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Opinion: Being robbed of a dog is a theft from the heart of our lives

A French Bulldog licks her mouth before being groomed.
Sakchai Lalit
A French Bulldog licks her mouth before being groomed.

"Psst. Hey, pallie. Wanna buy a French bulldog, cheap?"

French Bulldogs are adorable, with their little crinkly foreheads, upright ears, and stumpy tails. They toddle along on squat, little legs, in an almost Napoleonic strut that could make a grown adult, or even me, gush, "Aww!"

There was a rash of Frenchie thefts in and around Washington, D.C., late last year, several of them at gunpoint. In November a dozen French bulldogs vanished from a pet store in Gardena, California. And in Minnesota, five Frenchie puppies were allegedly dognapped and held for ransom.

French Bulldogs are the most popular dog breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club, and now are also the most stolen, according to the club's affiliate, AKC Reunite, which helps owners track down missing pets.

Is it because Frenchies are irresistible? More likely it's because they're the canine equivalent of jewelry — small, light, and costly. A French Bulldog from a reputable breeder can cost thousands of dollars. They look easy to slip under a coat, and resell to someone who wants a sweet deal on a cute dog and doesn't ask too many questions.

And if that dog has a microchip or ID tattoo? It may be weeks or months before the person who bought a hot Frenchie discovers it. And would someone who bought a pedigree dog under the table ever really contact the original owner to admit it?

Dog thefts of all breeds have spiked in recent years. Dognapping is typically considered a property crime, save for service animals. Stealing a dog who might have cost $3,000 is charged under the law as if the puppy were a computer, a bracelet, or an HD TV.It is tempting to be comic about French Bulldog robberies. "I was working the overnight shift on the West End when the call came in. 'My Bruno!' cried a lady. 'He's gone!'"

But being robbed of a dog is not like losing any of those things. It is the theft from the heart of our lives, a presence that curls up by us, runs, plays, comforts, amuses, and, yes, loves us. We talk to our dogs, we put them next to children in family photos, and hold them in our arms, next to our hearts. You'd like to think even dognappers might tell themselves, "There are better ways to get money than this."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.