The Case of the Phantom Puppysnatchers
I was just finishing up a rousing game of hide and seek with my munk buddies. I had already located Nutsy, who always hides behind the couch, making him easy to find. I told him he should try hiding some place else, once in a while, if he didn’t want to be found so quickly.
I had also found Cheeks, who was excellent at hiding, but always has a snack with him. While I was searching, I could easily hear him crunching on his puffed cheesy treats. All I had to do was follow the CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, all the way to his hiding spot.
Chippy was different. He was always difficult to find. We played hide and seek with a timer. If I couldn’t find all the munks quickly enough, the alarm would sound and they would win. Time was quickly running out. If I didn’t locate my munk buddy soon, he’d win and I’d have to give him some of my kibbles. He, and the rest of the munks, loved my kibbles as much as I did.
“Why don’t you just sniff him out?” Nutsy asked me. “You’ve got the best nose I’ve ever known. You could find him in no time.”
“Because I promised not to do that,” I said, shaking my head. “I won’t cheat to win a game. Where’s the fun in that?”
The little furball just shrugged. “Winning is fun.”
“Not like that,” I said. “We play fair, or we don’t play at all.”
“Right,” Cheeks said, licking the salty, tangy orange cheese-puff dust off his fingers. If only he knew his whole face was covered in it. After I found Chippy, I’d help Cheeks clean that up. “Gizmo plays fair. If he used his nose, he’d find us all in no time at all. No time at all.”
“You sound like Echo,” I said. Echo was my Rottweiler friend that lived in the house behind us. “She can’t say anything without saying it twice.”
“That’s true. That’s true,” Nutsy said, running around in circles, chasing his tail.
“Okay, you two. Stop stalling me. I need to find Chippy before time runs out.” The two munks giggled wildly and scrambled up the stairs to the main floor of our house. “Okay, Chippy,” I said with a laugh. “Where are you hiding, I wonder?”
I raced around the basement, the TV room, my dad’s office, and finally the bathroom. Nope. He wasn’t anywhere down there. The rascal must have snuck upstairs while I was searching for the other two. It wasn’t against the rules, but it was hard to get up the stairs without me hearing them. Chippy was becoming a better sneaker every day.
Quick as a bunny, I bounded up the stairs to begin my search for the final munk. Imagine my surprise when I saw all three of my munk buddies sitting on the windowsill, staring out into the backyard. Their tails were straight up, vibrating like crazy. When they did that, it could only mean one thing.
“What’s wrong?” I raced across the living room to take a look at what had frightened the munks. “What’s going on?”
“There are two men back there,” Chippy said. “I think they’re trying to take Echo away.”
I wanted to claim victory for finding Chippy before the timer went off, but he wasn’t playing hide and seek anymore. I could hear the fear in his voice. There was danger outside, very real danger.
The munks often played tricks on me, but I knew they’d never joke about something like this. Nutsy’s back foot was thumping out a warning, while Cheeks chewed his tiny little claws. I rushed to the window, nosing my way past the munks, who were making it difficult for me to get close enough to see what was happening.
Using my snoot like a battering ram, I pushed my way through the munks until I had a clear view. I narrowed my eyes as I stared at the men. They were not my neighbors, and they shouldn’t have been back there. I was sure of it.
“I don’t know them,” I said. “And I don’t like those poles they’re carrying. I think those loops at the end are for snaring dogs.” I had watched a TV show once where dogsnatchers used tools like that. I had called them poles-of-doom.
“Who are you? Who are you?” Echo barked out. “Tell me. Tell me.”
The two men ignored her questions. A tall thin man with messy brown hair was circling behind Echo, while the shorter, heavier man with stringy blond hair waved his pole-of-doom at her. It looked like the short man was trying to slip the pole’s noose over her head.
“They’re trying to take her!” I was so frightened I could barely say the words. I wanted to bark for my mom and dad to come, but they were gone to buy me food and they likely wouldn’t be back for at least an hour.
“Help! Help!” Echo barked. “Danger! Danger!”
“We need to help her!” Chippy said. “Gizmo, open the back door. We need to stop them.”
I knew how to open the door. It was a trick I learned early on, but I didn’t use it. My parents didn’t like me going out of the house without them. But I could see that the door was locked, and I wasn’t able to unlock it. The twisty thing was hard to turn on my own.
It’s a good thing I’ve got my munk buddies with me!
“Okay munks,” I said, using my take-charge, big-dog voice. “Climb up onto my head. You need to twist the lock thing so I can open the door.”
I didn’t need to tell them twice. The munks climbed up my leg, across my back, and all the way up to my head. I quickly touched my nose against the twisty thing so they could climb up to it. Working as a team, they gave it a quick twist until it unlocked.
“You need to get down now,” I said, peering out the window of the backdoor. “This is too dangerous for munks. Stay here. Stay safe.”
“No way,” Cheeks said, still licking cheese dust off his fingers. “I laugh at danger. We’re coming. Echo’s our friend, too.”
“I don’t laugh at danger,” Nutsy said, rolling his eyes. “That’s dangerous. It’s called danger for a reason.”
“You can stay behind,” I said. “Echo would understand.”
“I just said I don’t laugh at danger. I didn’t say I wasn’t coming.” I could smell the fear rolling off my little friend, but I couldn’t see it in his face. His chest was puffed out and his chin held high. “I’m not going to run away when my friends need my help.”
“We’re all coming,” Chippy said. “While you’re busy saving Echo, we’ll watch your back.”
“Let’s go then,” I said, pawing at the door’s lever until it sprung open.
By the time I got out the door, the short, heavy man had his pole looped around Echo’s neck. He was dragging her between the houses, taking her towards the front yard. While he was doing that, the tall skinny man was heading towards Lexi’s house. The golden retriever puppy was in her backyard, three houses down, barking her head off, sounding a warning to anyone nearby.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I stop the short man who had snared Echo, or should I go after the tall man who was on his way to snatch up Lexi?
“Save the puppy,” Chippy said. “We’ll follow the short man taking Echo to see where he goes. There’s no telling how many dogs they’ve snatched.”
“I’m going with Gizmo,” Nutsy said. “He needs a wing munk.”
While Chippy and Cheeks took off between the houses in search of Echo, I snatched up Nutsy in my mouth and rocketed across the backyards to save Lexi.
Our backyards were very small, and there were no fences to block the way. I had a clear path across the grass and snow, and I was running full out; so fast that my feet were barely touching the ground. I just needed to make sure I didn’t lose my footing on a slippery patch. Now was not a good time to wipe out.
I wanted to bark, to let Lexi know we were coming, but I couldn’t do that with a mouthful of munk. My little striped buddies didn’t mind if I carried them like this. They totally trusted that I wouldn’t hurt them, although they often got pretty soggy. I couldn’t help it if I drooled.
“Run between his legs,” Nutsy said. “You can trip him the same way you accidentally trip your mom and dad.”
I chuckled at his suggestion. I had knocked my parents down a few times by running between their legs. It was always good for a laugh, but right now, I wasn’t joking around. My friend was in real danger, and I needed to save that puppy from being stolen.
“When you get close, spit me out. I’ll untie Lexi’s leash while you trip the bad man.”
The idea was crazy, but that was Nutsy’s specialty. He came up with all sorts of silly-sounding ideas, but they almost always worked. I nodded to tell him I understood while I ran full blast at the man who was trying to put his loop around Lexi’s neck.
“Get him, Gizmo!” she barked out. “Get him, good!”
The man was so busy trying to catch Lexi that he never knew I was coming. Just before I ran between his legs to trip him, I launched Nutsy from my mouth with a giant “Ptooey!” He looked like a soggy fur-missile as he streaked towards Lexi.
But there was no time for me to watch him fly. I ran headlong into the tall, skinny man’s legs, knocking his feet out from underneath him. I quickly spun around, just in time to see him hit the ground with a tremendous thud! Before he had a chance to react, I snatched his pole-of-doom and dragged it away before he had a chance to pick it up again.
“Stay down,” I barked at him. “Stay down.”
Nutsy had already freed Lexi and the two of them were circling the man. “Help! Help!” Lexi barked. “We need help!”
The man’s eyes were wild while he held his hand out in front of himself, trying to keep me, Lexi, and Nutsy away from attacking. He was shaking his head, waving at us. I thought he was ready to give up when his expression suddenly changed.
“What’s going on here?” a nice lady said. My heart leapt for joy at the sight of an adult coming to help us out. She looked to be about my mom’s age, with long black hair and bright green eyes. “Why are you two barking so much?” Her black hair was pulled back so tight it stretched her face to look extra wide. She gave me a big smile, her bright red lipstick making her look a little like a clown we saw on TV.
“This man is bad,” I barked. “His friend took Echo, and he is trying to take Lexi.”
I don’t think this lady understood my words like my mom and dad could. The way her eyes darted back and forth made her look nervous. It seemed like she was checking to see if anyone was coming to check out the racket Lexi and I were making. It was only then that I noticed the orange on her hands and tiny orange paw prints on her white jacket.
She must have stolen Cheeks!
“Stay away from her,” I barked at Lexi and Nutsy. “She’s working with the bad men.”
The woman suddenly lunged for Lexi, but the golden retriever puppy was much too fast. I leapt forward, throwing my body in between the nasty lady and my friend. It slowed her down long enough for Lexi to safely back away.
“Lexi, take Nutsy and look for Echo and the other munks. They can’t have gotten too far. I’ll deal with these two.”
I could tell by the way Lexi’s big brown eyes were glistening that she didn’t want to leave me alone to fend off the two evil humans, but Nutsy urged her into action. With the little munk sitting high on her neck, the two of them ran off between the houses, heading for the front yard.
While I continued barking at the villains, the tall, skinny man tried to pick up his pole-of-doom, but I wasn’t going to let that happen. I quickly wrapped my jaws around the wooden shaft and yanked it out of his hands. I had a lot of experience playing keep-away with my parents, so I knew exactly what to do.
I kept myself just close enough to the bad people to let them think they had a chance of catching me, but as soon as they neared, I’d bolt away. When I was a safe distance, I stopped and let them try to catch me again.
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I saw them trying to attack me from two different sides, hoping to give me no place to run. This was the exact same technique my mom and dad used when we were playing. I gripped the wooden pole tightly in my jaws while I let them get closer.
A little closer.
A little closer.
The man and the woman were right in front of me when I burst forward, using the pole to trip them both. I hit them so hard the pole snapped in my mouth. They would never again be using it to catch puppies.
Since neither of the dog snatchers looked like they were going to get up, I spit out the bits of wood in my mouth and raced between the houses, following the same path that Lexi and Nutsy had taken. As soon as I made it through, I saw a white panel van on the street. The short, heavy man was in front of it trying to snag Lexi with his noose, but she was very fast.
“Stop right there,” I barked. “I command you to stop!”
I don’t think he understood what I was saying, but he didn’t look very happy when he saw me running towards him.
I caught sight of Nutsy and Lexi. While the golden retriever puppy was dodging and weaving, keeping the short man’s focus on her, Nutsy was trying to get the back door of the van open.
“They’re inside here,” my munk friend called out. “I can see them all in the back of the van. They’re all in cages.”
My poor heart was going to leap out of my throat. What if I couldn’t get to them fast enough? What if the bad people drove away with my friends? I could run very fast, but not nearly fast enough to catch a car. What was even worse, I didn’t know how to open a car door.
I had no way of getting inside the van, but I knew how to stop one from getting away. Those big rubber rings called tires are full of air. All I needed to do was let the air out of them.
“Lexi,” I barked out. “Keep him busy. I’ve got a plan.” I was so proud of my puppy friend. She gave me her best golden smile and barked back at me.
“Sure thing, Gizmo. But I don’t know how much longer I can go. I’m getting really tired.” I nodded back to her, telling her I understood. I had very little time before she was going to get caught and I’d lose two of my best friends and two of my favorite munks.
“Nutsy! Get down here. I need your help!”
The little munk leapt from the van’s back door and landed right next to me. “What do you want me to do?”
“See that black thing on that other thing sticking out of the wheel?” Nutsy gave me a strange look. I wasn’t explaining this very well. I didn’t know the name of the tire parts, so I pointed to it with my nose. “This here. This black thing.”
“Oh, that? That’s called a valve stem and the black thing is called a valve stem cap. What about them?”
Oh my dog. He was one smart munk. “I need you to take the cap thingy off and press in on that stem thingy…”
“Oh, I understand,” he said, quickly setting to work, unscrewing the cap. “You want me to let the air out of the tire? Why didn’t you say so?”
If we weren’t in such a big hurry, I’d have rolled my eyes at him.
“They can’t leave with a flat tire. When they go to change it for a new one, we’ll jump in the back of the van and free all our friends.”
“That’s a great plan,” Nutsy said. I had trouble hearing him over the sound of air rushing out of the tire. In moments, the tire was completely flat.
“Okay, find a place to hide, and make it a good one. I’m going to help Lexi escape and then I’ll come join you. As soon as they start to change the tire, we’ll jump into action.”
Nutsy nodded and bolted for a small nearby bush. I didn’t think it was a good place to hide, but he disappeared as soon as he jumped inside. The thick leaves hid him completely.
That was Lexi’s voice. I turned to see my friend being dragged to the back of the van. The short man had his pole-of-doom looped around her neck. My heart was beating too fast. My mouth went bone dry. I couldn’t let her get taken into the van. If my plan failed, they’d get away with her, too. I couldn’t lose all my friends today. I just couldn’t.
I was about to lunge at the bad man when I felt cold steel looped around my neck. I didn’t know what was going on, and it wasn’t until I felt something wrap around my throat that I realized what had happened. They had captured me, too!
Oh my dog, what was I going to do? I was being dragged to the back of the van as well. I tried to bite at the man who had trapped me, but the long pole made it impossible. I really wished my mom and dad were here. They’d know what to do. Even though I was strong and brave, I still needed my human parents, and right now, I needed them more than ever.
“Mom! Dad! Help!” I barked as loud as I could, hoping they’d hear me. “Help! I’m being stolen!” I barked again. It was only then I remembered they weren’t home. They had gone out and left me home alone with my munk buddies.
My munk buddies! I had completely forgotten about Nutsy hiding in the small bush.
“Nutsy!” I barked. “They’ve caught me. I need help!”
I scanned the bush, looking for my friend, but he was nowhere to be found. I was afraid he had run away, and that there was nobody around to see me being taken. I didn’t want to go with these people. I had a nice home and parents who loved me. I wanted to stay here where I was safe and happy. Tears were stinging my eyes. I desperately wanted to go home and snuggle with my family.
“Mom! Dad!” I barked out their names again, even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. Oh, how I wished they could hear me.
The bad people were opening up the back doors to their van. What I saw inside totally broke my heart. There were so many cages and almost every one of them had a dog in it. There must have been a dozen stolen puppies. They weren’t all my pals, but I knew them well enough to give them a friendly sniff and say a quick hi. I had seen them around the neighbourhood when my mom and dad took me on walks.
Most were being quiet, probably too tired from barking for help. All except for Echo, who was still calling for her mom and dad. Chippy and Cheeks, who were both in a tiny cage, were chirping wildly, calling for me to help them.
Just when I thought I was done for, I caught sight of Nutsy on the top of the van. He gave me a wink and an okay sign. I wasn’t alone. I still had one munk buddy on the outside. My eyes grew wide when I saw him dart inside the van. What was he doing? Why would he risk himself being caught?
I watched in terror as Lexi was stuffed into a cage while I was being dragged into the back of the van. I tried my best to resist, but the pole-of-doom made it impossible. The bad man opened the last cage and pushed me inside. As soon as I was in, he slammed it shut.
I jumped at the door, hoping to push it open, but it was locked tight. I could see the latch that held it closed, but like the lock on my home’s back door, I had no way to open it.
My heart raced with excitement. I couldn’t do it, but my munk buddies sure could.
“Nutsy,” I barked. “Do you think you can open this door?”
From his hiding spot, the little munk nodded and gave me a thumbs-up sign. He was carefully watching the bad man who was still in the van, making sure he wasn’t seen.
“Great!” I barked. “Free Chippy and Cheeks first. I’ve got a plan to get us free, but it will need all three of you to make it work.” All the dogs in the truck instantly went silent, waiting for me to tell them my plan. When the bad man left and slammed the back doors shut, I suddenly became afraid the situation was hopeless. I took a deep breath and blew it out. There was no time to be afraid. Now was the time for action. The bad people didn’t know Nutsy had let the air out of their tire. This van wasn’t going anywhere until they fixed their wheel problem.
“Nutsy,” I barked. “Free your munk family and all three of you need to open up all the cages. Start with the big dogs first, but get as many done as you can.”
Quick as a wink, Nutsy hopped down to his brothers’ cage and popped open the lock. The three of them immediately set to work, opening the cage doors for all the other dogs. They had just finished opening the last of the cages when the van lurched forward and bounced.
“Get ready,” I barked. “They just discovered one of their tires is flat. They’re going to open the back door to get tools to fix it.”
I readied myself near the back of the van, prepared to pounce on whoever it was that opened the door. Lexi and Echo moved in on either side of me.
“We’ve got this,” Echo whined. “We’ve got this.” She was afraid, but she was going to do everything she could to free all the dogs. I felt four tiny feet on my back as they worked their way up to my neck. I turned to see Chippy on Echo’s back and Cheeks on Lexi’s. That meant it was Nutsy riding me. I imagined him to be a brave knight sitting atop a powerful war horse, preparing for battle. The thought of it made me smile. These evil people had no idea what was about to happen.
“No fear,” Nutsy said. “We won’t stop until all our friends are free.”
My heart swelled at the little guy’s words. His bravery was inspirational, instantly pushing away my own doubts, filling me with courage. With my friends at my side, in that moment, I knew there wasn’t anything we couldn’t accomplish.
The back door handle jiggled, telling me the bad people were about to open the door.
“Get ready,” I growled. “Follow my lead.”
As soon as the door opened, I leapt forward, pushing it wide and sending the tall, skinny man sprawling onto his back. I barked and snarled, letting him know there would be no escape. Not today. He was my prisoner now and there was no way I was going to let him go.
“Look out!” Nutsy called.
I turned my head just in time to see the short man’s hands reaching for me. Before I had time to react, Echo had the man by his wrist, digging her teeth into him. The man squealed as the Rottweiler shook her head, dragging him away from me.
But these villains weren’t going to give up so easily. The woman, who I had first thought looked like a nice lady, bellowed something and jumped at me. This time, it was Lexi’s turn to come to my rescue. Even though she was only a young dog, barely even eight months old, she was as fierce as any dog I’d ever met. She threw her entire bodyweight into the mean woman’s chest. The two of them fell hard to the ground, but the woman got up and was ready to attack.
Lexi didn’t back down. She raised her hackles, making herself look larger and more imposing, but the lady didn’t act like she was afraid. Cheeks, who had been on Lexi’s back, jumped at the woman. He clambered up her jacket and onto her shoulders. He started pulling her hair with all his might, hard enough that she cried out in pain. She was frantically trying to grab hold of the little munk, but he was too quick for her.
While the mean woman was being distracted by the courageous munk, Lexi rushed forward and grabbed her by the ankle. Quickly, she started dragging the puppysnatcher until the woman fell over. From her place on the ground, she was about to kick Lexi when I heard a familiar voice.
“If you kick that dog, I’ll make sure it’s the last thing you ever do with that foot.” It was a woman’s voice. It was my mom’s voice! She was pointing her finger at the woman, giving her a very nasty scowl. My mom was the nicest person you’d ever want to meet, but right now, she was in protection mode. I didn’t understand what my mom’s threat meant, but the evil woman immediately stopped what she was about to do. My mom could be pretty scary when she needed to be. She was like a she-wolf protecting her puppies.
All of the other dogs we had freed took up positions around the bad people. They were going to make sure nobody would escape.
In the distance, I heard the wail of police sirens.
“My husband has called the police. That’s them you hear coming. Your days of stealing puppies are over.”
While we waited for the police to show up, Lexi, Echo, and I each kept a strong hold on our villains. The other dogs crept in closer, offering us their support. We knew our friends had our back.
“I suggest you don’t do anything foolish,” my mom said to the bad people as she surveyed the large pack of dogs. She kept her voice calm, but I recognized that tone. That was her no-nonsense voice, the one I quickly learned to heed closely.
All the dogsnatchers pleaded with my mom to let them go, promising that they’d never steal dogs again. My mom shook her head. I could tell from her expression that she was not going to let them off. These bad people were going to pay for their crimes.
My dad arrived a few minutes ahead of the police. He quickly surveyed the situation and gave me a quick nod, letting me know we had done a good job and that everything would be alright.
“Put your hands behind your back,” he said. “I don’t think any of these dogs are going to be very happy with you if you don’t obey.”
My dad had plastic zip ties with him, which he used to bind the hands of the bad people. None of the puppysnatchers resisted as he looped the restraints around their hands.
Shortly after my dad had tied up the villains, three police cars arrived, and quickly took the villains into custody.
“You did a good thing, catching these criminals,” a tall policewoman said to my mom. “You and your husband broke up the notorious Phantom Puppysnatcher gang. They’ve been stealing dogs all over this area, but we’ve never been able to catch them.”
“It wasn’t us,” my mom said. I could hear in her voice how proud she was. “It was Gizmo and his quick-thinking friends who saved the day. When my husband and I got home, we saw that the back door was open. When I went to investigate, I saw Gizmo being pushed into the back of the van. I got my husband to call for help while I came over to make sure the dogsnatchers didn’t get away.”
“Well then,” the policewoman said to me with a big smile. “I sure hope you and your friends all get a big reward for your bravery. What you did was no small thing.” She then turned to my mom and dad. “Do you know who all these dogs belong to?”
My mom nodded and said she’d make sure they all got home safe and sound. The policewoman thanked us all again for our help in catching the criminals and drove off with the bad people in the back seats of their cars.
Both Lexi and Echo came to check on me and the munks to make sure we hadn’t been hurt. I told them we were all okay, but the realization that people could be so evil made me extremely sad.
“Are you alright?” Chippy asked. He and his munk brothers could tell I was upset.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m okay. But today we learned that we need to be careful around people we don’t know because not all of them are kind. When someone is doing something bad, it makes me sad to think about what made them do it. I sure hope those people can get some help so they don’t want to do bad things anymore.”
“Let’s go,” my dad said, giving me a big hug, somehow knowing that was exactly what I needed. “You haven’t finished rescuing everyone yet. We need to get your friends home. I’ll bet their parents are worried sick about them.”
I gave my dad a quick lick and a joyous bark. “I’ll bet we’re going to get some cookie rewards. I love cookies.”
“Me too,” Echo said. “Me too.”
Cheeks was rubbing his tummy enthusiastically. “Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t?”