writes Viv Phillips
When you live with a lot of dogs, some people probably think you are not as close to them as those with one pet dog might be. Believe me, my dogs mean the world to me and my worst nightmare occurred on 14th June.
My staff had not long gone home, locking the security gate, as I had phoned to say I was half and hour away returning from a dog show. I drove down my half mile drive having unlocked and locked the gate, to find mayhem at home.
I realised within minutes that thieves had come through the woods and opened kennel gates, releasing my hounds and then - helping themselves to the rope leads that hang in the outside porch - had taken six of them; two PBGV males Tango and Mioche, one PBGV bitch Libby and three GBGV bitches Donna, Vaillante and Jade, who was five weeks in whelp.
Trying to focus my entire being on getting my hounds back began right there. After phoning the Police and my Kennel Manager Andy, I rang Gavin Robertson; Gavin asked Sandy Platt to ring me and she told me what she had done when her litter of Cockers were stolen. We put the wheels in motion.
Following Sandy’s advice we knew we had to make the dogs TOO HOT TO HANDLE. To begin with I was probably not much use, as I was so stricken with worry. My daughter Meredith drove up and Andy stayed over and we hit the phones and Internet that night. By morning, after no sleep at all, I had spoken to Jayne at Doglost and the mission to get my hounds back was underway.
Three Counties Radio had been alerted and appeals had been broadcast. By mid morning, with literally masses of people searching, we got a phone call regarding a possible sighting near the Travellers Site where Doglost had told me they could well be. I had phoned local Dog Wardens as well as the Police and Doglost had alerted vets and rescue centres within a 20 mile radius. I phoned the Ferry ports and gave the Vets there the Mmicrochip numbers of all my dogs.
Calls from the press started coming in, phoning reacting to Meredith‚s calls over night. Andy (whose day off it was!) Was racing about the area where the sighting had been and by this time I had phoned people in Hemel Hempstead who knew my dogs. Everyone was willing to help. Heidi Allenby and Gavin came over to help. Heidi manned the phones here whilst I drove with Gavin to Hemel as we now heard that Vaillante had been captured near the Site and was at the Police Station, another dog was with a member of the public and had been fed and bathed, and was being brought to the Station too! This turned out to be Mioche.
As we picked the two up, my spirits rose as I felt they must all be in the area and, indeed we suddenly received a call from friends at Redbourn 3 miles down the road to say they had literally "rugger tackled" Tango who was racing towards the A5, and taken him into the Medivet there. I could not believe we had three back, but we could not rest without the others safe.
The following morning once my staff were here I went out across the fields again with tripe in a pair of tights to drag along and on the advice of Doglost, spraying my bodily fluids wherever I walked.. I visited another travellers‚ site near where Tango had been caught with one of the Wardens, and within 20 minutes my mobile rang and there was a sighting of two dogs exactly where I had been spraying that morning. Back to the fields we rushed. The area was covered with "Doglost "posters by now. Friends in their offices in Hemel had all been copying them off the Internet. As I ran in the fields I had a phone call to say they were at the Hemel Express Offices!
A lady, coincidentally called Donna,, had seen the local newspapers with the photos of Mioche and Vaillante with Andy at the Police Station and managed to round them up. Very emotionally I was reunited with Jade and Donna. Anglia TV had been at my home waiting to interview me and they rushed to the Express Offices and filmed us all together. Even Doglost were stunned that we had 5 back within 48 hours but our efforts now turned to getting little Libby back as quickly as possible.
That night I received a phone call from the Richard and Judy show and the following day Jayne from Doglost and I were on the programme with Daisy from Notting Hill Gate who has sadly lost her Staffie Max, who is still not back with her. I took a couple of the dogs with me and Jayne made an appeal relating to the 20.000 dogs stolen each year, and that night we learned that several "lost" dogs were reunited with owners in London having been missing for some time!
For another week we made appeals to the radio and the papers. My postman took a poster and sent it to all the local Depots asking the drivers to look out for Libby. There were several sightings and wonderful people would rush to the area to no avail.. Ian West who himself had lost his Ibizan Hound and knew me from kennelling his dogs with us, was out every day with the "troops" of dog lovers scouring the fields and woods looking for and calling Libby.
Now exhaustion was setting in but I had to keep positive for Libby . I had said I felt she was still on the Site, that they might have kept her as she is so friendly. My feeling was she would either hang around the area or head for home being a clever little hound. On Thursday there was a breakthrough. Graham Briginshaw of Wing Police, himself a Tervueren breeder! Phoned to tell me a member of the public had reported seeing some children loading my dogs into an Izuzu Trooper with blacked out windows, 2 miles down in the woods, just half an hour after I discovered the dogs missing. Someone somewhere must have seen this vehicle!
Friday 24th June.. Having spoken and appealed again on 3 Counties Radio I received the wonderful phone call that Libby had been taken to Hemel Hempstead Police Station! She was fit and well and had children’s sweets stuck in her moustache! She had indeed been on the site. She had been locked in somewhere for a while but ate through a water pipe and flooded the area!
She had not headed home because they had indeed kept her! But without the support of the public, the world of dogs, the emails, the cards the phone calls and even the flowers I doubt I would have felt so strong throughout the ordeal..
I urge everyone to contact email@example.com or go online www.doglost.co.uk and become a volunteer in your area. I pray it never happens to any of you, but I know I have already been a little help in finding at least one dog since this happened... Please try and help too.