A family dog has been returned to its loving owners after they received a terrifying phone call from a stranger who demanded £1,000 for the pet’s safe return.
Rescue dog Casper, a white and brown Shih Tzu, went missing on Good Friday in Whitegate near Winsford in Cheshire.
Owner Jane Hough, 50, was having a socially distanced birthday celebration with friends in her garden when she received the devastating news that Casper was missing, reports Cheshire Live.
The following day, she received a phone call from an unknown man who claimed to be in possession of Casper, also known as ‘Tinky’, and demanded £1,000 for the dog’s safe return.
Jane said: “It was not very pretty what was said. It is classed as blackmail and we have been asked for £1,000 for the return of Casper but these people can not prove to me that they have him.
“When you lose something like that, a member of your family, it is completely devastating. I’ve never experienced pain like this.
“I said to my husband ‘if this is what worried sick feels like, I don’t ever want to experience it again.’
“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
Casper disappeared on April 2 during a walk with Jane’s son Joseph when the dog bolted.
Jane said: “My son Joseph was walking Casper along with our two other dogs Izzy and Ben near St Mary’s Church in Whitegate on Friday afternoon.
“While attempting to put a lead on Casper, he bolted. He is an ex-rescue dog so can be quite anxious and timid.
“He headed towards Winsford on Grange Lane and has not been seen since.”
Jane, her husband Richard, and Joseph immediately sprang into action and searched for the beloved pooch.
The family even used drones and thermal imaging cameras, and engaged the services of a professional dog catcher.
They also took to social media to try and spread the word in case someone ‘might have taken Casper in’ and the pooch was finally found by a cyclist one week later.
Jane said: “I just wanted to thank the whole community for all their help, the response has been overwhelming and phenomenal.”
Cheshire police confirmed that they had received a report of the suspicious call and said enquiries were being made to identify the caller and officers believed it to be a hoax call.
However, it was good news for Jane and family as much-loved Casper was found by a cyclist on Whitegate Way near Winsford on April 9, one week after he vanished.
Posting on Facebook in an update yesterday, Jane said: “OMG – I can’t believe it.
“Tinky is finally home. Thank you to the cyclist who found him on Whitegate Way. You are an absolute legend.
“Also thank you to Lisa, Jo, Gayle, John and the rest of the dog catcher team who have worked tirelessly over the last week to find him.
“And finally to my family, friends, work colleagues and the community, your support has been fantastic and something I won’t forget.”
Jane told how Casper had been checked over by the vet and was dehydrated and had an ulcer in his right eye.
She added: “He was checked over by the vet yesterday, just a bit dehydrated, got an ulcer in his right eye, potentially caught on a bramble, and he’s got dry eye in both.
“Not bad given that he was out in the elements for nearly seven days.
“He enjoyed a nice warm bath – he was filthy and covered in sticky grass – and ate like a horse.
“He couldn’t wait to snuggle up at bedtime and has snored constantly, still snoring while I am typing this note to you all.”