Kim Ogle opened her door to call in her dog from the yard last Tuesday evening and her heart sank. Gabriela, the 12-year-old tan whippet mix with a white underside had been enjoying the lovely weather but now didn’t respond to her calls and was nowhere in sight.
“She’s a good dog who doesn’t want to run away,” said Ogle. “Everybody knows her. She’s like the celebrity on the block and she stays in my yard.”
Ogle’s yard is only partially fenced to allow for a driveway. But Gabriela isn’t a runner. She’s an older homebody who likes to lounge and relax on the grass outside. Although she has a microchip for identification, the dog doesn’t wear a collar because Ogle walks her with a harness. Gabriela was also recovering from an auto-immune disease that required her to take daily steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.
But Tuesday she disappeared. Ogle panicked. Gabriela has been her constant companion for 11 years, since she adopted the dog from Chicago Animal Control.
She immediately questioned neighbors, who said a woman walking two other dogs had rung their doorbells inquiring if Gabriela had an owner or was a stray.
“My neighbors told her she was my dog and she stayed in the yard.”
But the dog disappeared anyway.
Ogle got a message on a business phone line that doesn’t ring in her house. A woman, who only left her first name, allegedly said she considered the dog abandoned because the yard was not adequately fenced.
Three days of panic followed. Ogle posted signs around the neighborhood announcing that the dog was missing and needed medication. A physical description of the woman was provided.
Then on Friday, Ogle’s neighbor saw a woman who seemed to match the description and followed her back to a home a few blocks away. After a witness confirmed that Gabriela was in the house, police contacted the woman’s mother and it was agreed that the dog would be returned when the woman returned from work that evening. [Forest Park Review is not naming the woman because she was not charged with a crime.]
The dog was returned a few hours later, but instead of remorse, Ogle said the woman was angry. Words were exchanged between the two women. “She proceeded to scold me like a child about how abusive I was to have a dog without a collar and without a fence,” she said.
The words especially stung because Ogle considers herself an animal lover. A member of the ASPCA, she spent a whole vacation (with Gabriela) at the Dog Town animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah after Hurricane Katrina caring for misplaced animals. “I shoveled muck and cut pet lettuce for pot-bellied pigs, walked dogs and brushed cats. I’d do it every year if I could afford to.”
She rushed Gabriela to the vet to see if her condition had deteriorated after not receiving medication for four days. “They did blood work and tested everything. She was OK,” said Ogle.
But she was frustrated when Forest Park Police would not press theft charges against the woman Friday.
Police Chief Jim Ryan explained that because the woman had agreed to return the dog, and Ogle had never filed a police report when the dog went missing, it was technically not a theft.
“You have to show someone has the intent to permanently deprive you of your property,” said Ryan later. “The law is the law.” Ogle disputed that, contending that the woman would never have returned Gabriela if she hadn’t been caught.
The next day, Ogle and Gabriela left for the weekend and neighbors reportedly saw the woman again near her home, calling the dog’s name.
Police were called again, and Ryan said they explained to the alleged rescuer that she needed to stay away from the property, the block and the dog.
“The right thing is for the dog to go back to the person who owns the dog,” said Ryan. “We told [the woman] that if she finds another stray dog, the proper procedure is to call the police.”
“We’ll dispatch an officer, or you can bring it into the police station. The same thing if you lose a dog. Contact the police.”
About this case, Ryan said, “I honestly feel that everyone had the best intentions. I’m sure they were both very emotional. It was a case of two animal lovers.”
A woman who answered the phone at the alleged rescuer’s home identified herself as the woman’s mother and said she was not home. She also said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” before hanging up.
As for Gabriela, she’s home and back to her old self again. “I swear this dog is so darn cute,” said Ogle. “That’s why everybody wants her. She’s got a unique personality.”
“I took her out for a walk [Wednesday] and she started jumping up in the air just for fun like she does. Like the gazelles at the zoo. She was back to gazelle-ing again.”