Alleged Dognapper Steals Pooch in Chelsea

By Mathew Katz on October 16, 2012 8:28am 

CHELSEA — A man allegedly snatched a Chelsea resident's Shih Tzu off the street last month, police said, causing its owner to spend several agonizing weeks searching for the lost pup.

Seven-year-old Skylar the dog was stolen on the evening of Sept. 21, cops said, after owner Maria Vazquez tied him up near West 19th Street and Seventh Avenue.

A few minutes later Vazquez, with the help of some bystanders, tracked down the suspected dognapper a block away, at which point he scooped up the black-and-white dog and began to run away.

Since then, Vazquez has done little else but search for her missing pup, blanketing Chelsea with posters and putting up ads on Craiglist.

Vazquez also managed to find security footage — which she's posted on YouTube — of a man running down West 19th Street near Seventh Avenue at the time of the alleged theft with a dog under his arm.

The heartbroken owner, who suffers from depression and has trouble walking because of osteoarthritis, said that Skylar is a therapeutic dog who helped enrich the lives of both her and her mother, Rosa, who suffers from dementia.

The pair share an apartment in the Fulton Houses, where other residents were also cheered by Skylar's affection and wagging tail, Vazquez said.

"I'm on disability, so it's hard for me. But my worry is my mother's mind without him," she said.

"This is a matter of destroying a home. This is my child. And he's been taken."

Vazquez said that on the night of the incident, she had taken Skylar on a walk and tied him up while she reached to grab an item sitting on the curb.

"He was just a few feet away from me," she said.

She said she did not see the alleged dog thief at first, but waved down a driver when she realized her dog was missing. They managed to locate Skylar a block away.

"I yelled out, 'That's my dog!' and he started running," she said. "He showed no compassion when I ran and screamed."

Two videos posted by Vazquez on YouTube show a man running with a dog in his arms, though the person's face is obscured.

Police said there are currently no suspects in the case.

Vazquez's modest apartment is scattered with well-used dog toys, bowls and a bench that Skylar enjoyed sitting on — all of which remind her of the pup.

Vazquez said she's had a few leads so far, and last week she trekked out to Brooklyn in the hopes that a shelter had picked up Skylar — only to find a similar-looking Shih Tzu.

She is also worried about her mother, who has been told that Skylar is at the hospital recovering from a stomach bug.

"She's crying and crying. She wants him back," she said. "It's hard to see her like that."

Vazquez said she'll continue her search for months, and if nothing turns up, she'll scrounge together the cash it will take to adopt a rescue dog.

Regardless, she said her family has been permanently hurt by the alleged dognapping.

"He stole from me. He stole a big part of me," she said.

"I need Skylar to feel like I'm me."

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging on to the Crime Stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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