When Michele Ince went on vacation last week, she gave no thought to the idea that one of her pets would be stolen.
But that’s what happened halfway through her visit to Iowa. Her dog sitter, Laura Lott, called and asked her to cut her vacation short because one of her dogs had been taken from their backyard kennel area.
The dog, a 6-pound Maltese/Shih Tzu mix named Baxter, was eventually recovered after being discovered on a city street and taken to the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter. But whoever took Baxter also vandalized it, cutting much of the dog’s distinctive hair and covering the dog in paint or fingernail polish.
Baxter was not only missing from the kennel, but his collar had been left behind, clipped to the cage. Lott said she noticed the kennel held only Ince’s full-grown yellow Labrador retriever during one of her periodic checks on the dogs.
Lott said she found the kennel door secure with Baxter’s collar clipped to the kennel gate about five feet above the ground. The gate to the back yard that encloses the kennel was also wide open.
The dog-sitter called the shelter and the police before searching the neighborhood for the little white dog. Angela Smith, a technician at the shelter, said someone dropped off Baxter in the after-hours kennel about 8:47 p.m. the same evening Lott discovered it missing. Baxter was covered in a red paint-like substance, glitter and his hair on his back, ears and tail had been cut.
“They [whoever left Baxter] left us a typed note that said, ‘Found on Kimball Avenue. 8:47 p.m.,’” Smith said.
The following morning, one of the technicians recognized an ad on Craig’s List matching the description of the dog in the drop box and called Lott and Ince to see whether it was Baxter. Lott was first to return the call, but she told the person at the shelter it couldn’t be Baxter because he was not covered in anything.
Not wanting to leave any stones unturned, Michele went to the shelter to check for herself.
“Of course we recognized him off the Craig’s List ad,” Smith said. “Michele came and identified Baxter and picked him up.”
After getting Baxter home, Ince said the police contacted her in order to take pictures of the dog, making her wait to clean him up.
Lott said it took her three hours to scrub Baxter clean, and in the process she found three separate scratches on Baxter’s belly. She said the substance was first thought to be paint, but after cleaning the dog, she said it looked more like fingernail polish.
Ince said although Baxter spent a couple of days covered in red polish, he is eating and drinking.
“He’s not any worse for wear,” Ince said.
Ince said the police told her they could not do anything about what happened to her dog, but she “didn’t have to pay the dog-at-large fee because he (Baxter) was stolen.”