Jacob the dog had all the food he needed, a friendly female Pomeranian for company and a bed on the porch from which to watch the world pass by.
Owners Bud and Jan Leatham adored him, fed him indoors, let him out on their five-acre property near Fredrickson, and never worried about him.
“He rarely went out on the road, and the few times he did, he never went far,” Jan said.
Until June 28.
On that morning, between 9 and 10 a.m, the 4-year-old Pomeranian-mix apparently went on a doggie adventure. Jacob’s disappearance — under suspicious circumstances — has broken the hearts of his owner and put an entire neighborhood on alert.
Forget the $1,000 reward for Jacob’s return. Most people just want to see him back on that front porch.
“They call with tips, and I follow up on every one of them, but people say they wouldn’t want a reward,” Jan said.
What happened to Jacob doesn’t fit under the usual dog-disappearance categories. It doesn’t appear he got lost or was snatched up by a coyote or wandered into someone else’s house.
Two people saw Jacob being pursued by two women in a black car, and one man, a 76-year-old who asked that his name not be used, saw one of the women grab the dog.
“I was going by and slowed down to see what they were doing,” the man said. “There were two women in a black car that had so much stuff in the back I thought they must be living in that car or out garage sale-ing.
“As I was passing them, they were putting this little dog in the car.”
He thought it odd but didn’t worry about it until he saw a missing dog poster put up by the Leathams. That’s when he called Jan.
“I’ve prayed for that woman,” he said.
Charity Miller saw the black car, too, and watched it slowly driving behind a dog that fit Jacob’s description.
“It was pretty obvious they were trying to get a little golden Pomeranian, but the dog kept running down the road,” Miller said.
A Pomeranian kidnapping?
A week later, that conspiracy theory took on a bit more weight.
“Two women called and said they’d seen an ad on an online yard-selling site, offering a ‘Pom’ for sale they’d had one week,” Jan said. “There was a photo, and it looked like Jacob. Before I got there, the ad had been taken down..”
The Leathams contacted the site, but were told there would be no release of confidential information.
By that time, the Leathams were feeling desperate. They’d hired a two-dog tracking team, which picked up Jacob’s scent at the front gate but lost it 19 blocks away — about where the man had seen two women picking him up.
Jan hired a trapper to place live traps in the area, in case Jacob was simply lost.
“We caught a cat,” she said.
She made and posted more than 1,000 posters. Neighbors and local businesses put them up in prominent spots. Often, Jan said, the people who took the posters prayed for her.
“We’ve helped find a few other lost dogs, but not Jacob,” she said. “Not knowing what happened to him is more difficult than if he’d died. We check the animal shelters each day, post on Facebook, put an ad in the paper.”
“There’s a woman not far from us that has a Pomeranian — in fact, she’s offered it to us, she feels so bad for us. Well, we’ve gotten a half dozen calls about a Pomeranian sighting that have turned out to be that one dog.”
As the days mount up, Jan insists she still has hope. Jacob, she said, is part of the Leatham family, and tips keep coming in.
“The reward is still $1,000 for the return of Jacob, alive and well, no questions asked,” she said.