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Ex-assistance dog nearly snatched in woods

DOG OWNERS in the New Forest area are being advised to keep an eye on their pets after an ex-assistance dog almost became the victim of dog-nappers.

Peter with LaraPeter Sonksen, a 73-year-old retired doctor, has told OUR DOGS how a pleasant walk in the New Forest with his friend Brian and his Terrier Ben nearly ended in the theft of Lara, Peter’s yellow Labrador / Poodle cross who is an ex-assistance dog from Canine Partners.

‘We'd had a lovely day including a nice pub lunch and were back at the car park from where we started. Brian was putting my Tramper [off-road electric buggy] back on its trailer and I was sitting in the front seat of the Jeep when Lara started barking at this bloke standing about 15 yards in front of the car,’ explained Peter.

‘I told her to stop but she was having one of her moments of “deafness” and went right up to him, she was still barking but then she stopped and my attention was diverted to describing to Brian how to secure the buggy onto the trailer. Then Brian said, “where's Lara?” She was nowhere around so Brian went off into the adjacent wood calling her.’

Peter, who lost the use of his legs after a skiing accident in 2002, told us how Brian soon found Lara with a man, and when called she managed to slip her collar and get away upon which the man went off in the opposite direction. As Brian and Lara returned to the car park Lara ran to the Jeep and jumped straight into the car and right onto Peter’s lap.

‘Lara jumped right into my lap and started kissing me!’ said Peter.

It was only when Peter and Brian returned home and Peter’s wife Sue noticed Lara’s collar was missing that they realised they had very narrowly escaped a ‘dognap’ and that Lara was probably being stolen to order, possibly after overhearing Peter inform another dog walker that Lara was a ‘Labradoodle’.

‘I [can] hardly bear to think about it - we would have been devastated. Lara is not only a wonderful 'assistance dog manque' who has lightened my life with disability - she opens and closes doors, picks things off the floor, runs errands taking my wallet up and down the stairs etc - but is a fully fledged member of the family. I have learnt a lesson and will be more wary of strange men with smelly treats in future!’ said Peter.

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