The Cheap and Easy Art of Dognapping.

That is, until you get caught.

Robert Cormack
The Haven
5 min readJun 10, 2024

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Image by Martin Bauschke from Pixabay

“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.” Gilda Radner

We live in a caring town — not that other towns aren’t caring — but we make kindness and consideration our business, even if it’s not always perceived as such. This is especially true when it comes to dognapping.

We seem to have a lot of dognappers.

We didn’t start out that way, I assure you. In fact, it was the furthest thing from our minds. We love our dogs. We’d do anything for them, which is probably why we have dognappers.

It all started innocently enough. Like most towns, we have our fair share of strays. They get taken in by kindly folks, at which point the real owners are either found or the strays are adopted through one of the local facilities.

The thing is, we’ve grown recently. New people are moving in all the time. Along with the obvious adjustments of small town life, our new residents have also had to adjust to wildlife.

They’ll approach in a kindly way, even offering a good shampoo and clipping.

Sometimes they mistake a coyote for a dog, for instance. They’ll approach it in a kindly way, even offering a good shampoo and clipping.

As we know, coyotes don’t play that game. They snarl and possibly take chunks out of your leg.

But we’re here to talk about dognapping. As I mentioned, it started out innocently enough with new arrivals seeing notices on social media. There would be a picture of a dog, often bedraggled, sometimes looking very sad.

The caption might read: “Anyone recognize this beautiful pooch? If it’s yours — or you know the owner — please contact us. We’re currently keeping her fed and warm on the porch.”

People respond — whether it’s their dog or not — usually not. They’ve offer comments or advice like: “Oh, she looks so sad. Give her a hug for us, will you? Have you tried the Humane Society?”

This can go on for hours or days, until someone announces: “Owner found! Suzie (the dog) is back in her own bed, all warm and tucked in for the night.”

Unfortunately, sometimes it isn’t strays these people are saving.

Well, who doesn’t love a happy ending like that, right? Unfortunately, sometimes it isn’t strays—or coyotes—these people are saving.

Like the case of a woman posting on social media: “Found this sweet boy wandering on Concession four. Had trouble getting him in my car. He’s safe now. I’m even knitting him a sweater since he won’t stop shivering.”

A man wrote back: “Of course he’s shivering. That’s my dog. You took him off my property. You’re lucky I don’t come over and punch you in the nose!”

Despite apologies, cases have grown considerably in the past year, as more dogs, wandering about innocently enough, have found themselves being hauled into cars, occasionally finding themselves in knitted sweaters.

The local paper even had to print a notice telling people to stop picking up every dog they think is lost.

One couple wrote back on social media: “If you don’t want your dog picked up, stop letting it wander the streets. Dogs should follow the same rules as your daughter.”

“Freddy isn’t hurting anyone,” one man wrote. “He just likes going down the street to visit our neighbour’s terrier, Sophie.”

That drew angry responses, especially from locals who don’t see why their pooches shouldn’t be allowed to roam free. “Freddy isn’t hurting anyone,” one man wrote. “He just likes going down the street to visit our neighbour’s terrier, Sophie.”

Well, that’s just plain adorable, or it would be if a woman hadn’t made the following suggestion: “How are we supposed to know? Couldn’t you put a sign on Freddy saying, Going to visit Sophie?”

“Maybe you could wear a sign saying, Going shopping,” the dog owner replied.

From there, the battle lines have been drawn. On one side, the well-intentioned dognappers, on the other, pet owners who say, “Leave our frigging dogs alone!”

This, of course, brings my wife into the vortex, keeping an eagle eye out on social media for the next stray posted. “Look at him,” she’ll say, showing me the latest entry. “He’s so scared he won’t even smile for the camera.”

“It’s probably Freddy,” I say. “He can’t keep his paws off Sophie. They should have their own doggie apartment for trysts.”

“It isn’t Freddy, for God’s sake.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because this dog doesn’t have tags or chips.”

“Well, I’m sure the owner will be found.”

“The poor thing,” she goes on. “I don’t care what anybody says. If I see a wandering dog, I’m going to bring him home.”

“There’s one,” she squeals, getting her coat and rushing out the door.

She stares out the window, noticing a shape in the distance, a dog ambling along the trail on its own. “There’s one,” she squeals, getting her coat and rushing out the door. She calls to the dog, she slaps her legs. I can hear her saying, “Come here, sweetie. Come to mommy.” The dog responds. It comes running towards her, it’s big sloppy jaws dangling like a sports fan.

He’s following her back to our house.

“I’ll feed you and bathe you and — and—”

That’s when we hear a voice shouting.

“Dognapper! Dognapper!”

A man emerges from the trees, pointing his finger at my wife. She’s running for our front door, the dog in hot pursuit, the man pulling out his phone. Moments later—okay, hours later—a police car arrives. My wife is taken in for questioning. This will, of course, go down as mistaken identity (first offence and all), but now my wife’s on the dognapper list.

They have no choice. They even take her picture.

Once back home, she says, “I’m not a — a dognapper.”

She won’t smile for the camera. She’s worse than that dog she showed me. Once back home, she says, “I’m not a — a dognapper.”

“I know you’re not, honey,” I say.

“Well, I’m not.”

She’s back in her chair, knitting away. People are passing by outside, giving our house an accusing glance. I close the curtains. We’ll keep a low profile for a while. No point arousing any further suspicions. When it’s safe — a couple of months from now, I’d say — we’ll get back to normalcy again. We might even get our own dog so my wife’s hands are full.

Until then, I’ll have to get used to living with a dognapper and being somewhat of an accomplice, since I was on the porch laughing.

She’s on file, anyway. They know where to find her.

I guess they know where to find me, too.

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Robert Cormack
The Haven

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.