Dog Gone

Last October, Jeanne Clark's Chihuahua, Gucci, vanished into thin air. She's posted Lost Dog fliers all over town, and spent hundreds on ads pleading for the safe return of her teeny pet -- all to no avail. Not even a trip to a local psychic turned up any clues. Jeanne thinks someone's nabbed her dog. Was it you?

New Times: Your dog has been gone for eight months. That's 56 months in dog years!

Jeanne Clark: It's a very long time. It's been the worst thing I've ever gone through. I always knew I loved that little dog, but I had no idea losing her would be so devastating. (Tearing up.) I honestly thought I could talk about it without crying.

NT: That's okay. So your life is sort of about your lost dog now.

Clark: Most of the time. It's getting better. For a long time I couldn't sleep or eat. I couldn't concentrate. I look back on it now and I was just a basket case. My husband still says, "Honey, you're wound a little tight."

NT: What happened?

Clark: I went to Colorado on a Friday morning to see my newborn granddaughter. We took the two dogs, Timex and Gucci, over to my son's house. And somebody, we think it was the exterminator, let Gucci out. He left a note saying, "I'll come back another time, I don't want to let the dog out." We just think he went in and she slipped out.

NT: Horrors!

Clark: My son called about 5 o'clock and said, "Did Gucci have her tags on? She got out." He and some neighborhood friends all went out to look.

NT: Chihuahuas are pretty small dogs. Did he look under the bed?

Clark: Well, she was in the yard. So the first thing I said was, "Did you look in the pool?" It's awful, but it's what I said. Well, she wasn't there. I said, "Hire the neighborhood kids. Go look for her." I look back and wish I'd gotten on the plane that night. I could've found her. She has little legs; how far could she have gotten?

NT: I'm guessing you put up "Lost Dog" posters.

Clark: We were out for 13 hours that first day, nonstop, passing out 300 fliers. You couldn't go down any street without seeing a half-dozen of them. She was spotted on Day Three, but [the woman] didn't mention it until the following day. I'm like, "And you didn't call me yesterday because -- ?"

NT: What an idiot.

Clark: I even sent her a note that said, "You know, the next time you have a chance to help somebody, don't just sit around." She called and said, "I wanted to check with my husband before I told you I had seen your dog." I said, "What does your husband have to do with anything?" You can't believe people. You just can't.

NT: I never do.

Clark: After that, I started running classified ads in all the papers. Then I switched to display ads. It's had a lot of exposure, and I've tracked down a lot of leads, but they haven't amounted to much.

NT: I hate to be an alarmist, but do you think there's a conspiracy? Is there something you aren't being told?

Clark: You know, my daughter brought that up, too. How come Gucci got out and Timex didn't? They're always together. But then, the exterminator left a note. I don't know.

NT: Maybe the exterminator is in on the conspiracy.

Clark: You know, I never called him. At first I was so busy, it didn't occur to me to ask him for details.

NT: Call him. Today!

Clark: And say what? I just have a feeling she got out and he said, "I better cover my tracks," and he left a note about the dog. I think it's him. I can't imagine anyone would steal an 11-year-old Chihuahua.

NT: Did you call that road kill number? The people who pick up dead animals on the side of the road?

Clark: Dead Animal Pickup? I did that. We called them every other day. We went to the pound every day. We registered her on Pets 911 and Missing Mutts and 250 different Web sites.

NT: Maybe you should contact a psychic.

Clark: I actually already did that.

NT: Bingo!

Clark: I know. When you're desperate, you do things you wouldn't normally. I thought, "Anything's possible. I'm not going to rule anything out. Let me see what she has to say."

NT: I'm dying to know.

Clark: She told me what she saw was a couple in their 50s or 60s who had picked Gucci up, but weren't going to look for me because they felt I was not a good parent. Which fits with the fact that she was seen on Day Three and Day Seven and then she was gone into thin air.

NT: Your son must feel terrible. Are you speaking to him?

Clark: You know, I didn't for three weeks. I couldn't. He could've done better with the rescue operation. I finally tried to talk to him, but I was crying hysterically, and that's when he finally realized what this meant to me.

NT: Maybe someone who's reading this knows where Gucci is. What should I tell them if they e-mail me a ransom note?

Clark: Tell them to call me! Do the right thing! But don't count on it. We haven't even gotten any crank calls. I mean, not even people asking how much is the reward.

NT: But you have heard from people asking you to look for their Chihuahua while you searched. Is there some kind of Chihuahua-napping cult?

Clark: I could not believe there could be this many lost Chihuahuas. It's mind-boggling. It got to where people who had found a Chihuahua would call me and ask me to help them find the owner.

NT: You were sort of a Chihuahua clearinghouse.

Clark: Yeah. And you know, there's a Cinco de Mayo Chihuahua Race every year, and I went out there to look, because you never know. There were 40 or 50 Chihuahuas there, and some of them were in purses, they were tiny. But Gucci weighs about 10 pounds; she wouldn't fit into a purse.

NT: That's a big Chihuahua! Maybe this is one of those stories where she's been taken to Vermont by some creepy hairdresser but she'll escape and make her way valiantly back to you, like in a Disney movie.

Clark: Stranger things have happened. You know, it kind of threw my search off a little when the psychic told me about this couple that has Gucci. Of course I went all the way out to the part of town where the psychic said this couple lived, and I drove and drove and drove, but it was a needle in a haystack. She told me that the couple worked in sales and they drove a white SUV. Well, that turned me into a crazy lady, really, because everyone in town drives a white SUV. It got to where I was crawling up onto people's fences to look into their backyards.

NT: No!

Clark: I know. I thought, "I'm really too old for this."

NT: You've gone from being a crazy lady to being an advocate for lost animals. Your mantra is "Is it rescuing or stealing?"

Clark: I want to bring attention to these people who rescue pets but don't try to return them to their owners. They assume we're bad parents because our pets are wandering. I want them to stand up and do the right thing. Call your newspaper today and place an ad in the "Found" column and give the families a chance to reunite. This happens all the time. I'm just one of many. For a lot of people, a pet is a family member. After what I've gone through with Gucci, I think if I ever lost one of my children, I'd just have to slit my throat.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela