Natalie Tomlinson was two and a half days into a Disney cruise to Cabo San Lucas when her husband Daniel got a phone call from his parents in Eagle Rock that would ruin their weeklong vacation and haunt the family.
The Tomlinson’s’ two dogs, Daniel’s parents said in their Nov. 9 phone call, had escaped from their house on Toland Way and were nowhere to be found. The dogs, who always accompanied the Tomlinsons during their previous vacations, appeared to have slipped out from under the gate of Daniel’s parents’ house.
“I nearly hyperventilated,” said Tomlinson, who lives in the City of Azusa with Daniel. The couple—sweethearts who graduated from Franklin High School—was on the cruise together with their 10-year-old son, Dean.
Tomlinson immediately went about contacting her Facebook friends in and around Eagle Rock (there’s no cell phone service on the Mexican Riviera cruise), asking them to search for her dogs in the neighborhood.
‘Lost Dog’ Fliers in the Neighborhood
When a hunt proved futile, Tomlinson’s friends posted a bunch of fliers about her missing pets—River, a 2-1/2-year-old Shih Tzu male, and Libby, a 5-year-old Shih Tzu-mix female.
On her return from the cruise on Nov. 13, Tomlinson lost little time in posting a fresh batch of fliers that offered a $500 reward for information leading to the rescue of either of her pets. The fliers—about 150 in all—stretch from the outskirts of the campus to parts of York Boulevard, El Paso and Division Street.
On Monday, Nov. 14—five days after her dogs disappeared—Tomlinson got a call from a woman. The caller, who identified herself as Darla, told her that she had seen her fliers and that she might have bought one of her dogs—Libby—from a man on a street in Highland Park.
The caller told Tomlinson that the man who sold her the dog looked like a transient and that she had a feeling the dog wasn’t his. “I asked her if Libby had a collar on her, which had my phone number on it, and she said there was no collar,” Tomlinson said.
“She asked me to give her some [identifying] characteristics of the dog,” Tomlinson said, adding that she told the caller about a reddish-brown discoloration that Libby had near one of her eyes, plus a spot on the lower left side of her back.
“I said, ‘I think you have my dog—can I come see her?’” said Tomlinson. The caller, who said she lives in Pasadena, responded that she was “really upset” she bought someone else’s dog and that she would lose her money if she returned the pet, said Tomlinson.
Desperate to Recover Lost Pet
Tomlinson promised to reimburse the caller, but she hung up without giving her a callback number. Then she called again about five minutes later and asked Tomlinson if her dog had been spayed.
“I told her, yes, she has a horizontal scar on her belly,” said Tomlinson. “She said, ‘Which way is the scar,’ and I told her it’s on the lower end of the stomach,” said Tomlinson. “And she said, ‘Oh, no, this dog has a scar that is vertical.’”
Then Tomlinson told the caller that Libby also has eight to 10 nipples and that her front teeth are crooked and shaped like little grains of rice. “She agreed,” said Tomlinson. “Then I said, ‘Can I please meet you—I can come and meet you right now,’” said Tomlinson, adding that the caller agreed to meet her at in 45 minutes. At the same time, the caller also mentioned that her children had grown “very attached to this dog” and that she wasn’t sure whether she could return her.
“I told her that I have had Libby for four years—she is part of my family—and what has happened was a complete accident,” said Tomlinson, adding: “Both my dogs have always been very well taken care of.”
Sensing that the caller might hang up, Tomlinson asked how she could identify her at Eagle Rock Plaza. “She said, ‘I will have the dog on a leash,’” said Tomlinson.
Eagle Rock Plaza Rendezvous
Tomlinson rushed to the second-level parking lot of Eagle Rock Plaza, where the caller said she would meet her, but there was no one there with a dog on a leash until well after the appointed time.
Then Tomlinson got a voicemail in which the caller said she couldn’t meet her because she had “talked to my [the caller’s] family and they feel you might be taking the dog from me,” explained Tomlinson.
And then Tomlinson heard from the caller yet again. This time, she told Tomlinson that she would take the dog to a veterinary hospital and get her scanned for a microchip that Tomlinson said the dog had in her body. “If she is your dog, I will leave her at your address,” Tomlinson quoted the caller as saying.
That was the last Tomlinson heard from the caller.
Seeking LAPD’s Help
On Tuesday, Tomlinson went to the LAPD Northeast Community Station to report the loss of her dogs, but was told that the police does not file reports about missing pets. Tomlinson said she asked an LAPD officer what she should do if she were passing out fliers and saw one of her dogs in someone’s yard. The officer replied that in such a case she could call the police, who would recover the dog and track its rightful owner after scanning its microchip, if any.
Tomlinson has been to the Pasadena Humane Society as well as the Los Angeles County Animal Control shelter on Lacy Street, to inquire about her missing dogs—without any luck. She said she did get a call from a man who said he had seen both her dogs walking near the , near the 2 freeway, this past weekend, but that he did nothing to restrain the dogs or call Animal Control.
‘Find River and Libby’ Website—Plus Celebrity Outreach
Faced with one dead end after another in her search for her missing pets, Tomlinson has launched a website through which she has offered a $500 reward for any information leading to any of her dogs’ recovery. (Click the previous link to view the site.) Through Facebook, she has also contacted celebrity and animal activist Shanna Moakler, whose ex-husband, Travis Barker, was a drummer for the Blink 182 band, for tips on how to find her dogs.
“I told her [Moakler] that I have exhausted all my resources and there is nothing more I can do other than to reach out through the media,” said Tomlinson.
Interviewed by CBS—After Announcement on Eagle Rock Patch
On Wednesday, Tomlinson posted an announcement on Eagle Rock Patch, seeking the public’s help in finding her pets. Within hours, she got a call from a CBS reporter who interviewed her and posted a video Wednesday night about her troubles.
Getting Council member José Huizar’s Office Involved
On Thursday afternoon, Tomlinson contacted the CD 14 office of and spoke to one of his field deputies, Nate Hayward, about the possibility of seeking the LAPD’s help in finding her dogs. “I told him [Hayward] I couldn’t understand why I can’t file a report about my dogs,” Tomlinson said, adding that Hayward told her he would inquire into the matter.
Tomlinson also asked Hayward if the police could help her with something that would infinitely increase the chances of her locating at least one of her lost dogs—tracking down the “blocked” cell phone number of the caller who admitted she bought Libby from a stranger on a street in Highland Park.
Hayward told Tomlinson he would find out what the proper procedure is—if any—to track cell phone calls under such circumstances.
Stay tuned for any further developments about Tomlinson’s search for her dogs.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the name given by the woman who called Natalie Tomlinson and told her she might have her lost dog Libby. The woman gave her name as Darla—not Carla, as we initially had it.