Louis, the 4-year-old chihuahua, was thrust into the spotlight after an unknown woman wearing sunglasses and a hoodie over her head suddenly entered his Dunedin home and removed him on Monday afternoon.
A dispute over who owns a pint-sized canine led to a brazen daylight dognapping, a police investigation, and an emotional farewell for one of his “distraught” caregivers.
Carma Cleaver was in a bedroom when she heard her startled aunt, who had been watching television in her living room, cry out: “She’s got, Louis.”
The mystery woman left with the dog in a red hatchback, with Cleaver unable to prevent her escape.
“It happened very fast.”
She tried to find the vehicle but couldn’t and returned home to find the police there, and her aunt “collapsed in a daze.”
Cleaver’s friend, Demelza Fraser-O’Donnell, also tried to help find Louis. She first met the shy dog in March when a male friend brought him to her home.
“I could tell how scared he was,” Fraser-O’Donnell said.
The animal lover said she was concerned about Louis and offered to take him in while she tried to track down his valid owner.
She visited the Dunedin City Council. But Louis was not microchipped.
Fraser-O’Donnell ended up looking after the dog for three months before giving him to Cleaver’s aunt in May. Cleaver’s aunt had since had Louis registered, microchipped, and neutered.
“She fell in love with him, and he has been there ever since,” Cleaver said.
The pair suspected Louis’s mysterious former owner might have had something to do with the dognapping. And this was confirmed on Tuesday morning.
They discovered the owner had given Louis to a mutual friend to look after while he finished a brief stint in prison.
So the man, who declined to be named, did not know where Louis had ended up while he was incarcerated and offered a reward for his return.
A person had collected the $500, he said. And after the dognapping, he messaged Cleaver’s aunt to say Louis was with him and looked after well. Both parties went to the Dunedin Police Station to resolve the stand-off over who owned Louis.
Louis’ original owner was adamant police had given him full custody.
But he agreed to let Cleaver’s aunt keep the dog overnight so she could say goodbye. Senior Sergeant Anthony Bond said police were still investigating. “There is an issue regarding ownership of the dog, which we are speaking with both parties to resolve.”
Meanwhile, Cleaver’s aunt, who was emotionally attached to Louis, was “distraught,” Cleaver said.
“I don’t want to hand him over … this is a sensitive issue. But we tried to find the owner, but we couldn’t…, and the dog has been re-homed.
“He is our dog.”