Pantops Pet Salon
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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
Fax: (434) 293-8231
504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

Dodger’s Daring Rescue!

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006 by Jenna

Just about anyone who has visited us has first been met with our overly-friendly mascot cat, Dodger (fully named “The Artful Dodger” by the SPCA). He lounges across our counter (or any available lap) paying little heed to the dogs going in and out of the shop all day. When he’s not lounging, he’s doing his best to get in everyone’s way but he’s such a softie, how could anyone mind that (unless they’re allergic to cats and unfortunately some of our customers are!)

Dodger loves sniffing in purses, receiving petting or chin scratching, and he’ll make sure to head-butt you or rub up against your hand if he doesn’t think he’s getting enough attention. We love Dodger and so does the rest of our community. He’s such a relaxed and loving boy that we’ve had people come from outside of town just to see him! He’s been sponsored in SPCA articles and often the first question our customers ask is, “Where’s Dodger?” Sadly, this is a question we were asking ourselves just a month or so ago.

I usually am the first to arrive at work and Dodger is always waiting for me at the door. He has no patience for my efforts to turn on the lights or put down my bags—he wants attention and he wants it now! How dare we stop petting him even for a moment! He meows and meows, pawing at me until I sit down so that he can position himself on my lap.

But on this day, there was no big fat ball of fluff waiting at the door for me. Once in a while, Dodger will curl up in his bed in the back so I thought he might be there or using his litter box. I went about the business of turning on the lights, keeping my eye out for our noisy kitty but I heard nothing and saw no sign of him. Thinking that was a little strange, I headed up front to clean his litter box and called his name as I went. I more thoroughly checked around the shop but I didn’t actually think he’d be hiding anywhere. Still, there was no response Dodger never hides, especially not when people are around.

I was starting to worry. As wonderful a cat as Dodger is, he does have one problem. He’s a sick kitty. He has vomiting spells every few weeks and sometimes they will get so bad that he’ll start loosing weight. We’ve taken him to have numerous tests done but the veterinarians just can’t figure out what’s wrong with him or how to fix it. I thought maybe he was having a very bad spell and was lying around unconscious somewhere.

After more searching and more calling, I decided that Dodger wasn’t here. I knew it. My first thought was that after I left the day before, Dodger had gotten sick and Mike had taken him to the vet. Mike walked in and commented how impressed he was that there was no vomit on the floor—that Dodger must be doing well today.

“You mean, he’s not with you?” I asked.

“No…” Mike replied.

“I don’t think he’s here. I thought he must have gotten sick yesterday and that you took him to the vet. I really don’t think he’s here,” I said.

Mike recounts that I looked white as a sheet as I said that! He took a quick look around but came to the same conclusion as me: Dodger doesn’t hide–if we don’t see him or hear him he must not be here.

“She stole him!” Mike exclaimed suddenly.

I was completely confused….she? Who would steal Dodger?? Who would think to steal our cat, let alone be able to do so while we’re all working?

Mike then reminded me of a girl who had dropped by to pet Dodger the day before. I had about half an hour left of work to do when she came in and asked to pet him. Due to his popularity, it’s not at all unusual for someone to come in without a dog, intending only on seeing Dodger–whether they heard about him from a friend or they were just walking by and saw him from the window. She had a nametag on that said her name and place of employment. We didn’t think at the time to remember her name, but we did both remember where she worked.

After petting him for a while, she left. Nothing unusual there. However, after I left Mike was the only person in the shop. He said that she came back and hung around petting Dodger for a good 20 minutes. Mike had gone to clean up the back but we have a window to the front so he could see what was going on. She was taking so long with Dodger that Mike was starting to get uncomfortable.

Just as he was about to ask her to leave, she spoke up and said, “I’m leaving now!”

Relieved, Mike went back to his work but not before checking through the window.

“She didn’t leave immediately. I just thought she wanted to get a few more pets in before she left,” Mike told me.

He went back to his work after checking the window and so he didn’t actually see her when she finally left nor did he see Dodger when he closed for the night. He thought that Dodger was off in the back (by the end of the day that cat has had his fill of attention!) or elsewhere not in immediate sight.

He was right; it looked like this girl had taken Dodger. We couldn’t think up any other explanation. The door opens all morning and all afternoon—Dodger’s never shown any sign of wanting to go outside. Even when we had a welcome matt and he laid on it right in front of the door, he never even attempted to wander out.

Mike called the police and filed a report. They directed us to Officer Meadows of Animal Control. The officer arrived later that day and took down all the information we had to give. After watching crime cases on TV, I was afraid he would tell us we’d have to “wait 24 hours” before Dodger could be considered missing or stolen. It would make sense–pets run off to explore all the time: my dog loves to escape and then come back 4 hours later, exhausted and happy! We know that Dodger would never do that, but the police don’t know him from any other pet who might be more prone to escaping.

Luckily, Officer Meadows took our claim immediately and seriously. He asked if we could identify the girl if we saw her and we felt between the two of us that we could. He took us to the girl’s workplace but she wasn’t there. We were able to speak with a very helpful manager who said that there was only one person fitting the description we gave and that she had been in quite a bit of trouble before. The Officer took down her information and told us that he would let her know that we had reasonable suspicion.

“I just want my kitty back,” Mike said, deciding not to press charges if she returned Dodger to us freely (although a stern talking-to would still be in order).

We waited all day, hoping for a call from Officer Meadows. Despite knowing that Dodger doesn’t like going outside, we even tried calling for him around the shopping center. I went home that night knowing that Dodger was still missing and worrying whether he was all right. He’s on a specific diet for his stomach issues—would she try to feed him and make him sick? Would she be violent with him if he vomited on her couch? Would she take him back here if he did that or would she just throw him out her door? If he was thrown out the door, would he find his way back here or to the SPCA before getting hurt in traffic? Was there some other explanation for his disappearance?

The next day, I arrived at work the same time as Kate and we started chatting as we unlocked the door. We both froze mid-conversation when we heard a “meow!” “Purrin’ at Pantops” had recently moved in a few doors down.

“It’s probably one of their cats,” I said, trying not to sound hopeful.

“Yeah, but it sounds like him…” She replied.

We decided to check anyway. The sound did seem like it was coming from “Purrin’ at Pantops” so we headed in that direction. We stopped in front of the window and peered in. But we heard the “meow” again and it wasn’t coming from the store, it was coming from further down and behind us—toward the parking lot!

We started calling Dodger’s name and the meowing became louder and more insistent. We followed the sound and soon figured out that it was coming from inside the bushes near “The Lazy Parrot”—but where in the bushes? We dug around trying to catch sight of him, wondering why he wasn’t coming right out to greet us—we knew that was his voice!

“I see him!” Kate exclaimed, arm-deep in bushes wet from the night’s rain.

“Where?” I asked.

“His bandana is stuck on one of the branches….I’ve got him!” Kate unhooked the bandana then pulled a wet, dirty, and very perturbed Dodger out of the bushes.

Relieved, we brought him back inside. He nearly leaped out of her arms trying to get through the door just a bit faster! He dried off pretty quickly and then spent most of the day sleeping on my lap. (We didn’t traumatize him further with a bath—at least not until a couple weeks later!) Mike called up Officer Meadows to thank him for his help and found out that while the officer hadn’t gotten a chance to call the girl during the day, he had gotten a hold of her at night.

It looks like she knew she was caught and at some time during the night or early morning had thrown poor Dodger in the bushes! Maybe there’s another explanation….. Officer Meadows told us that, when questioned, the girl denied that she had catnapped Dodger and she even came by our shop later that day to tell us she would never do such a thing. But to us, it looks like it was her. Mike told her that he couldn’t take any chances and that she was not allowed back into the shop.

We’re going to have to keep a closer eye on those that visit Dodger. Of all the times people have said they wanted to take him home, even offered money for him, we never thought that someone would actually take him without permission. He’s a very special kitty and we’re glad to have him back.

~Jenna

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