join­ing our doggy de­tec­tive hunt, he didn’t show it as we got to work plas­ter­ing the area with signs promis­ing a $500 re­ward, “No ques­tions asked.”

We split up to can­vass any­one who might have seen some­thing. It wasn’t lost on me that these valu­able po­ten­tial wit­nesses were the same home­less peo­ple who faded into the back­ground of my daily com­mute. Most were friendly and happy to talk—some a lit­tle too happy, pre­tend­ing to know some­thing about Trevi’s where­abouts just to con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion.

I had just one re­ally bad ex­pe­ri­ence, when a group of men gath­ered in the en­try­way to a shel­ter looked at my posters and said my dog had prob­a­bly been eaten. They laughed. I ran out onto the side­walk and burst into tears.

Hav­ing a pet go miss­ing is a hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. All I could think about was who could be mis­treat­ing him. Trevi was old at this point—more than 100 in dog years—and mostly blind. He was also very much my dad’s dog, so from the start, his ab­sence took on the weight of our greater loss.

The odds of suc­cess grew more dis­mal by the day, but hunt­ing for Trevi

HAV­ING A PET GO MISS­ING IS HOR­RI­BLE.

ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS

WHO COULD BE MIS­TREAT­ING HIM.

was some­thing we could ac­tu­ally do. In that sense it was cathar­tic and also what my dad would have done. His dili­gence was an­other mat­ter of fam­ily lore. He once rented a metal de­tec­tor to track down one of my mom’s ear­rings when she lost it on the beach. (He found it.)

THE TURN­ING POINT came on day three, when I met Melissa out­side Tim Hor­tons, where she some­times held the door for change. Cat Man, she ex­plained, of­ten hung out by the heated grates out­side the bank on the same block. He usu­ally kept cats, which is why she re­mem­bered Trevi al­most two weeks later. I left her my cell num­ber and promised to check in.

Less than an hour later, an un­fa­mil­iar num­ber came up on my phone.

“May I speak with Courtney?” asked a male voice.

“Is this Cat Man?” I replied, tak­ing great pains to sound calm.

“My name,” he said with slight but de­tectable in­dig­nance, “is Matthew.”

Matthew told me that he thought Trevi had been aban­doned—he had been “tak­ing care” of him. The next day he was ar­rested (“on an un­re­lated mat­ter,” he as­sured me). He spent the night in jail and Trevi was sent to An­i­mal Ser­vices, where he was ad­mit­ted into pro­tec­tive cus­tody rather than as a miss­ing pet, since Matthew had told the cops that the dog be­longed to him.

I was fu­ri­ous, but also elated—this guy knew where my dog was. EVEN TO­DAY, WHEN I think about the re­union, I in­stantly hear doggy nails on linoleum floor­ing—the sound that came sec­onds be­fore Trevi bounded around the cor­ner. If his ad­ven­tures had dis­tressed him, he didn’t show it. I, on the other hand, was a mess, cry­ing and laugh­ing and rolling around on the ground.

Turns out Matthew had al­ready been there, try­ing to claim Trevi so he could make the trade-off and get the re­ward. “I told him to get lost,” said the woman be­hind the desk, who had fi­nally made the con­nec­tion be­tween her daily calls with my mom and the tiny tail-wag­ger in my arms. “You shouldn’t pay him a thing—the guy kid­napped your dog!”

Half an hour later, my mom nearly dropped to the floor when we ar­rived at her condo with Trevi in tow. We told her all about our epic quest and she told us we were truly our fa­ther’s daugh­ters. We all pre­tended not to tear up.

AS A FAM­ILY WE MOURNED MY DAD WHILE HE WAS ALIVE.

WHEN HE WENT PEACE­FULLY, IT WAS

A GIFT AND A RE­LIEF.

MY DAD DIED ABOUT a year later. Los­ing some­one to a de­gen­er­a­tive cog­ni­tive dis­ease hap­pens bit by bit. As a fam­ily we mourned him while he was alive. When he went peace­fully, it was a gift and a re­lief. At the ceme­tery, Trevi ran around like a young pup.

But of course, he wasn’t. In the year that fol­lowed, his health de­clined quickly: he lost in­ter­est in eat­ing and had trou­ble hold­ing his legs up to go to the bath­room. It wasn’t a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to put him down; be­ing in a po­si­tion to al­le­vi­ate his dis­com­fort was a priv­i­lege and a no-brainer. On his fi­nal morn­ing, my mom drove him to McDon­ald’s for a ham­burger be­fore tak­ing him to the vet.

I don’t re­late the loss of my dad and my dog to im­ply any sort of equivalency. They aren’t equal, but they are in­ter­twined, which is a good word for the way our pets be­come part of our lives. They bear wit­ness to all the mo­ments— the ones that make the movie mon­tage and the many that do not. We tell the story of Trevi’s dis­ap­pear­ance of­ten— and I re­al­ize now that I haven’t quite fin­ished it.

My phone rang sev­eral times on that af­ter­noon after we found him. I knew it was Matthew but wasn’t quite sure what to do. A part of me agreed with the woman at An­i­mal Ser­vices—he kid­napped my dog!—but I also thought about “No ques­tions asked.” I wanted those words to still mean some­thing for any­one in the fu­ture who loses some­thing pre­cious.

When I met Matthew the next morn­ing, we barely made eye con­tact as I handed over $100 in twen­ties. “You stole my dog,” I said. Not quite the ver­bal lash­ing I had imag­ined, but in the mo­ment, it was all I could man­age.

I gave a part of the re­ward to Melissa, too. If I could do it over, I think I would have given her all of it.

I’m not sure how my dad would have han­dled the sit­u­a­tion. I do know it was the type of co­nun­drum he would have loved to dis­cuss. And of course, I wish we could have. He was a nat­u­ral with ad­vice and, as his kids got older, had en­joyed pro­vid­ing guid­ance for our adult prob­lems.

That, and he ab­so­lutely loved a good caper.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.