The first call buzzed in when I was eight feet up a lamppost with a pair of scissors.
Pet snatchers had settled into the neighborhood over the past few weeks, and they used arrangements of zip ties around lampposts and telephone poles to point the way to houses where people routinely left their dogs unattended. Snipping the ties on my way to my veterinary practice had become a daily ritual.
By the time I slid down the pole, my watch was humming like a hive of angry hornets. I took out my phone.
“Doc, where are you?” my intern, Tate, said when I picked up.
“Making life harder for our friendly neighborhood dognappers. What’s up?”
“Well, it looks like they’ve brought the fight to us.”
“You mean beyond graffiti and flaming cat poo on the doorstep?” Our attempts to raise awareness of the pet snatching problem had made us a few enemies.
“Someone broke into the kennels last night and they took Pythagoras.”
The breath went out of me and my heart started to pound.
“Wait,” I said, mentally scrolling through our current list of boarders. “Which one is Pythagoras?”
“You know, the Jack Russell who came in yesterday afternoon?”
I sighed. The dog’s name was Jackie. I’d done the intake myself. “Tate, I told you, nicknaming the animals only makes things harder for the rest of us.”
“It’s not a nickname! Pythagoras the Counting Dog was in our boarding kennel, and now she’s missing! Man, this is going to blow up the Internet.”
“What? Did you put this online?”
A year ago Tate had nearly brought down my practice when he’d posted videos of my glow-in-the-dark rescue rabbit. The rabbit had glowed when she came to me, but it didn’t stop legions of animal lovers from accusing me of dyeing her fur, injecting her with alien DNA, and worse. Tate had kept his snout clean since then, but when it came to broadcasting his business—and our clinic’s business—to the digital world, sometimes he couldn’t help himself.
“No, Doc, I swear. But everyone knows Pythagoras, and now she’s been kidnapped. Just get down here!”
I wondered how much help the police would be. Pets were property under the law, and a recent voter measure had made theft or property damage of less than a thousand dollars in value a misdemeanor on par with a speeding ticket. As for the harassment of our clinic, I’d reported each incident dutifully, but the Sheriff’s Department had maintained that they couldn’t do much unless the perps either left a clue to their identity or committed a more serious crime.
Perhaps this attack on our facilities would be serious enough.
Cursing, I shoved the phone back into the pocket of my cargo pants and pointed my mountain bike into the Fairfax Avenue early traffic. As I pushed out into the street, a horn blared. I pulled back just in time to avoid being flattened by a black Suburban, but the dusty wind that followed it left me choking.
The San Vicente Veterinary Group was located in a converted ranch house on the northwestern fringe of West Hollywood. The vet from whom I’d purchased the practice had turned the carport into a set of indoor/outdoor dog kennels. By day the dogs could go back and forth between the indoor section of their runs and the outdoor section, which was backed by a chain link fence. At night the techs brought the dogs in and latched the separating doors from the inside.
Before I’d even rolled into the parking lot, I could see where someone had cut through the chain link back of the run farthest from the main building. As I drew closer, I saw that they had also kicked the wooden separating door to smithereens.
Poor Jackie. Jack Russells were high strung at the best of times. She must have been terrified.
“I’ve called the cops,” Tate said as he ran down the back ramp to meet me. “They should be here any minute.”
To my surprise, two sheriff’s deputies arrived before I’d even locked my bike.
“Dr. Kulkarni,” one of them called.