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One Woman’s Struggle to Find Her Lost Dogs

Franklin High grad leaves no stone unturned to locate her two dogs, who went missing while she was on a cruise to Mexico with her family.

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.

Mysterious Caller

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.

Valerie bernal November 18, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Please return these babies to the Tomlinson's they are devastated! This family misses their dogs and Libby and River miss their family!!! Have a heart and do the right thing! PLEASE!!! Thank you!
Susan R November 18, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Please chip your dogs!! And, cats too!
Rebecca T. November 18, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Wow I can't believe that lady acted like that. What nerve she has.
Joe Walker November 18, 2011 at 06:48 PM
I had a neighbor lose her beloved dog years ago and the reward we posted was the extra push the family that found the dog needed. I would increase the reward and keep hoping. There is no real proof that the caller actually had her dog--some people call lost dog ad's just to be mean.
Joe Walker November 19, 2011 at 05:01 AM
Not neutering a male dog is inviting escaping/wandering behavior.
Ajay Singh (Editor) November 19, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Good point, Joe (in somewhat the same way that not being tough on guns has undesirable consequences). But one of the intriguing aspects of this story is that the said non-neutered dog, River, never ran from the Tomlinson's house (albeit for no other reason than that the family always traveled with their two dogs, except during their recent cruise vacation). Non-neutered dogs—and I have one, too—tend to be generally bolder and more adventurous, but there are a lot of such dogs whose escaping/wandering tendencies have been kept in check by giving them sufficient exercise, attention and good-old love.
Pat November 21, 2011 at 08:22 AM
This seems to be the norm, This story is almost identical to mine. I went on vacation and left my dogs in the care of a family member and my dogs got out of the gate 11/13/2011. Although I have not gotten media coverage, I was allowed to make out a police report. I was not informed about the loss of my dog ( one out of three missing) until I returned home which was the next day. I immediately called all my friends and family to help distribute flyers with reward and a contact information. I have received several calls about the citing of my dog, but no luck in finding him. I have also received negative/ crank callers. One caller had me to meet him, he tried to lure me out of my car and to a dark yard where could have robbed me for the reward money. To the Tomlinson's, I understand your pain and hopefully you will find your dogs, my only help that I can offer you is to be carefful when responding to callers especially those whose conversation start out talking about the reward money. Again, good luck with your search.
Michael Shuller November 21, 2011 at 09:24 AM
I would hope that the woman who called Ms. Tomlinson understood the legal severity of purchasing a stolen dog and keeping the animal in her possession. If she did not know the animal was stolen, she should have done her due diligence and had a Vet check up and scan for a microchip to find the rightful owner if there is one. In today's world, buying a mature animal without proper paperwork is an indicator that foul play was involved. I urge Ms. Tominson to get a police report filed, proof will be established that the animals are missing aka stolen and her property. Legal action can be taken against the individuals that are currently housing her pets once they show up in the system.
Joe Walker November 21, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Michael...file a police report? Where is the crime? There is none. Rotten behavior, sure. But there is no proof that the lady that called even had the dog. Maybe she will get her dog back, but most likely not.
Ajay Singh (Editor) November 21, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Hi, Joe: As it happened—and as as we say in our latest story about Tomlinson having increased the reward for information about her dogs to $3,000 (http://patch.com/A-nRyJ)—she was able to file a property theft report with the police.
Murphy November 21, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Not neutering/spaying your dog is irresponsible (please take note Mr. Singh) and gives dogs the instinctive tendancy to wander and get lost, and when they do escape, brings more unwanted dogs into the world, many of whom usually end up either euthanized at the already-overcrowded pounds (food for thought when thinking of purchasing a dog from a store instead of saving a life) or in neglectful, abusive homes. Someone I know just lost her un-neutered dog in the same way, and she wasn't his original guardian. She found him when he was roaming the streets after having run away from someone else (who never responded to her "found" ads), and then ran away from her the day before his appointment at the vet to be neutered. These dogs sound like they come from a loving home. Hopefully they'll get back there and Ms. Tomlinson will then have the good sense to get her male neutered. Giving them "sufficient exercise, attention and good-old love" as the writer of this article suggests is NOT enough to keep an unaltered dog "in check". I don't know where he ever got that idea but he's WRONG. You can't win a fight with Mother Nature.
Patrick Lee November 21, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Ajay and I have disagreed over the need to neuter pets. Here's an unbiased source of information on why it's essential (from the ASPCA): http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter/spay-neuter-top-ten.aspx
Ajay Singh (Editor) November 22, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Thanks for your comment and recommendation, Murphy. What's really irresponsible, in my view of this debate, is the practice of mistreating dogs in a multitude of ways, including as Christmas gifts for kids or as alarm systems for homes. That—not the “failure” to castrate—is arguably the root cause of the shameful execution every year in this nation alone of 4 million dogs and cats, according to the U.S. HumaneSociety.org. As in the familiar argument with humans, the old canard of *overpopulation*—rather than the lack of sound humanitarian policies—is blamed for the evil of putting down a dog or cat every eight seconds right here in the land of the free. (The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proven beyond doubt that the real cause of famines around the world isn't too many people but gross mismanagement of food policies.) Finally, if not neutering or spaying dogs is irresponsible, then the biggest culprits would be American kennel clubs, which, after all, have been breeding all those fine specimens we admire in dog shows and coffee-table books for more than a century.
Murphy November 22, 2011 at 06:30 AM
Ajay, are you serious? It's terrible the way animals are treated in this world, and those of us who really love and care for them are too few to save them all. "Sound humanitarian policies" would be the ultimate solution but it's not realistic.The actions of those who mistreat animals can't be controlled, and abuse laws aren't enforced. Reducing the numbers that are born can help save the suffering of countless dogs and cats who would otherwise end up being killed at the pounds, and lessen the numbers that fall into the hands of people who may abuse them, use them for breeding, or toss them out in the street, which is where many cats end up when ignorant people find out how bad cat behavior can be when they're not fixed, thus creating generations of feral cats. Those poor things have horrible lives, and it doesn't have to be that way if only the ones who brought them into their homes when they were cute little kittens had the decency/intelligence to get them fixed. Then there's the fact that animals who are fixed are more content, and tend to be healthier and live longer. Last week, I saw a skinny female dog looking for food in a trash can outside of a store. It was obvious she'd recently had a litter of pups. She ran from me in terror when I tried to help her. It's ABSOLUTELY irresponsible (and selfish) not to spay/neuter. As for breeders--exploiting animals for financial gain or any other reason is deplorable. They should ALL be put out of business. PERIOD.
Ajay Singh (Editor) November 22, 2011 at 06:57 AM
Murphy—I'm not sure I'm the one taking an extreme position here. What I'm saying is that if someone chooses not to castrate, that's not necessarily a bad choice in itself because its outcome depends on a whole set of other circumstances. There's such a thing as responsible breeding. Without it we'd have no champion border collies or mountain rescue dogs.
Joe Walker November 22, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Anything animal related always brings out the best and worst in us. I wish there was so much passion over human lives as animal ones.
Ajay Singh (Editor) November 22, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Thanks, Joe—I suppose it all boils down to the unity of life. (A biologist once told me that we share 80 percent of our DNA with bacteria.) No wonder Whitman thought he could "turn and live" with animals: "They do not sweat and whine about their condition; They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins."
Murphy November 24, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Ajay--There is EVERTHING wrong with breeding--just ask the animals at the "shelters" sitting on death row! Those poor throw-aways have little chance at finding homes, and people have no business bringing more dogs/cats into the world until the killing is stopped. Less dogs and cats born means more available homes for all--plain and simple. As far as your other ramblings go--they have nothing to do with the fact that it's inexcusable besides being irresponsible and selfish not fix your animals! It's what's BEST for them. I see you are concerned about perpetuating bloodlines, "champion" dogs, etc. Hitler had the same sentiments about the human race....... Joe--that makes no sense. There are SO many more people concerned about "human lives" (or passionate as you put it) than those who give a damn about animals. That's the problem!!! If more people cared, we wouldn't be having this debate.
rebecca niederlander November 24, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Ajay, I am with Murphy on this one. Spay and neuter is the right thing to do for many, many reasons. And by the by, the AKC is complicit in the horrible puppy mill trade that runs throughout our nation. I lost respect for them many moons ago. Responsible limited breeding by a few extremely knowledgable breeders for service/police/other theraputic work is one thing. However, the rampant breeding of all dogs (especially backyard breeding) is a tremendous mistake we pay for daily as dogs are euthanized all over the world. I worked at a very responsible humane society for a while and have seen first hand that good, loving, family-friendly dogs die. I'd like to ask that we use the term neuter and not castration, since the second word has such a non-neutral tone. Rebecca

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