Cheyenne Clower says she'll do whatever it takes to find Bain, stolen Dec. 31 from the front seat of her unlocked car in Rutland.
Someone filched Bain, an American bluenose pit bull, from Clower's front seat when she left the car unlocked at the YM-YWCA in Rutland on Dec. 31. She's desperate to find her pooch, one of more than a dozen dogs that have disappeared recently in the Central Okanagan.
"I do everything with him. He's my baby. I'm not with the kids; I'm with my four-legged kid," said Clower, 55.
"I'm like a bloodhound. You take my dog and I'll take you. I'll find him."
Friends and strangers are helping. Cheryl Leask, who runs a canine rescue in West Kelowna, said the problem is escalating. She uses the Internet and a network of sources to spread the word on missing animals. She's looking for Bain and 16 dogs that have either taken off or were nabbed by thieves since mid-November.
"Dogs are just vanishing. There's just no sign. Smaller dogs, I worry about - they're easy prey for coyotes," she said. "These are not dogs that have gone missing for a week; they've simply vanished. They're not turning up at the SPCA or the pound."
The problem is provincewide. Twenty dogs went missing over six weeks in the Dawson Creek area last fall, said Leask.
Thieves may want to sell an animal or keep it for breeding purposes. Bain, a purebred, hasn't been sterilized and could fetch thousands of dollars as a stud.
SPCA staff have logged more than 10 reports of lost dogs so far this month, said branch manager Suzanne Pugh. Stolen-dog complaints are referred to the RCMP.
Thieves may look for unattended males that can breed because they're valuable.
"It's difficult to tell if a female has been spayed. It's easy to tell if a male is neutered," said Kathy Woodward, the shelter's senior animal protection officer. "Or they just want the dog. In a case like (Bain), lots of people like bluenose pit bulls."
Others may want to "rescue" animals that are chained up and alone outside for hours because they feel sorry for them. Leask is afraid some want to harm certain breeds, such as pit bulls, because they can be aggressive or dangerous.
Whatever the motive, stealing a pet is devastating for the owner and the animal because it ends up in a strange environment. Clower has called the SPCA, RCMP, dog control and media outlets. She has plastered posters in stores, knocked on dozens of doors and driven along Rutland streets for hours searching for Bain.
She tracked down one man for days. Neighbours told her he had a new dog that looked like Bain, but it wasn't him. She refuses to give up.
"I'm out every night - driving every street, thinking where he might be," she said.
The SPCA encourages owners to identify their pets with a tattoo or microchip. Shelter staff and veterinarians keep logs of the identifiers and can help reunite an animal with its rightful owner.
"At some point, the animal will have to go to a vet, and hopefully we can trace it back," said Pugh.
Bain is five years old and grey all over with white on its belly and face. It may appear tan or light brown, said Clower.
If you've seen Bain or another stolen animal, call the RCMP.