I still remember the day in March 2003 when we went to pick him up to become a member of our family. This small, soft, chocolate brown bundle of Curly Coated Retriever curls with his unique golden eyes, at 8 weeks old, was the pick of the litter. On the drive home he didn’t want to sit in his box, he’d rather lay on my lap with his long floppy ears draped over my knees. This must have been where his obsession with being a lap dog began, which became difficult and quiet comical as he got older and bigger.

Fonzie or "Fonnie Boy" as he is affectionately known is not like any other creature I have ever met before, I guess he has to be seen to be believed. For lack of a better description he has a ‘bubbly’ personality, a real funny cheeky little character, he always makes me laugh. "Fonnie" originated from my 2year old niece who at the time could not say Fonzie. You could often hear the cry "Fonnie’s got my lippies" as Fonz makes a mad dash out the door with one of her slippers in his mouth, and everyone chasing behind. The only reason he took it was to be chased; he loves that. I let him develop into the dog that he wanted to be, I taught him manners, yes, but I never stifled his true spirit and he has grown into the most intelligent and kind hearted little gentleman. All Fonzie’s living is done with great spirit, I can’t help but take note of the fact that he never just walks to where he is going, he bounds or trots with excitement everywhere, every time without fail. His motto for life is "pounce & play". That is one of the things I fear the most, that he has lost his special spirit while he’s been gone.

When Fonzie came into my life I had just left my current day job, so all I was doing were odd casual jobs and working at home. So all of my time was spent with or very closely nearby Fonzie, my little shadow. Every time I had to go to town or out somewhere with my family or be away from Fonz for any length of time, I had what I would refer to as ‘Fonzie withdrawal symptoms’. Even though I’d be told I‘m being silly, we’d have to hurry up and come home so I can see him. When I did go out and have to leave him behind I would always arrange a "sitter" for him. This was most often my brother and his family including their Jack Russell dog Digger, whom Fonzie looked up to with great admiration (even though as Fonz grew older technically he had to look down on him as he was half his size). Fonzie doesn’t know this yet, but about two months after he left his best mate Diggie was taken by a snakebite.

From the moment Fonzie came to live with us I had this feeling something terrible was going to happen to him, I just didn’t know what that something was exactly. I thought I had all my bases covered for his safety, unfortunately being stolen never crossed my mind. Before that October morning, I naively did not know dogs got stolen, as a supporter of the Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne I am aware of the hundreds of thousands of homeless, unwanted dogs in Australia so why take someone elses much loved and wanted one.

Yet at approximately 12:00 am on the morning of Tuesday the 12th of October 2004 I went to check on Fonzie as usual. As he always does he nuzzled his dinner bowl for a midnight snack; I gave him his snack and said goodnight. At about 6:30 am that same morning my mother saw him playing with our working kelpie dog Wally or as we refer to him whilst around Fonz ‘Uncle Wal’. At about 6:45 am my father heard a car door slam, but as we live near a main road those types of sounds are not unusual. At 7:00 am Fonzie was not at his usual spot on the verandah waiting for my father to tie him up, as is his morning ritual. He knows he’s not to chase the poultry at their morning feeding but he just can’t help himself, they’re just so enticing. I have not seen my baby boy since his last midnight snack. I don’t know if I told him I loved him that particular night but I do know that I did often tell him how much he means to me and that I love him very much.

Somebody put him in their vehicle and just drove away with my baby, they just took him away, I can’t believe or come to terms with that and feel sick to my stomach just at the thought. My little boy has gone and I don’t know where he is. The people who have done this may not realise the complete power and control they have of my present life and future, not to mention Fonzie’s existence. They did this to Fonz and to me, I know I didn’t do this to myself. They can fix everything for Fonz and for me by bringing him back, they can’t honestly need Fonzie as much as I do. Who was the one who gave Fonzie his warm morning milk every morning when he was little? Who was the one who took Fonzie out in the pitch black of night and taught him his ‘puppy toilet training’ by torchlight? They will not be taking care of him, if they are at all, to the standards he deserves. I know what he likes and how he likes it because I was the one who raised him and taught him to accept nothing but the best. Humans can do terrible, atrocious things to animals and I can do nothing but think what if he’s not having his proper home cooked meals? What if he doesn’t have access to fresh water? What if he hasn’t been wormed or had his vaccinations? What if he’s cold? What if he’s hot? What if he’s not safe from other dogs, cars, snakes, ticks, diseases, cruel humans, baits and poisons? What if he is not being monitored while he’s swimming and eating so he doesn’t drown or choke? What if he doesn’t have a comfy bed to sleep on or toys to play with? What if he is not continuing with his obedience lessons, as a Curly Coated Retriever needing 3 years to reach his mental maturity, he is still learning. What if they’re making him scared and aggressive he doesn’t deserve to have negative feelings of any kind, he is such a positive, happy friendly little man. What if they are calling him a name other than Fonzie and his existence with me is slowly being erased from his memory? What if he is no longer the Fonzie I know?

What if?, what if?, what if?

I often think, what could I have done to prevent this from happening. I know I was conscious not to upset anybody or make any "enemies" in my life so that they wouldn’t retaliate and harm Fonzie. I could have made Fonzie into a bitter, unfriendly dog that bit everyone he met. My two previous dogs I had, as precious and friendly as they were, had limits to the personal interaction that could be had with them. One in particular had to be sedated and muzzled, just to be put into the car for a visit to the vet. I didn’t want that sort of existence for Fonz; he absolutely loves his car rides. However these two dogs happily lived their lives on the same property for 13 years without anyone even attempting to take them. Because I have young nieces I thought it the responsible thing to do for both them and Fonzie, to teach him manners and to be friendly with human interactions as well as interactions with other dogs. He was to trusting, for his own self preservation I should have taught him to bite and run, poor little might didn’t have a chance.

Fonzie was not microchipped or de-sexed. From what I have learnt on my finding Fonzie journey, society may frown on that and yes if I had my time over again from what I now know the pros out weigh the cons and I would have him microchipped, but still no to having him de-sexed. Fonzie being an entire male did not bother him nor did it bother anybody else. I didn’t want to put him through an unnecessary operation, one that I thought could be potentially life threatening with anaesthetics, human errors and such. Even now I wouldn’t carve him up just because people can’t control their urges to steal. He has a right to live out his life in one piece.

There was more than one reason for not microchipping. I heard the microchip could travel and lodge in joints. I classed Fonzie along with his Uncle Wal as a working farm dog, even though Fonz is more of a "chaser" than a "worker" of cattle, he did try and working dogs don’t require microchipping in New South Wales. I never ever thought of Fonzie as a personal possession, he’s a family member, you don’t microchip your kids. At the time he was taken Fonzie was wearing his yellow nylon buckle collar with a green Lost Dogs Home tag Number NW374, which was sufficient enough identification where we live for a "Lost" dog however not much use to a stolen one. These have most likely been removed by now, however I live in hope that someone may come across his discarded tag some day. Fonzie also had a little bone shaped tag with his name and phone number on it, this tag had fallen off his collar only days before he was taken and I had yet to put it back on. There was no urgency he was young, I was young we had plenty of time, or so I thought. My family let me follow them into their delusional thinking that where we live is a paradise, a safe little oasis away from the cruel and nasty world. "He didn’t need a microchip because nobody was going to just take him, people aren’t like that". I had to learn the hard way and Fonzie had to pay the price.

For the longest time after Fonzie was taken I believed there had been some sort of mistake or misunderstanding, that he had been taken by accident, and they were going to bring him back to me. As the 12month mark approaches part of me still believes that they might give my boy back.

I have done everything I could possibly think of to try and find Fonzie. Since he was taken I have posted flyers in my community 100kms to the north and 100kms to the south. I have contacted Curly Retriever breeders throughout Australia. Contacted over 200 obedience and kennel clubs in NSW and ACT and over 200 veterinary clinics in Southern NSW, ACT and regional VIC. Contacted Gundog clubs, RSPCA and various shelters in QLD, NSW, VIC, ACT, SA and TAS. I have put Fonzie’s details on every lost pet website and Australian dog forum I could find on the Internet. I have put advertisements in more than one newspaper publication, I have created Fonzie his very own webpage, and I made signs to put on the roadside near our property even these are continuously stolen or smashed into pieces. I handed out Fonzie leaflets with my dad’s corn sales. I finally got the police to listen and take a crime report on Fonzie’s theft, although I honestly don’t know how seriously they took me or Fonz’s situation. The local law enforcement put more effort into someone’s stolen mobile phone or bicycle. I think of Fonzie as my baby but of course I have no physical link to him, so I had a sample from him DNA tested so that I have the security that Fonzie is Fonzie. So they can shave off his fur, dye him bright pink and call him pinky but they won’t ever be able to change his DNA. I have even contacted a couple of physics to try and help me find my boy. I have tried to be careful in what personal information I give out with Fonzie’s details in his search, but still I live pretty much all of my life in fear now. Having your protector and bodyguard stolen wouldn’t make anyone feel very secure at all.

I never took for granted the time I spent with Fonz, I always thought of it as a blessing to have him in my life. Yet there are still a lot of things that fall into the category of "we’ll do that tomorrow".

There are so many countless things I miss about Fonzie. I miss doing obedience lessons with him, he’s such a clever little boy and he looks so cute doing his sit, down, come and stays with a look on his face that says "why are we doing this". I miss taking him for walks along the river, teaching him to swim and watching him catch bubbles on the waters edge. I miss rescuing the poultry from his ‘pounce & play’ policy. I miss his cuddles and having him fall asleep on my lap. I miss him climbing in behind me on the lounge chair and kicking, wiggling and squirming his way into my spot, nestling down and making himself comfortable. I miss chasing him around the garden with a "catch me if you can" look on his face, after he’d just come inside and stolen a shoe, teddy bear, wallet, feather duster or any such item that wasn’t nailed down. I miss our chats where I could always cry on his soft shoulder and have him care about me more than anyone else does. I miss taking photos of Fonz, I only had Fonzie’s special scrapbook half finished when he was taken from me. I got a little carried away with the camera when he was a puppy, I thought I had plenty of time to get his scrapbook up to date and take a lot more photos. I can’t bring myself to continue on with his book without him here, I know it won’t be filled with the joyful, happy tones it had while I was doing it when he was with me. I miss going to the pet section in the shops when I’m in town and choosing a new toy or treat to bring home to Fonz and watching his eyes light up when I give it to him. Fonzie’s favourite toy, his squeaky ball Larry misses being pounced on and made to ‘squeak’. There is an endless list of things I miss about Fonzie.

There is also an endless list of things waiting here at home for him. Uncle Wal doesn’t understand why Fonzie has suddenly gone and he is waiting for Fonz to come home. Fonzie’s bed and toys are all gathering dust waiting for him. His soft toy "Mr-Froggy" is waiting patiently for another mauling. Fonzie’s home cooked meals are waiting for him in the freezer; they can’t wait much longer before they go off. Fonzie’s treats are going stale in the cupboard waiting for him. Fonzie’s present from Christmas 2004 remains unwrapped waiting here for him. Fonzie has many bones and treats buried in the front and back yards waiting for him, how would you feel being forcibly kept away from your buried treasures not being able to meticulously check on them as Fonzie always did.

I don’t want anyone to forget about Fonz or what is happening to him, but I can’t get people to understand how I really feel. There is only one person I have found in this entire country who truly understands and has empathy for Fonzie and me. Susan Dennis with all she has done in her search for her much loved English Setter Beau is an inspiration and has given me the strength to continue on searching for Fonz and not to lose hope. Many if not all people especially the people in my community including family and friends have a lack of understanding of how important Fonzie is to me and the strong connection I have with him. The impression they give me in many different ways is that just because he is a dog his life isn’t worth worrying about. Does everyone feel that way? The phrase that upsets me the most is "Are you going to get another one?" I can’t comprehend that. When asking local businesses in my community, if I could put a ‘Lost Dog’ flyer in their shop window or noticeboard I was always met with a look as if I had just asked them to donate a kidney. Any that were put up were promptly taken down within a day, two if I was real lucky, they are happy to accept flyers and posters of anything and everything except Fonzie’s predicament. Just because Fonzie has fur and 4 legs doesn’t mean he is just a piece of rubbish to discard, that he doesn’t feel the same amount of pain and fear as any human. I know he definitely has a lot more sense and understanding than a lot of people I have met.

All I know is how I feel think I am crazy if you must but believe it. I have no future without him, I value his life over my own, losing Fonzie is worse for me than losing a limb or having to face some life threatening illness. His absence is killing me, it has already killed my future plans and dreams, Fonzie is a vital part of any I had. Since Fonzie was taken my life has come to a halt, I have thought of one thing and only one thing for months on end; it has become both emotionally and physically tiring. When I see people in the streets or out and about enjoying time with their dogs or I see a dog of any kind on the television, or hear them being talked about on the radio it feels as though a knife is being driven in deeper each time. Who ever has my Fonz, they can continue on with their lives, with their family, in their community amongst other people, without anyone knowing that they are the bad guy, because what they have done is wrong and surely is illegal. I have found all the bad things that have happened in my life in the past have had an end, a point at which I could somewhat let go and move on, as it stands I see no end to this. I am going to be made to feel like this for the next 60 years, long after Fonzie has passed away of old age. I live in hope that some day, somehow he will come back to me, hope is the only thing that keeps me going. I was and still am so looking forward to taking care of Fonzie for many, many years right into his twilight ones.

Although I wish all the time that Fonzie had never met me, if he hadn’t he wouldn’t be going through this. I will never forgive myself for ruining the life of this precious, innocent little creature. I forced him into my life and didn’t do enough to protect and keep him safe. It is very selfish of me to think like this, before this happened I would have NEVER dreamt to think it. But if Fonzie had of passed away from some accident and was at peace, of course I would be devastated, but I could possibly see myself moving on some day knowing he is safe and not being tortured. Selfish of me to think like that because it would make me feel better, but this situation isn’t about me and how I feel, never has been. It is all about Fonzie and what he is going through. Although everything I have ever done in my life has been done with other peoples feelings in mind sometimes I would like to exercise my right to sound greedy and say "He’s mine and I want him back". When people say, "I lost my dog (to death), I know it’s hard you’ll get over it blah, blah, blah", they don’t really understand. I’ve lost (to death) other dogs before, but having my special little Fonzie out there somewhere suffering god only knows what atrocities and not being able to protect and save him, is a whole different ball game.

I know Fonzie is out there someone waiting for me and wondering why it is taking me so long to come and get him. I will never give up or lose hope that my little boy will come home to me because if I was kidnapped and held against my will, I would hope that my family or at least someone who cared just a little wouldn’t give up trying to find me.


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