The last time Jeff Holden saw his tiny Yorkshire terrier Dobby was very early last Wednesday morning. As dawn broke a few hours later, Dobby was gone.
“I went into full panic mode,” Holden said. “I thought he had slipped out of my friend’s doggy door and gotten lost because he’s new here.”
Holden has just returned to Spokane Valley after helping his mom recover from cardiac surgery in Arizona.
After his dog disappeared, he printed and posted 70 flyers around his Spokane Valley neighborhood, knocked on doors and took out a photo ad in The Spokesman-Review. He called SCRAPS and posted in lost-and-found groups on Facebook and Craigslist.
“He’s micro-chipped and I called the chip company – I did everything,” Holden said.
Dobby, named for the “Harry Potter” house elf because of his floppy ears and some resemblance, is a micro or teacup Yorkie, so he’s not the kind of dog you’ll notice running down the street.
The world is a big, scary place to a dog the size of a medium latte.
“I pretty much gave up. So much could have happened to him,” Holden said.
And then his phone rang. A stranger calling from an unlisted number said he’d noticed Holden’s Craigslist ad at the same time he spotted an ad from a woman who’d purchased what she thought was a Yorkie puppy, only to realize it was a tiny adult dog.
It turned out Dobby had been sold on Craigslist less than 24 hours after he disappeared.
“It was amazing,” Holden said. “The new owner knew something wasn’t right. I just didn’t see her ad on Craigslist.”
Holden said whomever took Dobby made up a complete story about the dog being a puppy and sold him for $100.
After exchanging a few notes with the new owner, it was clear the dog was Holden’s.
“I went to see her and it was totally Dobby, it was just him,” Holden said.
He gave the buyer $100 and offered her a real puppy from a potential later breeding by Dobby, who’s registered with the American Kennel Club.
The buyer did not return a call Monday asking for comment.
Reports of dogs being stolen and sold online have been popping up across the country, and the trend has even been given a name: “dog flipping.”
Pet sales are not allowed on Craigslist, but sellers get around that restriction by posting in the “pet community” and asking for a “rehoming fee” instead of putting a price on the pet.
Micro and teacup-size dogs are fashionable but in general not encouraged by breed associations because they can have serious health problems.
According to YorkieInfoCenter.com a normal-size Yorkie weighs between 3 and 7 pounds. A micro or teacup Yorkie may weigh as little as 1 pound. Though “teacup Yorkie” is not a recognized standard, dogs like Dobby can still be registered with the AKC.
Holden said tiny dogs are expensive and “super fragile.”
“They should not be a kid’s dog,” Holden said.
SCRAPS’ Janet Dixon said it’s very risky to purchase an animal from someone you don’t know.
“Handing over a couple hundred dollars for an animal you know nothing about health-wise is more than risky,” Dixon said.
Dixon recommends people take a new pet in for a health checkup right away. A vet will find the chip and the rightful owner.
Holden still doesn’t know who the anonymous caller was.
“I’m incredibly grateful to that gentleman – I owe him dinner,” Holden said.