PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – A Laveen family is desperate to get their dog back after she bolted from a Phoenix veterinarian's office nearly three weeks ago. Veronica Lowe said Sadie got sick with gastrointestinal issues on Oct. 8. Because her usual vet could not see her quickly, Lowe decided to take Sadie to Alta Vista on 7th Avenue just south of Camelback Road. That was on Saturday, Oct. 9. Lowe says she was told to leave Sadie, who had been to Alta Vista as a puppy, and the vet would contact her after they had taken a look at the dog. When that call came, the vet had a litany of suggestions, Lowe told Arizona's Family. She discussed the options with her boyfriend, and they decided to go ahead with bloodwork. She said she contacted Alta Vista at about 5:20. Less than an hour later, Lowe said Alta Vista called her to explain that they had "a situation."
"I thought the worst," Lowe said. "I thought maybe she had passed, or I don't know. Everything, you know, was going on in my head." Sadie had not died. But she was gone.
Cyndi Jenkins, who has owned Alta Vista for nearly 40 years, said a kennel assistant had taken Sadie outside so another could clean her cage. "Sadie didn't want to go back inside, so he went to pick her up," Jenkins explained, "She bit him, he let go, and Sadie ran." While she wasn't at the office when it happened, she said she believes Sadie's leash, which had been wrapped around the assistant's wrist, slipped off when he tried to pick her up. She also believes Sadie startled him when she bit him. "Human nature," she said, is why he let go of her. The bite, by the way, was not serious, Jenkins said.
"What he did wrong – that has been corrected – is we're never supposed to take our eyes off [the animals]," she explained. "He was supposed to stay out there, but he thought, 'I'm gonna go get someone to help me.'" When he did that, he lost sight of Sadie, making it impossible to know which way she might have run.
Jenkins described the kennel assistant as "a nice young man" who has been with Alta Vista for a little more than a year and "does a great job." She said he feels terrible about what happened – the entire staff does –and he has spent "hours and hours and hours" looking for Sadie. She also said he won't be facing any consequences, but she will see that he has "better training."
Jenkins said she and her staff spent "several hours" that evening, the following morning, and over the next few days looking for Sadie. Jenkins, like Lowe and her family, made and posted flyers and posted to social media. Jenkins also put up a $1,000 reward. "Every time there is a possible sighting, regardless of the time or location, an employee has gone to check it out," Jenkins said. The hitch, she said, is that Sadie's family told them that she's a nervous dog and would not come out for strangers calling her name.
Lowe told Arizona's Family that she has been disappointed in the communication from Alta Vista and that she has been unable to talk to the person who was last with Sadie. "So, we've never really got a complete story from them," she said. "You know, they just continue to state that Sadie was taken out by a vet [and] that it's typical procedure to take dogs out for potty breaks. Initially, we were talking to the owner, Cindy, and she was great at communicating with us. And that just kind of stopped. … No return phone calls." Jenkins said she's not sure what else she could have done. "I've spoken with them multiple times by phone … and met with them," she said. Jenkins went to say that she's not sure what else the kennel assistant could tell Lowe and her family that they don't already know.
But Lowe says she still has questions. "I didn't realize that [Sadie] was going to be outside, especially with the symptoms that she had," she told Arizona's Family. But Jenkins said Sadie "wasn't that sick" and that it's not unusual to take dogs outside while the kennels are cleaned.
We asked Jenkins why there was not a fenced area at Alta Vista. She said she's having one installed this week. Until it's finished – because of what happened with Sadie -- the staff is not allowed to take small and medium-size dogs outside.
Jenkins said they are still looking in the area for Sadie, but not as intensely now that nearly three weeks have passed. She said she and her staff will keep their eyes open and check out reported sightings.
In the meantime, Lowe has connected with HARTT (Humane Animal Rescue and Trapping Team), which specializes in catching lost and stray animals. HARTT has a history of successfully reuniting lost pets with their families, including a cat who was lost for 13 months and a dog who was missing for two years.
Jenkins said Alta Vista has lost "less than 10 dogs" in the time she's owned the practice, and all of them have been found "within a day or two." Losing a dog is relatively rare, but not unheard of. She also said she has contacted her insurance company but is not sure what happens next. "I take this personally," said Jenkins, who has eight dogs of her own. "I am in the business because of my compassion and love for pets. I understand the pain the owner is going thru (sic). I look for Sadie as if she is one of my own."
Lowe says her family wants Sadie back; she's part of their family. She explained that her toddler keeps calling for Sadie and then realizing she's not there. What she wants most, though, is to know that Sadie is OK. "This sounds horrible, but as much as I want my dog back, if somebody were to even just call and say, 'You know what? We have her. We like her. We're not giving her back to you.' – just to know that's she's safe."