It took her a moment to realize her car wasn’t where she’d left it. Then April Doidge felt the real fear of loss.
Not for the ’97 black Honda Civic, but for Chanel, the dog who had ridden to the Spanaway Walgreen’s with her.
The theft of the car puzzled her — she’d only been inside the store 20 minutes or so.
Knowing her Chihuahua-terrier mix, not yet 2 years old, was gone broke her heart.
Nearly two weeks later, the 47-year-old mother of two has her car back — it was found in Federal Way the next day. But while she and her family have done everything they can think of to find the dog, Chanel still is missing.
“I hate that they did this,” Doidge said. “They took a bag of my daughter’s clothes, they took the insurance chip from the car, some CDs, the spare tire ...
“And they left some (of their) things: a glass pipe, empty beer cans.”
“We don’t know what happened to Chanel. She could have gotten out of the car anywhere; they could have taken her, sold her, given her away,” Doidge said, fighting tears. “That’s the worst. We just don’t know.”
Law enforcement reports have been filed in Spanaway, where the theft occurred, and in Federal Way, where the vehicle was found. Authorities have a photo of Chanel, but unless someone walks into a station house with the dog, it’s doubtful officers will find her.
“We’ve posted her as a missing dog,” Federal Way Police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. “But we don’t know where she was lost — here, in Spanaway or somewhere in-between.”
Humane Society Tacoma-Pierce County spokeswoman Marguerite Richmond said cases like these are unusual.
“We’ve heard about dogs stolen, although it’s relatively rare, and stealing a car with a dog in it is rare,” she said.
“Sometimes, they’re found. Some never are.”
What does the Humane Society advise people in Doidge’s situation to do?
“Put posters up near where the car was stolen and where it was found,” Richmond said. “Call all the veterinarian clinics and email a photo of the dog to all of them so they can put it on a bulletin board.
“Check with all the animal shelters in the region and beyond — in this case, probably in Auburn and Seattle — and send them photos, too.”
Doidge has done all that and more.
“We’ve advertised on Craigslist and put her photo up on the lost dog sites on Facebook and Twitter,” she said.
What no one has told Doidge to do she has done, anyway: Offer a reward for the safe return of her dog.
“Chanel is tan with a little white on her chest and looks more like a terrier than a Chihuahua,” Doidge said. “She had a pink collar on but no ID, and we didn’t put a chip in her. She was spayed Aug. 9, and has a fresh little scar on her stomach.
“I bought her a year and a half ago for my daughter, Autumn, but I think I may have cried more than Autumn has, and I can’t explain that. Probably because it happened when I was with her.
“Chanel just loved riding in the car.”
There are details about the Aug. 17 evening theft that haunt Doidge.
“Walgreen’s has video of the parking lot, but I parked just out of its view,” she said. “Then there was the insurance chip on the car — it doesn’t show location, but it showed the car was stolen about five minutes after I parked.
“What it did show was that whoever stole the car drove 15.3 miles and stopped, then another seven miles, and they were driving between 72 and 90 mph at some point.
“From their final stop to the strip mall where they dumped the car, they drove 2 miles. I don’t know if that means they live within 2 miles or not.”
Doidge hasn’t given up hope, and the Humane Society said she shouldn’t.
“We have reunited people and pets five, even 10 years after a disappearance, and you know those pets have been living with someone,” Richmond said. “Just keep checking, keep calling. Dogs can wind up pretty far afield.”