A Nanoose Bay woman is relieved now that her two dogs have returned home after they went missing for four days, but the experience has left her feeling paranoid.
Nina Zurita volunteers with several animal rescue organizations on Vancouver Island and has rescued 62 dogs to date. She currently owns five dogs, two of which, Lucy and Kai, went missing from her yard on Feb. 19. They returned on Feb. 23.
Zurita said she suspects the animals were taken by someone because her gate was left open, something she’s never done.
“It was about 9 or 10 a.m. (on Feb. 19) that we discovered they were missing,” Zurita said. “We have a doggie door so they go in and out as they please and usually they go out about 6 or 7 a.m. [Thieves] could have opened the gate and took them. It would have been easy because the two dogs that [went missing] are the ones that don’t bark at people.”
Zurita said immediately following the disappearance of Lucy and Kai she reported them missing with several animal rescues, made extensive posts on social media and put up about 100 missing posters offering a $2,000 reward for the dogs’ return.
“I was driving through the trails for about six to seven hours a day while my boyfriend would drive around town looking for them. There was no sightings of them so there was no way they were lost,” Zurita said.
Also adding to Zurita’s suspicion that Lucy and Kai were taken is the fact they returned home with no visible signs of harm, they weren’t covered in dirt, she said, and they didn’t look malnourished.
“They came back like somebody had them. They were a little traumatized I would imagine but they weren’t in survival mode,” Zurita said. “Most dogs that go missing over a day go into survival mode.”
Zurita said since the disappearance of Lucy and Kai she’s installed a security system at her home with multiple cameras and is working on getting a fingerprint code lock for her gate.
“It’s terrible what something like this can do to a person. It makes you paranoid and sick. It’s traumatizing for everyone in this household,” she said.
As for advice to pet owners, Zurita believes communities need to come together and look out for their neighbours’ belongings.
“I would say nowadays you can’t leave anything valuable outside including pets because I don’t think people care that you have an emotional connection to your pet, I think it’s just an item of value that you leave outside,” she said. “I think people have to be more vigilant. I think for communities we have to have more neighbourhood watches and talk to our neighbours and keep a look out for each other as a community.”
Zurita added that she believes there has been an influx of pets being stolen from the Parksville,Qualicum, Errington and Nanoose areas.
Olivia Kenton’s two huskies, Tigger and Kody, disappeared from her yard in Errington on Dec. 24.
“Potentially stolen and dumped due to social media pressure or could have escaped, please help me bring my babies home,” Kenton wrote in a post on social media.