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July 4

(2008-289299) 9 a.m.: This week marks a special edition of Police Beat. Worry not, dear readers. We’ll soon be back to spilling ink on copper thievery and aborted home invasions. But this week, we’re going to venture off the beaten path just a little.

Sometimes, a crime is so heinous, so incomprehensible to the rational mind, that it demands a thorough investigation of the facts and a solemn call to action. Other times, the crime involves not only your boss, but your boss’s dog as well, which absolutely necessitates that I make a big freaking deal out of it.

So this week, I present a special Police Beat investigation: Who stole Orlando Weekly editor Bob Whitby’s miniature American Eskimo, and why was this person such a complete bitch about it?

First, some background. My boss, who lives on Catherine Street, owns an 8-year-old dog named Princess – valued at $100 – and he loves her. It’s kind of disgusting, actually. Princess is a nice enough dog, though perhaps a bit cranky. You’d be cranky too if you had a skin condition, bad breath, were tortured by fleas and mostly blind, so give the old girl a break.

As Whitby told the cops, “[Princess] has cataracts and is nearly blind, so she will bite if she is surprised.”

Anyway, in the early-morning hours of this Independence Day, a presumably intoxicated Whitby – he likes the sauce, he starts early and hell, it was a holiday – called OPD to report that Princess had been stolen.

Whitby declined to comment for this column other than to ask, “Oh Jesus Christ, Billman, is this really necessary?”

He then referred all questions to the written statement he provided the men in blue and bitched about some deadline(s) I supposedly keep missing.

Whitby told Officer Achey that Princess was taken from the street in front of his house at about 9 a.m. Apparently, Princess had followed her nose somewhere down the street, as canines are sometimes known to do, and a woman had picked her up.

The dognapper was about 20 years old, dark-skinned, with tight braids, a blue Polo shirt and a black visor, driving a Toyota Camry or Corolla.

According to Whitby’s statement, the suspect’s car stopped in front of his house with the dog inside. The woman asked one of Whitby’s neighbors who owned the dog. The neighbor told the woman that the dog belonged to the family that lived across the street, and that her name was Princess.

Apparently, however, the woman decided that Princess wasn’t actually the dog’s name – according to Whitby, the dog was wearing only her rabies tag – and started to drive off. Whitby told the cops that he yelled at her to stop, but she kept driving.

Let’s review the situation: You pick up a loose dog on the street and ask someone whose it is. They tell you, but you choose not to believe them. Then, when said owner yells that you’re taking his dog, you go on and assume that he’s just a crazy hobo or something and take off. I mean, you could look at Whitby in one of his less, um, collected moments and make that assumption, but still, when two people who clearly know each other are telling you who the dog belongs to, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt. At the very least you could slow down enough to inquire further. Or maybe that’s just me.

The police searched the area, but couldn’t locate Princess or her abductor. Whitby told the cops he’d be willing to press charges, were the dognapping scoundrel ever found.

Unfortunately, so far she hasn’t been. So let this serve as a warning to you dog-owners out there: Watch your mutts; there are thieves about.

Update: The dog was later located at the Orange County Animal Shelter, though she had to be quarantined for a week because the dognapper reported that Princess had bitten her. The lesson here: Don’t grab dogs on the street that don’t belong to you, especially cranky ones that can’t see very well. Let the professionals at Animal Control do their jobs.

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