It was late August in 2015. Naomi, a five year old miniature Shar Pei went out at 10 PM for the final potty call of the night.
There was very little concern as Naomi and her pack mates went out before bedding down for the night. Their yard was securely fenced with no way for a dog to get out. Fifteen minutes after the pack’s exit to the yard, their owner opened the back door for her crew to come back in. All the dogs scampered in except one; Naomi was missing.
Panicked, a frantic search of the yard at first revealed nothing amiss. There was no way for Naomi to have got out on her own. Sprinting to the front yard, there was no one and no dog in sight. Later, on closer inspection it was clear the gate had been opened and then shut hard as the latch was now overextended. Clearly, Naomi could not have opened and jammed the gate on her own. It became clear she had been stolen. Haeleigh, Naomi’s owner and best friend was devastated.
The Search... Living a Nightmare
Thus began a nightmare that would span into the next year... and then the year after that. Volunteers, Facebook pages and countless hours of searching the small city of St. Joseph, would take center stage in Haeleigh’s life. There would be few leads until March of 2016. By then Haeleigh had moved to Kansas City and had to continue her search from there. When she followed up on the sightings of a brindle dog far to the south, she could never find the dog the witness saw. With no way to confirm these sightings Naomi’s family thought it was most likely a brindle pit bull that was being seen and not Naomi.
A Fortuitous Chat
In the summer of 2016, Haeleigh and Karin TarQwyn would have a chance meeting while Karin was pursuing another stolen dog case. The chat was quick but would prove to be fortuitous.
Dreams and Sightings
The last week of December 2016, Haeleigh had a dream about Naomi. She woke with a new energy and began to repost to remind everyone of Naomi’s continuing saga. Her expectations were not high but it seemed that Naomi had somehow reached out and Haeleigh was determined to answer.
And then the sightings began to come in. There was a dog wandering far to the south in the same area where the sightings from March had occurred. Excited but cautiously optimistic, Haleigh prepared to go back to St. Joseph the next day.
The Picture that Changed Everything (in the main photo above)
Another lead came in but this time attached to it was a photo of a small brindle dog. The photo was clear enough to see that the dog was a Shar Pei and it looked very much like Naomi. Dazed but ecstatic, Haeleigh flew out of the house and sped to the location where the dog had been seen.
From Naomi's Mom:
"I cannot thank you enough for all of your help and support over the past few days! I had no idea how this was going to play out, but I don't think it could have happened any better!
If it hadn't been for the help and support of your team I wouldn't have known where to begin when I saw Naomi. All I wanted was to go get her but I knew if I didn't do it right I could possibly lose her again forever!
You guided me and came out and helped me bring Naomi home!!
We are forever grateful!"
Haeleigh & Naomi
A case like no other...
“I received a call from a woman that I had met on Facebook through a group for stolen dogs. The young woman had set up a page for stolen dogs in her city as dogs seemed to be disappearing. She asked me if I remembered her and I said I did.
She went on to tell me an incredible story about her stolen dog now apparently being seen roaming far south from where she had been taken. I was skeptical until she sent me the photo. It was clearly a small brindle Shar Pei. Witnesses said that the small dog ran whenever anyone tried to approach her. This was the same tale told by others earlier in the spring.
I could see that the dog in the photo was almost a twin to Naomi but still we needed to know for sure. I began to plan to go to St. Joseph with the dog team to see if the dog in the picture was Naomi.
Then my phone rang. It was Haeleigh.
Choking back tears, Haleigh whispered, “Karin I see her. Naomi is right in front of me. I tried to call her but she ran so I am following her to see where she goes.”
I was frankly amazed at this young woman’s courage and restraint. I knew she wanted to run up to Naomi, embrace her and have the whole nightmare be over but instead she listened and did as I suggested. I told Haeleigh to keep her distance and try to see if we could establish a pattern. She followed Naomi for another quarter mile and then she disappeared down a dirt driveway and into a creek.
It was getting dark and the decision was made to bring in traps and cameras the next day. Preparations had to be made and Haeleigh had to get permission from the property owners for us to set up. She set up a food station as I outlined and began to prepare for capture the next day.
Initiating a Capture Plan
The next morning Haeleigh arrived ready to begin the capture process. Residents had not been home the night before so we still did not have the permissions we needed. The decision was made to drive back to the area where Haeleigh had first seen Naomi. As the vehicle neared the neighborhood, everyone was surprised to see Naomi lounging in the sun near the area where she had been seen the previous day. It is hard not to overreact and try to call or catch a dog that has been missing for so long but patience is the best practice when dealing with a behavior profile and circumstances like Naomi’s.
As she had been the day before, Naomi was reticent and cautious. It was clear she would bolt if she felt at all threatened. And with no fencing or enclosure nearby, preparations began to set a trap and camera at the house next door in a location Naomi could not see from her sun bathing perch.
Everything was in place and lo and behold, Naomi suddenly got up from her place in the sun and made her way to the trap. With bated breath, everyone waited to see if the small dog would enter the trap. Hesitant but clearly hungry, she went into the trap and began to eat the roasted chicken inside. Time went by and we waited for the trap to close. After 10 minutes of Naomi gorging herself on the poultry feast inside, it was clear that the mechanism on the trap had failed. All anyone could do at that point was to wait and watch. Once she was full, Naomi walked away. Clearly disappointed, but with the end game in sight, we decided to leave the trap and camera set in hopes Naomi would return.
Fully satisfied from her chicken dinner, Naomi did not return. The camera was in place and only a raccoon and a cat made an appearance.
Private Investigator Karin TarQWyn
Knowing Naomi would return, we set out to meet at the trap and begin a new strategy. Haeleigh arrived before me with her friend. She and her BFF decided to drive around while waiting for me to arrive. Naomi was nowhere to be seen.
The girls drove up one street and down the next, near the walking path and over by the golf course. There was no Naomi. A little dejected with hopes still high they continued their search. Suddenly the small brown dog appeared in the street ahead of them. With me on the phone, the girls switched places and Haeleigh took up the search on foot following Naomi from a safe distance.
The goal was to keep Naomi out of the street and to slowly herd her into a yard or area where she could not escape. We call this “capture on the fly." Like a stealth ninja, Haeleigh was able to quietly follow Naomi until she saw a fenced area she could maneuver her into. The yard had a short fence. Naomi entered the small space and Haleigh reached over the fence and put a slip lead over her head. She quickly reached down and picked Naomi up before the little Shar Pei knew what was happening.
Haeleigh was in shock. Naomi had been missing over 18 months and the fact that she was holding her in her arms was almost beyond belief. It was quite a morning and a great ending to a very long search.
After 48 hours of decompressing, Naomi was taken to the vet and was found to be in good health. Without her medication over the previous 18 months, her eye sight had somewhat diminished during her journey. After a spa day and lots of quiet rest, she quickly adapted back to her former domestic life.