“It was like a movie scene,” says Rintu, recounting how she and her family managed to rescue their two-and-a-half-month-old Lhasa Apso dog, Lucky, who was abducted from their house in Ernakulam district of Kerala on October 26. Every morning, Lucky would be whining inside her cage, waiting for Rintu’s sons — five-year-old Sephan and 10-year-old Sayon — to open the door and let her out. On October 26, however, the family panicked when they neither heard Lucky’s yelps nor saw her, but only found the cage pried open on one side. A few pots of plants near the wall were toppled and there were scratch marks on the cage’s surface, too. They soon realised that Lucky had been abducted.
Sephan and Sayon were in despair as their furry friend was missing. “They were so upset that they did not eat, drink or sleep. Sephan, on whose insistence we adopted Lucky in the first place, caught a cold. He also refused to have any celebration for his birthday on November 1. The children share a great bond with Lucky,” says Rintu, who lives in Elamakkara in Kochi.
Sephan and Sayon playing with Lucky
The family first filed a complaint with the Elamakkara police station. They also got an article in some leading Malayalam newspapers, which ultimately, they say, was what helped them get a lead. “In the article, we said that Lucky was missing and even explained that the children were upset about it,” she says.
A clipping of the article in a Malayalam newspaper
The following day, on October 27, when the articles were published in the newspapers, Rintu received a call from an official at the Ernakulam Town North police station, who gave them their first lead. “He told me that they had received a similar case where a pug was abducted from Ayyappankavu (nearly four kilometres from Elamakkara) and that they caught the gang behind it based on the CCTV footage. The official said he saw the article and that the same gang could have abducted Lucky too,” says Rintu, who along with her husband Shoby met the police official to gather more information.
Meanwhile, the family received more calls from people who saw the article. Many provided them with leads and witness accounts of seeing a red car near their house on the day Lucky was abducted. “And a red car was also seen in the CCTV footage when the pug was kidnapped Ayyappankavu,” Rintu alleged. She also said that they received calls from Eda Kochi, with some saying such dog nappings were common in that area and that the same gang could be behind Lucky’s abduction as well. The couple passed on all these pieces of information to the Elamakkara police. However, they did not stop there. They managed to get the number of one of the members of the gang that could have abducted Lucky.
“Initially, the man denied abducting Lucky. When we said we had all evidence pointing towards the gang, he admitted to the crime. He agreed to give us Lucky back as our children were upset, promising not to repeat the deed. After over 30 minutes of negotiation, they said they would hand over Lucky if we did not inform the police,” says Rintu.
Since they did not want anything untoward happening to Lucky and feared missing an opportunity to get their pet back if the police intervened, the family decided not to inform the officials, and instead deal with the abductors themselves. What happened next, according to Rintu, was nothing short of a rescue scene right out of the movies.
“The abductor was in touch with us via WhatsApp. On October 30, they asked us to drive towards Aroor-Edapally Highway (towards Alappuzha). As instructed, we set out in our car to the destination. During the course of the journey, they asked us to send pictures of our car, my husband driving the car, etc. It was a scary moment for us as we did not know their intentions. Mid-way, when we reached Eramaloor junction, they asked us to make a U-turn. As we were turning, we saw two bike-borne men tethering Lucky to a post and riding away,” recalls Rintu.
Rintu and Shoby informed both the Elamakkara police station after they found Lucky. “The Elamakkara police officials said that they should not have rescued Lucky on our own and that the police officials could have come in mufti behind them,” says Rintu.
The version of the rescue also varies depending on whom you ask. When TNM contacted Elamakkara police, the Sub-Inspector said that they were the ones who rescued Lucky after they found her tied to a pole near a house while searching for another dog. Rintu, meanwhile, says that the police only called the witnesses (the people who had called and told Rintu about the gang after seeing their article) only after Lucky was found.
On November 1, as Sephan celebrated his fifth birthday, the family invited the police officials of the North Town division, including Vinod Krishna and Ajilesh, for helping them with the leads.
According to Ajilesh, who was one of the investigators in the case where the pug was kidnapped, the family did not file a complaint. The same gang was behind Lucky’s abduction, he said, adding, “In most of the case of dognapping, the owners do not want to pursue a case and so we cannot arrest the culprits, who mostly target expensive breeds of dogs like a pug or Lhasa Apso. Generally, in such cases, culprits are booked under section 379 (punishment for theft) of the Indian Penal Code and sometimes section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) if more people are involved.”