Donna Martinez had found her new running companion, a “gentle and sweet” young pit bull named Bud who was taking the place of a beloved pet that died last December.
But she got an unpleasant surprise Saturday when she arrived to pick Bud up at Sammie’s Friends Animal Shelter.
Bud was gone, the victim of a brazen dognapper.
“I walked in the door and said, ‘Hi, I’m Bud’s mom. I’m here to get him,” Martinez said Wednesday.
When a volunteer went back to retrieve the pooch, he was not in his kennel. It’s not unheard of for volunteer walkers to take dogs out for an hour or two, but they are supposed to sign them out, Martinez explained.
“I waited for about 45 minutes, but he never showed up,” she said, adding that the shelter staff officially declared him stolen when they closed the doors at 4 p.m.
“I was dumbfounded,” Martinez said. “I just kept thinking, ‘This can’t be right, someone is just loving on him, and they’ll be back.’ The next morning is when it sunk in.”
According to Sammie’s Friends’ founder Cheryl Wicks, the woman who took Bud had been at the shelter the Wednesday prior, asking a lot of questions, and then had returned again right before closing Friday, possibly to scope the shelter out.
The woman went in through the back doors of the shelter at about 10 a.m. Saturday, came out with Bud, put him in a truck and drove away with another woman behind the wheel.
She was described as tall and skinny with stringy blonde hair, late 30s to early 40s, possibly under the influence of a controlled substance.
She was in a small white pickup (most likely a Toyota) with a lot of junk in the back. The woman driving the vehicle was blonde.
“There were so many people there because of our cat adoption special she got lost in the shuffle,” Wicks said.
“We have about 100 volunteers, and they don’t all know each other.”
Bud came to the shelter last week after Wicks got a call from a Placer County Sheriff’s detective, who told her Bud had been one of several dogs taken in after a pot farm bust.
“He said the dog laid at his feet and was following him around,” Wicks said.
A friend in law enforcement called Martinez to tell her about Bud, so she drove up from her Penryn home to meet him.
Martinez described Bud as “just a gentle dog, a very playful dog, with a lot of energy ... He’s just darling.”
The approximately 9-month-old pit bull is blue in color with a white chest, is no more than 50 pounds and has been neutered.
He has just had surgery and is in desperate need of his medications.
On Sunday, a $500 reward was already being offered for information leading to the return of the stolen dog, and volunteers quickly began printing and distributing fliers.
On Tuesday, the reward had grown to $1,000, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Guy Selleck.
“They really want the dog back,” he said. “The reward is $1,000, no questions asked.”
Anyone with information can call Selleck at 530-265-1471, he said.
Wicks said the Facebook post describing the dognapping has gotten 170,000 hits as of mid-morning Wednesday and more than 1,000 shares; the story also has gotten wide media play.
“A lot of people are looking for Bud,” she said.
Martinez said she wanted to convey her “deep thanks” to the community for their efforts.
“They’re amazing,” she said.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.