HOUSTON – A woman who recently moved to Houston is desperately searching for her tiny dog that was stolen from a Midtown bar.
Keri Gharagouzloo took her teacup Yorkie, Maggie, to Celtic Garden Sunday to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
A woman at a nearby table asked to hold the two-and-a-half-pound dog, and Gharagouzloo obliged.
She turned away for a brief moment to talk with a friend and when she turned back, the woman, her friends and Maggie were gone.
Gharagouzlou moved to Houston from Kansas City in November and said she gets requests to hold Maggie wherever they go. She never dreamed anyone would steal the little dog.
"If I don’t ever get to see her again, it would be the biggest loss of my life," Gharagouzlou said. "She’s been like my only steady stream in my life, you know. She goes with me everywhere. You know I don’t have a family, I’m single and so she’s just my baby."
Gharagouzlou is worried because the 6-year-old teacup has digestive problems and requires a special diet of prescription food.
"If she doesn’t eat regularly, she gets hypoglycemic. She could have blood sugar issues," Gharagouzlou said. "And if she is being played with roughly, let’s say by a child, she could easily, could easily be injured… to the point of possibly death."
Management at Celtic Gardens allowed Gharagouzloo to look at the bar’s surveillance tapes Tuesday in the hope of spotting the person who took her dog. She didn't see them.
There’s even a pet Amber alert out for Maggie. The next step will be to offer a reward for Maggie’s return.
"It would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me if I never saw her again," Gharagouzloo sobbed.
Earlier this month, a shihtzu was taken at knifepoint from its owner who was walking the dog in Midtown. It doesn’t appear the cases are related.
According to the American Kennel Club, or AKC, the number of dognappings is on the rise.
In 2010, the AKC tracked 255 dogs stolen across the country. The number jumped to 432 in 2011. Twenty of the dog-nappings were in Texas.
Some dogs are resold on the Internet and others on the roadside. In some cases, the dogs are held for ransom.
"We are getting reports almost daily of pets stolen during home invasions, out of parked cars while people are running errands and even snatched from dog lovers out for a walk in the park," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson.
The AKC offered the following tips for keeping your dog safe:
Don’t let your dog off-leash: Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
Don’t leave your dog unattended in your yard: Dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.
Be cautious with information: If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don’t answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.
Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it’s locked: Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it’s also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment.
Don’t tie your dog outside a store: This popular practice among city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.
Protect your dog with microchip identification: Collars and tags can be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip. Thieves will not know the dog has a microchip until a veterinarian or shelter worker scans it, so keep contact information current with your microchip recovery service provider. For more information, enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service and sign-up at akccar.org.
If you suspect your dog has been stolen: Immediately call the police / animal control officer in the area your pet was last seen and file a police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique serial number, along with the dog’s description, posted in the "stolen article" category on the National Crime Information Center.
Canvass the neighborhood: Talk to people in the immediate vicinity where your pet went missing for possible sightings of the actual theft.
Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing: Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible Web account so that you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.