A Sad Tale of Two Cities: Two Stolen German Shepherds, Many Broken Hearts

Sometimes, right in the middle of Nextdoor.com's usual neighborhood posts about tweaker break-ins, handyman recommendations and debates about over what business should move into the former Top's Market location (Grocery Outlet!), there comes a post that takes on a life of its own.

So it's been since May 5, when a fellow west-Redding Nextdoor.com neighbor posted the subject line, German Shepherd, and said he'd seen the dog wandering around Cumberland Drive at about 4:30 p.m.

This grainy photo, taken by a Nextdoor.com member in a west-Redding neighborhood, captured the elusive German Shepherd.

That started a flurry of what would grow to more than 140 comments within 11 days as neighbors banded together on social media to help locate the dog so they could return it to the safety of its owners. People reported dates, times and locations of their German Shepherd sightings. They shared encouragement, prayers, advice and information.

I saw him this morning at 5:45 in the Whitehawk neighborhood. I was running with my Golden and he came up to her. Unfortunately, I reached my hand out and he ran away. He is beautiful. Angela, Eagle Ridge Estates.

Cody, of Ridgeview, whose home would eventually be the place in which the dog sought refuge, shared this message:

That is a good sign, that he came up to your Golden. I spoke to Katy Yoder, a very experienced German Shepherd handler. She communicated that his behavior is that of a "dumped" dog, and he is very frightened. Thus, he will not come up to a person. She communicated that, if the opportunity arises, and he is in a yard, etc., the best way is to not approach him, or try to touch him, but to sit down on the grass and at first look away. Then sprinkle some treats at a distance. By doing this, there is a possibility that the dog may trust you. However, due to the state of his fear, somehow, he needs to get into a contained area, like a fenced yard or garage. Has anyone sighted him, since early morning?

Neighbors monitored security camera footage. They set out bowls of food and water for the dog as it migrated through Ridgeview, Eagle Ridge Estates, White Hawk Estates, and streets like Siskiyou, Andes. Misty Glen, Aspen Glow, Dartmouth and beyond.

Soon came posts written by other dog experts, who reiterated Cody's plea.

Please, to all of the wonderful people trying to help this boy, don't chase him or try to touch/catch him. He needs to connect with someone or be coaxed into a safe enclosure. It sounds like he is staying in one area which is a really good beginning. The more comfortable he gets, the better an opportunity to capture him will happen.
Cheryl, Country Heights.

Finally, success came when Darlene from Ridgeview Estates wrote that the dog had visited her house, and had eaten two bowls of food they'd left outside for it.

The message by Morgan, of Ridgeview, expressed many neighbors' sentiments.

That’s great, Darlene. So glad to hear it had food and water. He will come back to check again, so if it’s consistent, maybe you’ll be the ones building trust, although it may take a long time. Just good to hear the poor dog had a meal and water! Thank you!

Thanks to her security system, Darlene from Ridgeview was able to give a detailed update to worried neighbors.

The Shepherd had a full tummy last night. Like I posted last night he was at our house at 9:12 p.m, 1:02 a.m, 3:25 am. He ate and drank water each time. Also we feed someone's cat about midnight. We will continue putting out food and water all day and night until this lovely animal is safe and off the streets.

Neighbors stealthily searched street by street in hopes of finding the elusive dog. One man made a crate that he placed strategically outside his home with food and water. Hour by hour neighbors reported sightings, or logged in to ask about the dog. People in Mary Lake Subdivision, across Placer Road, said they were on the lookout for the dog, too. Prayers and well-wishes came from all over west Redding, such as Sunset Terrace, Walnut Avenue, North Street and the Garden Tract.

Two new threads appeared that speculated whether the dog was one of two missing German Shepherds: Jager, who was stolen from the area two years ago; or perhaps it was Tosen, of Chico, assumed to have been stolen from its farm property more than a year ago.

I contacted the number on the poster and spoke with Susan, Tosen's heartbroken owner, who said her beautiful 3-year-old beloved German Shepherd has been missing 13 months and three days.

“Not a day goes by that I don't wonder and miss him,” she said.

Tosen's owner is convinced her dog was stolen from her Chico-area farm.

In these last 13 months, she has followed up on countless dead-end leads. She's contacted shelters, German Shepherd rescue groups, posted messages on social media and has passed out more than 2,000 flyers that offer a $2,000 reward for the dog's safe return.

She was anxious to hear more about the west-Redding German Shepherd sighting, though she isn't optimistic the Redding dog is her dog. She said Tosen had a distinct identifying characteristic: He has just three toes on his back right paw – not the dewclaw - the result of an amputation from an injury.

Susan said she's tortured by the fact that she didn't have her dog chipped, something she didn't think was necessary at the time because they lived on a remote farm down a private road.

Her gut says someone stole her dog while she was at work. She said her instincts also tell her that her dog is still alive, and that she'll find him one day.

Meanwhile, the dog experts, including Katy Yoder, had a plan in place to secure the wandering west-Redding German Shepherd, but it required everyone's cooperation.

Cody and I have a plan in progress. So far, so good. If every else backs off, we should have Pup/Pup in tow and HAPPY by Sunday or Monday, at the latest. I actually know what I am doing here. Those leaving water at the mailboxes, move it to Cody' s house. This dog, for whatever reason, has been 'dumped'. I beg for everyone to cooperate in bringing this dog 'in'. I actually know what I am doing. Fifty years a dog handler. Katy Yoder, West Redding.

Patricia of Ridgeview reported a sighting, and expressed faith in Katy and her  plan.

I saw him yesterday just lying in a front yard on Crescent Moon. He was lying there, looking around. He's a beautiful dog. I've been thinking he was just dumped, too. I'm so glad Katy knows what she's doing. I'm rooting for you.

Ridgeview Tina wrote what many felt:

Can’t wait to hear about this poor dog when he is in a home. So happy that everyone is trying to rescue him. Poor little guy is scared. Time for him to have happy days And be loved.

Katy put everyone's minds at ease.

Thanks everyone!!! We will let you know when he comes 'in'. It should be very soon. If everyone would pull their aid, it will steer him to Cody's gated courtyard. Once we have him, I will bring a 'comfort dog' and goodies.

Messages overflowed with expressions of neighborly love, hope and camaraderie.

You are all wonderful in working together to get this boy home. Wishing you all success. Thank you all for caring. Tom, Placer Hills.

Eagerly waiting to hear if this is Tosen or someone else’s missing pup! Good job to all involved thus far! Holly, West Redding.

Can’t wait to hear about this beautiful dog. I also have 4 months of heart worm med and a bottle of shampoo that I can’t use for our dog. If you need, and some dog toys for this sweet little boy. Tina, Ridgeview.

Perfectly according to plan, the dog entered Cody's courtyard where he found food, water and a comfy bed. All was well. The joyous message was sent out that the dog was safely secured in the courtyard behind a gate.

The wandering dog made itself at home in a welcoming courtyard.

Got him! Please spread the word!

Within less than 30 minutes of that message, the dog was taken.

The next message was from Cody, who told what happened.

Upsetting news, everyone... This beautiful German Shepherd was contained and sleeping soundly and quietly in our courtyard all evening, as we were awaiting professional handling in the morning. He ate well and seemed content. I was up all night, checking on him. Just within the last 40 minutes or so, someone opened the gate and let him out, or took him. Someone took the roping off the gate that we had devised to softly close the gate from the house last evening in order to contain him, while he was feeding. This is how we know a human being was involved. Katy Yoder believes he will return to the courtyard …

Please continue your prayers and communications on his whereabouts. Thank you all neighbors, for your continued concern and support with regard to getting this poor dog safe.

Neighbors shared grief and outrage.

... Why would someone do that and let that poor dog out when they know everyone is looking for it?

... Just too sad and painful not knowing.

Katy, who knows a lot about dogs, floated another theory:

He may have gotten separated from a homeless camp and found his way back. These guys are fiercely loyal. If he gets separated again, I think he will find his way back to Cody. Nice place to sleep, nice food, clean water. These guys are VERY resourceful. Thanks to everyone for your efforts on his behalf. As Cheryl said, it looks he has moved on. We still have our 'game plan' if he returns. To the person who let him out of the courtyard, shame on you!!!

Cheryl McMillan, one of the west-Redding dog experts, elaborated.

It's impossible to tell for sure, but from the pictures, he looks pretty good for being out alone. If he was missing from a local home, the guardians would normally be looking, posting, advertising, etc. if they knew he was missing (they're not on vacation.) There have been at least two camps in that area, probably more. Other people may be feeding him. There are just too many “what if's”. Say a prayer, hope he will be safe and rescued soon.

The dog hasn't been seen since Saturday.

What's creepy is that for all the good Nextdoor.com provided in terms of providing a vibrant gathering place that allowed strangers and neighbors alike to join forces for the sake of the dog, the same site potentially served a darker purpose if someone was able to monitor the messages, identify the neighborhood and courtyard and steal the dog.

Cody is convinced there was human interaction involved.

"We were up all night, making sure he was OK, and he was content," Cody said. "We proceeded to get dressed. Within that 35 min of posting, someone took him, or let him out.  We believe he will return if he is able to; I sincerely hope he will."

Cody, who named the dog "Good Boy" - a name that was whispered to the dog all night as the dog rested in the courtyard -  doesn't just hope the dog will return, but Cody believes the dog will return.

Meanwhile, in Chico, Susan shares the same belief.

"There are dogs, and there are soul dogs," Susan said. "This was my soul dog."

Update: I spoke with Katie Yoder this morning, who cleared a few things up. First, the dog was first successfully secured at Cody's house more than a week ago, and returned multiple times for food and shelter, lured by the scent of some objects, including Katy's dog bed. While it appeared someone did open the gate and release the dog a week ago, the dog returned, was secured in the courtyard, but the dog climbed something in Cody's courtyard and escaped. It was last seen Saturday. 

Katy encourages people to not confuse the rescue by putting out dishes of food and water, but rather, allow the dog to seek comfort at Cody's, which is by now a familiar place for the dog. Katy urged people to not try to capture the dog, but to let it return to Cody's house on its own, which is when Katy and others will take things from there. Katy's number is 530-246-3015.

If you think you've found Tosen, the missing Chico dog, contact Susan at 530-514-0046. If you think you've spotted the elusive west-Redding German Shepherd, call Katy Yoder at 530-246-3015.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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22 Responses

  1. George says:

    A very well written story Doni. Thank you. The communication and concern between all the neighbors was so uplifting. Really shows the compassion neighbors have for each others animals. I can only hope the dog ends up in a safe and loving home.

  2. Shadow says:

    There are often missing and found dogs posted on our own Nextdoor and most don’t have tags or chips. If you care about your dog get him/her chipped and be sure they have tags so there is a better chance of your beloved pet being returned to you.

  3. common sense says:

    Nice to see all the concern for his amazing GSD. It always gives me hope that perhaps one day, we can extend that ability to helping our fellow human beings. GSD’s are one of the most loyal of the dog breeds. The odds of a stranger just “taking” him are slim. The dog either knew the person, or the person just let him out. I would bet its the owner of the dog that came and got him!

  4. Beverly Stafford says:

    We had to euthanize our 17-year-old Springer last month. Difficult as that was, unlike Susan with Tosen, we know where Brio is. Many broken hearts, indeed, as Doni’s title states.

  5. Karen C says:

    Great to see your Thursday column back Doni. I pray this beautiful animal finds its way to a loving forever home soon. Hopefully, he was not dumped, and just out for a stroll and got lost, although probably not the case. Katy and Cheryl and two of the finest canine knowledgeable ladies in the area. Thanks to both of you for stepping in and assisting.
    As a former owner of a beautiful German Shepherd who still fills my heart with love, even though he has been gone a long time, I feel the pain of those involved. They are soul mates of their guardians and family members. Truly loyal, protective and smart. I would love to have one in my family again.

  6. Carrie says:

    A wonderful story for this cloudy day, Doni.

  7. Ginny says:

    Well written, Doni………..Worth reading.

    Thankfully, it won’t bring all the negative comments as the political writing does. That is not how you started this blog, but thank you for today’s post!

  8. Hey there, I just interviewed Katy Yoder and I need to do some revisions to the story for accuracy. Stay tuned.

  9. Cheryl McMillan says:

    Thank you, Doni! With all of the usual news we hear, it is so nice to read about a “village” coming together to help this dog. Thank you to our neighbors and especially Cody.

    • Oh, Cheryl, thank YOU! You’re in the trenches as one of the canine experts. I appreciate the work you do.

      And yes, what an awesome neighborhood to come together to help this sweet dog.

  10. conservative says:

    Haven Humane asks for a donation, I think it was $30, to surrender a dog. Some people will save the trouble of talking to Haven and simply dump the dog in a neighborhood, far enough away that it won’t come home. If a dog has heartworm or needs some other expensive vet care, Haven charges for euthanasia.

    • conservative says:

      German shepherds are one of the worst breeds for hip dysplasia. Surgery costs thousands. Someone could abandon a dog and hope a new owner could afford the procedures.

  11. Thank you for publishing this article about the GS. It has been a lot of sleepless nights waiting for him to come back to our home. Our cameras would alert us when he came to eat. My husband has walked the BLM in the area just for a sight of the dog. The last time we saw him was last Saturday morning, after he got out. I contacted Katy to let her know he was on his way back to Cody. We are just sick. Pray he is safe. We have a great neighborhood we all worked together. Thank you everyone.

    • Darlene, you and your husband have spent many hours working to get this dog to a safe place. Thank you!

      I hope that since he returned to Cody’s after someone opened the gate, that he will once again return to Cody’s for food and shelter. I can tell you’ve bonded with this beautiful animal and that you are concerned about him.

  12. Tim says:

    Sounds like this Shepherd is an escape artist. They are fantastic jumpers/climbers – a chain link panel or even horizontal 2x4s supporting wood planks are all they need to clear 6-8 foot tall fences: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFtvtm8KE0U

  13. Thank you Katy for your help in this matter. You do know your Shepards.

  14. Patricia Bay says:

    Thank you, Doni, for sharing this beautiful story. Hopefully, you will be able to write a follow-up with a wonderful ending. .

  15. Cody says:

    Thank you, Doni, for your heartfelt and well-written article. Thank you Westside neighbors, especially Katy Yoty, Cheryl McMillan, Patty Bay, and the Jacksons, for your concern, compassion and great communication.
    Let’s not give up hope. Pray for the safety of this beautiful German Shepherd, and hopefully, his safe return to this area.

    My heartfelt thanks to this amazing community!

    • The silver lining to this story is how it’s brought the neighbors together. The only thing that would make it all better is if both dogs were returned to their loving homes.

  16. Steve Steve says:

    I feel terrible for Susan. Tosen is gorgeous! If my dog came up missing I’d be devastated. I have a friend in Redding whose dog disappeared. Two years later it was found in Chico. So there’s hope. I’m certainly keeping faith for Good Boy and Tosen. So nice to know Katy, Cheryl, and Darlene with her husband are involved. And, Doni, it sure is nice to see an article like this be posted and get so much community support. Looking for updates and a happy ending.

  17. Chris says:

    Cody, it seems apparent that you are a humble person. Thank YOU for your efforts.

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