Seven years ago Ruth Kirby’s English Bulldog Holtz was stolen from her yard
The 34-year-old from Tottenham in North London had a dog flap and came downstairs one morning to find their Jack Russell Scraps trembling in terror.
She went outside and Holtz, then only an 18-month-old puppy, was gone. Ruth believes the dog nappers had watched her take Holtz out on walks – English Bulldog pups sell for as much as £2,500 – and planned to steal her.
“I was frantic,” she recalled. “They’d scaled a six foot wall to get into the yard with a five foot drop the other side. There was no way they were just opportunists.
“I called the police, local vets, the council, local pounds and rescues, and spent months searching for her. We were all heartbroken.
“I also spoke to Jayne Hayes at Doglost.co.uk and put an appeal on there. She helped make posters and gave me advice, and told me to never give up hope. I always updated her microchip when we moved or changed phone numbers.”
Then two weeks ago Ruth had a call – Holtz had been found!
It was from a vet in Great Yarmouth – 140 miles away from where Holtz went missing.
She’d been dumped with an elderly male Chihuahua. Ruth recalled: “She said to me, ‘Have you lost your dog today? We’ve found her.’
“I was just stunned. I couldn’t speak. I stammered, ‘She was stolen seven years ago.’ The vet sounded confused too. She said, ‘She’s here, you can come and collect her.’
“I arranged to pick her up the next day as it was late at night and just cried and cried. For all those years I’d prayed she’d been in a nice home but if she had, they wouldn’t have just dumped her.”
Ruth’s fears were confirmed when she was reunited with Holtz
Heartbreakingly, she’d been used as a breeding dog in a puppy farm and had been cruelly abandoned when she was too exhausted to produce any more litters.
She was skin and bone, her nails had grown so long she could barely walk, she had mastitis and a tumour on her leg which needs surgery.
Ruth said: “I was distraught. After seven years I was so happy to be reunited with her but thinking of what she’d been through, it was horrific. It makes me so upset and so angry. How can people be so cruel?
“When we saw her, she looked puzzled a first then started wagging her tail as she realised it was me. All I could think of was getting her home and safe again and trying to help her forget what she’d been through.
“What is so sad is before she was stolen, we were saving up to have her spayed. The vet said she had signs of ‘quite extensive breeding’ and had recently had a litter. It makes me sick, these awful people making money out of her and being so cruel.”
Ruth’s family rallied to help take care of her and renamed her Duchess
She’d been found just before the Royal Wedding between huge dog lover Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and Ruth and her sister Joni, 32, thought it would help her make a new start.
In the years that her dog had been missing, Ruth had another son, now two, and decided after all Duchess had been through, she needed a calm environment and Joni said she would care for her.
Ruth said: “Duchess is a senior dog, she’s nine and she’s suffered so much. I want her to be happy and to enjoy her golden years, but I was worried about my little boy as he’s so young, he just wants to play and it didn’t seem fair.
“As soon as I said that, Joni said, ‘She can come and live with me.’ I’m so grateful. She lives nearby and we see Duchess nearly every day. We just want to make every day special for her.”
Because of her ordeal, Duchess needs veterinary care
As she had been stolen, Ruth was unable to insure her and she faces expensive vet bills to get Duchess back on her paws.
Her vet has said she needs surgery to remove the tumour on her front leg and Ruth is appealing to animal lovers to help.
She’s set up a Crowdfunding page where well wishers can donate.
Ruth said: “We want her to live out her adult life being healthy and happy after all she’s suffered and any amount will help. It feels strange asking for help but we don’t know what else to do.
“We just want to get her well again so she can enjoy the rest of her days being cared for by people who love her. They say dogs live in the moment and we hope we can help her forget what happened.
“I’m so glad we found her and thankful to Jayne at Doglost.co.uk who told me never to give up. I’d say the same to other owners like me. Always keep your details up to date and have hope.”
There has been a seven per cent rise in dog theft in the last year
A report by Direct Line Pet Insurance found 1,909 reported cases in 2017 alone. London was the worst area in the UK, with 225 thefts, followed by West Yorkshire, 162, and Kent, 160.
Staffies continue to be the most stolen breed, however the research also uncovered a spike in thefts of crossbreeds reflecting the rise in popularity in for the likes of Cockerpoos and Puggles.
The French Bulldog was the third most commonly stolen breed, up 27 per cent from 2016. But 20 per cent of stolen dogs were reunited with their owners.
Jayne Hayes from Doglost.co.uk says: “There are lots of things we can do to keep our pets safe. Ruth did nothing wrong, her dog was in a safe place and what happened is just terrible but we are so thankful she’s home.
“It reiterates what we say to all owners who lose their dogs, never give up and always keep your microchip details up to date. We hope Duchess recovers from her ordeal and can enjoy a happy life with her family.”
- Ruth and Joni, 32, have set up a JustGiving page where well-wishers can donate to pay for her care. If you can help, visit it at www.justgiving.com
If you found this post interesting, you might enjoy Why Jayne Hayes set up Doglost to reunite owners with their pets and for advice on what to do if your pet goes missing, visit www.doglost.co.uk.