Have You Seen Kobe?

At least six bulldogs have been stolen locally during the month of April

Nicole Schwartz didn't think twice about taking her English bulldog, Kobe, along for the ride as she made a quick trip to pick up some takeout at P.F. Chang's.

Since Schwartz got Kobe in early February, the puppy had been her constant companion. He'd join her for drinks on the patio at Hotel Congress and chew up maps on road trips to the beach.

"He slept with me every single night," Schwartz says. "A total cuddler. He went everywhere with me. We were inseparable."

So she didn't think twice about taking Kobe along to pick up her takeout order as Chang's, at Campbell Avenue and River Road, which closed at 11 p.m. on Thursday, April 15.

It took only minutes to duck inside the restaurant and grab her food, but when she got back to her car, she saw the window had been rolled down. The car was unlocked.

Kobe was gone.

Some heartless douchebag had made off with her 4-month-old puppy.

Schwartz is terrified to imagine what could be happening to Kobe.

"I feel like the kind of person who would steal a dog probably doesn't understand what a dog is," Schwartz says. "And they don't know how to treat a dog. And that's the part I'm really scared about. He could be hurt. And that's what breaks my heart more than anything."

Schwartz has been a whirlwind of activity since Kobe's disappearance. She's contacted detectives with the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Tucson Police Department. She's put up hundreds of fliers. She's scoured pet stores and kept up a constant search on craigslist and Facebook.

She's offering a $1,500 reward for the return of the dog, no questions asked: Kobe can be dropped off anytime at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.

Her only suspect: A man who was leaving the restaurant as she walked in and who was apparently in a white pickup truck that was parked next to her car.

Kobe was the sixth English bulldog to be stolen in the month of April, says Marsh Myers, public information for the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona.

But that may be more of a freak coincidence than any kind of organized effort. Two of the dogs went missing during a burglary that made the news because the culprits were photographed speeding from the scene by a photo-radar camera.

They surrendered to police, but only one of the dogs was recovered.

"The second dog is still out there somewhere," Myers says. "They either didn't know what happened to it or weren't going to tell."

In another burglary episode, a missing English bulldog was later found wandering a nearby street. Whether the burglar(s) took the dog and later abandoned it or it got out on its own during the robbery remains unknown.

The half-dozen thefts are "an unusual coincidence, but we don't have any evidence that they're connected at this point," Myers says. "Unfortunately, we don't have any investigative leads."

English bulldogs like Kobe require extra attention in Tucson's desert, says Mike Duffey, a co-chair of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona who used to specialize in animal crimes as a Pima County Sheriff's Department detective.

"You have to keep them inside, or they melt," Duffey says. "There's such a profound layer of fat under their skin that if they're left out in the hot summer, they melt, and then those free-floating lipids throughout their system kills them. It stops up their kidneys and ultimately shuts down their heart."

Schwartz was frustrated to learn that the parking lot at Joesler Village, where P.F. Chang's is located, isn't outfitted with security cameras.

"The Buffet, the dive bar that I work at, has cameras," Schwartz says. "You'd think those guys would have more of a security system there. If they had outdoor cameras, we'd have a plate number. We would have seen him in the act."

People who steal expensive dogs like Kobe (English bullies can cost in the neighborhood of $3,000) sometimes resell them, and sometimes use them to breed more dogs, Marsh says.

But the high price Schwartz paid for Kobe isn't foremost on her mind.

"I don't care about that," she says. "I just want my dog back."

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