An autistic boy and his family have endured horrific threats that their therapy dog they believe was stolen will be decapitated.
Luke Sims was inseparable from therapy dog Pippa, a three-year-old Cavopoochon, who helped him manage the 12-year-old’s autism and anxiety.
But after she disappeared in Newark, Notts, two months ago, the family have been inundated by responses to Luke’s reward offer – including seemingly cruel prank calls threatening to decapitate Pippa unless the family paid a £10,000 ransom.
Luke and Pippa were so close that she would even help Luke when he felt overwhelmed, calming him when he had night terrors.
Heartbroken Luke has offered all his birthday money – £90 – in return for information about where his beloved dog is.
Mum Sheila is convinced Pippa has been taken by thieves after the family went to extremes to find Luke’s best friend – including conducting a drone search of the local area.
Police are understood to be investigating reports of malicious communication, and no arrests have been made.
Sheila said: “Pippa does a lot for him that lots of people might not understand. She has a calming effect on him, which is important because he gets frustrated and feels like he can’t cope with things.
“He plays a lot with Pippa, playing catch together and piggy in the middle, it’s a game that’s really calming for him. She loves playing with him, and we used to do that all together.
“She was so helpful for me too, because I could relax at night, before I’d be worried about him at night because he gets nightmares and night tremors. He doesn’t realise he’s doing it, he starts with the covers on him but half an hour later they’ll have fallen off. Pippa would come and wake me up, let me know I need to check on him.
“She would even bring him socks. She’d waits for us to come in and take our shoes off, then helps us with changing them for a new pair of socks. She must have known she got to play or get a treat afterwards.”
She added: “I believe she has been stolen without a doubt. I received a call in the early hours in December, it was a guy asking for £10,000, I told him I only had £1,000 and he said ‘good luck with that, I’m going to chop her head off and dump her at your house.’
“She’s such an important part of our lives, affecting how he is feeling. He’s gone downhill since this has happened after doing so well. He’s just heartbroken.
“He shows it in different ways, but you can tell how it’s hurt him. He won’t buy anything with the money and says it’s staying in the jar until he can thank someone for finding her.
“I can’t explain to him some of these things that are going on. They’re just not nice. Obviously, we’re are reclused as things are at the moment, so not having Pippa here’s been awful.”
Luke said: “I feel so sad and confused, why would people be so unkind and not bring my cuddle buddy home.”
While Sheila continues to appeal for information her search has drawn the eye of heartless and cruel individuals.
Among the calls, some in the early hours of the morning, she’s endured abuse and graphic descriptions of how Pippa had been deliberately ‘run over’ or ‘thrown out of the car.’
Despite these disgusting calls, Sheila is persevering for Luke, believing that among these calls some slithers of truth have emerged.
On the night of November 8, Pippa was accidentally let out while being watched by a friend in central Newark.
She is believed to have made her way to the railway crossing near Winthorpe Estate and followed the train tracks.
Sheila searched around three miles of the track for signs of the pup, before being detained by the British Transport Police.
Understanding her reasoning and obvious signs of distress, she was released without charge, but by that point, Pippa had seemingly vanished.
However, an anonymous person has called the family and claimed Pippa was found in Newark and then transported across to a site in Coventry, Warks.
In total Sheila has bravely travelled three times across Newark and Coventry to meet people, who claimed to either know where Pippa was or demanded money for her to be returned.
They have so far proved to be dead ends, with this particular man taking her and friends across several locations, including a site with storage containers filled with dogs.
After being threatened by others at this site the man then arranged to meet them in a different area, asking to be handed £1,000, without producing evidence that Pippa was there. Sheila refused.
Sheila has grown a network of supporters online in the search for Pippa.
This has included several individuals, who’ve helped her to learn more about the scale of dog thefts and the networks that sell them across the UK and overseas.
She said: “People need to have a heart, think about children and really the whole families that have lost dogs in this way.
“It’s all to do with greed and money.”
She added: “A 1,000 might seem a lot to most, but not to them. They want £5,000 and over. They won’t sell her back to me for £1,000 when they can get something like £2,500 for her.”
The network of supporters has also brought some moments of respite for the family.
Sheila said: “It’s had such a terrible effect on us but I’m quite a strong person, I can keep on going. I won’t give up, I’ve got to go on for Luke because it’s his baby.”
She added: “Deep down I’m hoping someone’s picked her up and kept her, that they see the advert or maybe a neighbour recognises her in the paper, then they’ll let us know.
“That’s what I’m hoping will happen and that she’s not been moved or anything horrible has happened to her.”
Pippa is described as having a black coat but is distinctive due to her having grey on her legs and underbody, along with a white patch on her chest. She has been spayed and microchipped.
If you have information that could lead to the return of Pippa, search for the Facebook group, Pippa Still Missing Newark NG24.