Finding Flash

I know the horror stories all too well. I’m a journalist after all. Yes, I was cautious, but clearly not cautious enough. People pointed fingers at me and raised questions about me. It felt personal. I was hurt, but I would not waste time playing the blame game. Time was running out to find our stolen pup.
That Thursday, I came home to the absolute devastation of not seeing Flash in his spot. Yes, he was the one who was the fattest but still ran the fastest, who already had a bark and jumped over anything. Yet, there is no way he would have run off. Looking at the camera footage, my fears were confirmed. He had been stolen by a man who called out to him and pulled him by his paws through the automated gate bars. Devastation turned to determination to get him back.
My husband drove around the neighbourhood and major intersections in Phoenix. I walked through the small roads and narrow pathways with our neighbour, asking around if anyone saw a pup fitting Flash’s description. I put up messages on my personal Facebook and the many lost and found Facebook pages for pets. I asked my friend, Rachel Vadi, to circulate the message on Phoenix Whatsapp crime groups. Online and face-to-face, I found many shares, support and some cynicism. A few colleagues told me that I should face reality; that my pet was gone. Others asked me what was so special about my pup?
Well, he and his five siblings are very special. They are so special that I in fact tried to hide them from the world and not write about them on my blog. I was afraid that this would somehow attract online pet-nappers. My friends and family can attest to that. To answer the question what makes them so special… is a long story. But, I am finally ready to share it.
Flash is no pedigree, he’s the so-called pavement special. His mother is Misty, our dog who will turn two next month. We had planned to mate her with a friend’s dog soon. But we were too slow. She went for a walk one night during the mating season and became a mother of six! Yes, she is just a baby herself, but still the queen of our house as my son fondly calls her. Read about how we celebrated Misty’s first birthday here.
If you read carefully, it’s easy to grasp that my worst fear is losing a pet – although it may be a natural death, it doesn’t make it easier. I was wrong; having a pet being stolen is the worst. I watched Flash being born, I watched him open his eyes, learn to walk and then bark. He was the only male from the litter and clearly had a mind of his own. He became the life of our home. Family and friends came to visit to see and play with these bundles of joy. There was lots of laughter, even more poop and cleaning. We weren’t complaining. Every day brought a new joy.
I took all the pups for their vaccinations and de-worming and then began screening families for good homes. I did not expect people to pay thousands of rand for the pups. But, I did ask if they would pay for the vaccinations and de-worming. In that way, I knew that they were willing to take the first step to being pet owners. We had decided on keeping one male and one female and they were settling into their new routine, away from their other siblings and comfortable with mum.
Flash was too comfortable. He would still suckle Misty for milk. At times, she would allow it, but then those baby teeth would get to her and she would move away. Thinking about that broke my heart. How would Flash survive without his mother?
Misty was still recovering and was resting at the back of the house on that dreadful day of the pet-napping. We had the pups secluded, but as I explained, Flash found a way out. We under-estimated how determined he would he.
Again, I drew on that determination to find him. Taking advice from wonderful souls on the lost and found Facebook pages, I made posters with his picture and a reward being offered. I also chatted to Marc Chetty from KZN Animal Rescue. He was clear: do whatever it takes to get your dog back or he could be used as dig bait or be groomed for dog fighting. So off we went, hand in hand, my husband, son and I walked through the Phoenix Plaza taxi rank giving out posters and speaking to people. We did get some leads from the Whatsapp crime groups that he was spotted in a few places. We went to these places, but our questions yielded nothing positive.
A colleague had suggested I contact an angel card reader who is able to communicate with pets. I considered it. My husband was sceptical. I went onto Facebook to check if there were any updates about Flash. Strangely enough, a friend’s name came up and he posted something about angels. And so I messaged Bivaash Ramroop, asking if he could assist. I’m going to post his response here, exactly as I received it.
“Hi Maya. I am so sorry for the loss of your pet. I have not done any readings for stolen items before. However, I do Angel Readings and sometimes the Angels withhold information because it is in our karma to undergo certain experiences. I did ask the Angels and all they showed me was a house and the colour green.
These symbols have a lot of meaning. The most obvious would be that the puppy is in or near a green house. Or the puppy is in a green building, or a house on a farm, or a house with a lot of greenery.
Green also represents wealth, so perhaps the puppy is already sold to someone who paid a lot of money for it. Or to a wealthy person with a nice home.
Green also represents the heart chakra. So it could also mean the puppy is in the centre of an area. Or in a centralised location.”
My husband was still sceptical but those words gave me hope. I felt, somehow, that Flash was still nearby. Back home, my husband got busy making our house look like a prison, literally. He bought additional re-inforcing for the automated gate to cover up the bars. I get into my car with my son and started driving around the neighbourhood, once more. I stop at several corner-shops/tuckshops asking for help to locate Flash. I chat to the young boys at these shops and explained that I lived nearby so they could walk to my house if they had any information. I give out more posters. I also drop off a poster with our vet, thinking that maybe if Flash was sold off the streets to someone, they would take him in for a check-up.
By then, I am emotionally exhausted. I pray for a miracle. It is Saturday. The silence is getting to me. Misty is anxious and agitated. She continuously runs to the front of the house, looking for Flash, and probably wondering how he disappeared. Flash’s sister Storm is lost and lonely. I am emotional. I cannot accept that he was gone, and that we would never see him again. Yes, I am going a bit crazy about this. My husband tells me not to get my hopes up – he is being practical, but I know he is as upset as I am.
That afternoon, a young man comes to our gate, asking about “the lady in the pink car looking for the pup”. A few minutes later, my husband is in his car, driving off with this man. He claims to have seen the person walking with our pup, and knew where he hangs out. So, my husband arrives at this ground, some roads away from our house in another unit of Phoenix. There, a group of men are fixing cars. This young man points out the alleged suspect to my husband and as my husband approaches, he starts running away. This commotion alerts the guys he hangs out with, and they ask my husband about the situation. There is a “head guy” of sorts. He talks to my husband while rolling some weed, dagga, marijuana, whatever you prefer to call it. He calls himself “Rasta”. My husband promises a reward if he can find our pup, and he takes my husband’s number down, saying he will trace Flash. My husband comes home, still doubtful. I’m still hopeful. I’m grateful that there is something positive.
It’s Sunday morning. My husband’s cellphone rings. He ignores it. I scream, “Answer it! It could be that guy calling for Flash”. My craziness is going to another level. And, I hadn’t slept properly since the day he was stolen. The voice booms from the cellphone, “Hello, Rasta here. I think you must come, I have your dog.” I am stunned. My husband is wary. He realises, from his last visit, that there could be other dangers lurking there. Not just dagga, but perhaps they are dealing in other drugs too. I advise him not to go alone. We call our neighbour who quickly gets dressed and accompanies him.
Within minutes, the reward is paid, and Flash is home. He has lost weight, he is greasy, but he is fine. He is happy to be back with his mother and sister, where he belongs.
So the story my husband was told is that he was sold to a man for R500. Does that mean they stole him from that man? Most probably. Were the guys that we paid the reward to in on it? Did they steal the pup just to make money from selling him and then steal him again to get a reward from us? What is the truth? I do not know. All, I know is that it’s a sick cycle. And sadly, pet-napping is reaching epidemic proportions. Those who buy stolen dogs are a big part of the problem. I can only appeal to their conscience to help stop this trend.
That afternoon, my sceptical husband tells me to tell my friend that he was correct about everything. He points out that he found Flash at a ground– so yes, greenery. And the area is in a central location. He says there was another meaning to the green mentioned – the dagga or weed that was green too. But why a green house, I ask? I tell my husband that I want to see the ground where Flash was found. And then, I see something my husband did not – there are many green houses nearby, and if the houses aren’t green, the roofs are painted green. How accurate!
Many people asked us why did we go to such lengths and place our lives in possible danger to get our pup back. How could we not? No one has the right to take what is ours, it is wrong. If we do not fight for our rights, who will? Flash is a part of our family, he was born in our home. How could we not put up a fight to get him back when we know that he will put his life in danger to protect us? That’s what dogs do, and pavement specials, are well, all that more special. Clearly, they know how to rough it out on the streets, like Flash. That night, I watched him carefully. He seemed to have nightmares and was shaking in his sleep. I was shaken too. I fear to think what would have happened to him if we did not get him back. It took him a few days to calm down. Now he is back to his bubbly, mischievous ways!
I am thankful to everyone who helped and supported us in this journey to bring Flash back home. There are many people, but a few deserve a special mention – Marc Chetty from KZN Animal Rescue, Rachel Vadi, Bivaash Ramroop and two strangers who I recall sharing my post far and wide and assisting with tips to find Flash – Chantelle Naidoo and Nikki Mathios.
And, as much as it was a journey of heartache, there was also something heart-warming that came out of it. I realised, again, just how much good there is in the community of Phoenix. No matter how many labels people may use for this community, all is not lost. Even with technology and social media communication evolving to the level that it has, you cannot underscore the value of communicating face-to-face with people at the corner shops in Phoenix. Here, nothings spread as fast as things said by word of mouth. So the next time you visit and need something, forget about looking for the nearest wi-fi hotspot, just ask around – you’d be surprised at how helpful the community can be.

7 thoughts on “Finding Flash

  1. Beautiful, absolutely heart-warming. Pets become kids to you…. People that have never owned pets will never understand!

  2. I share your sentiments on so many points in this post. There is always a bigger picture and people doing their best to rid this cycle but of course, the bad guys will always find a way. I’m glad Flash is safe and unharmed, fur-babies need to be protected too! Great read Maya!

  3. You’re 1 brave, determinded chic!
    I shuddet to think what I would be like had it been Sadie or Zazu. Overprotective of my mongrels, aka pavement specials!

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