A five-month-old Australian shepherd named Vango may have had a paw in his own rescue when he alerted staff at a Gatineau, Que., pet store to his suspected dognapping.
According to Yves Jodoin, a staff member and dog trainer at Au Royaume des Animaux, Vango entered the store Monday with a couple that normally came in to buy cat food.
"The dog was barking, the dog was poking and he really wanted my attention," Jodoin said.
Jodoin said he immediately became suspicious when the couple didn't seem to know basic information about the dog — his exact age, whether he'd been sterilized, what kind of food he ate and how much they'd paid for him.
"They were evading the questions," Jodoin said. "I was giving the dog cookies, but the dog was still barking."
Meanwhile, a colleague went to check social media for reports of stolen pets, and quickly pulled up a picture of Vango. The dog had been reported missing from his home in Buckingham, Que., just two and a half hours earlier.
That's when Jodoin suddenly realized he already knew the dog — he'd trained Vango as a puppy.
"At that point I said, 'Vango, come!' And the dog was reacting, he was jumping," Jodoin said. "All along he was barking and poking, trying to say, 'Hello, I'm not the dog they say I am.'"
The couple claimed they'd found the dog in the woods. The woman told Jodoin she wanted to keep the dog as a support animal because she had poor health and couldn't afford to buy and train a dog.
Surrounded by witnesses in the store, Jodoin convinced the couple to surrender the animal. Then he called Vango's rightful owner, Josée Francoeur.
'I can't talk about it without crying'
"I can't talk about it without crying," Francoeur said about the moment she received Jodoin's call.
Francoeur said the dog disappeared after she let him out for a pee in her fenced yard around 9 a.m. Monday. When she stuck her head out the door, Vango, who wasn't microchipped was gone.
"Is it possible that someone took him? And I was thinking, 'Who could do that? It's impossible!"
Francoeur immediately posted a notice on the local SPCA site for missing animals, and on other social media pages. In tears, she searched her neighbourhood, asking everyone she met if they'd seen her dog. At one point, a police officer pitched in to help and wrote up an official missing dog report.
She was starting to lose hope when her phone rang.
"Imagine, If those people didn't go to that pet store, I would have lost my dog forever," Francoeur said.
Filed police complaint
She's now filed a police complaint because she wants the couple to understand the impact of their actions.
"I don't want to cause them problems. We don't know why they did it. But at the same time, they took my baby," Francoeur said. "I want to discourage others from doing this."
Gatineau police said they're investigating, but would need to prove the couple deliberately stole the dog, as opposed to finding him, before laying charges.
The SPCA de L'Outaouais, where the couple had taken Vango that morning to register the dog with a new name, is using the incident to remind dog owners to get their pet microchipped.
Francoeur said she's made an appointment to get Vango microchipped.
"This all could have been avoided," she said.