An Eastlake family is searching for their pet, Baby, after the dog ran off while in the groomer's care.
Ivan Esquivel’s wife dropped off their 7-year-old Pomeranian at the local groomer Monday just like she had many times before, but this time, he never came home.
“I have a 14-month-old daughter. She knows four words, and one is ‘doggie,’ and ever since she came home last night it’s ‘doggie, doggie.' She’s looking for her dog,” said Esquivel.
The retired U.S. Marine bought Baby for his wife just before his last tour of duty in Iraq. Baby has become part of the family.
“That dog is like our son, there is no other way to describe it. It’s not a dog to her, it’s family,” said Esquivel.
Esquivel said they usually get a call from Rolling Hills Pet Hospital in Chula Vista within five hours of dropping off the dog for grooming services, but this time it wasn’t until after 6 p.m. when they were told to come pick up the dog. Nothing prepared them for what happened next.
Staffers told Esquivel that the dog escaped a four-point harness on a walk.
“I don’t see that dog slipping out of the harness,” said Esquivel, who has called Chula Vista Police to investigate.
The groomers said they put Baby in the harness that was given to them by the owners. At 6:28 p.m. the dog flipped over and managed to get out of his harness.
At the same time, around 6:30 p.m., the wife came to pick up the dog.
“I can’t believe they had my wife go down there, pay for the services, and then tell her after the fact ‘we lost your dog, but hey, thanks for paying us,'” Esquivel told NBC 7.
Keith Hilinski, D.V.M., with Rolling Hills, explains that while nurses and staff were searching for the dog, the receptionist had started the checkout process with Esquivel's wife.
“[We] feel terrible, and we are trying to remedy a bad situation. We are not trying to hide anything. The wife knew the dog ran away as soon as the receptionist did,” Hilinski told NBC 7, adding that since the business opened in 1984, it has never lost a dog.
The vet called Ivan Wednesday morning and told him the family will not be charged the $55 fee.
“In the haste, in the stress of missing the dog, there wasn’t a point when anyone said, ‘Hey, let me refund the money for the grooming,’ which has now been rectified, certainly, now that we know that the owner was charged,” said Sara Knop, practice manager at Rolling Hills.
Esquivel says a staff member admitted to the officer that they didn't phone the pet owner right away.
“When he is around here, I whistle and he’ll come right away, so I know if they’d called me, I could’ve shown up and driven around and would’ve found the dog," he said.
Hilinski said Baby has been a client since 2010, when the dog was hit by a car. He said the dog is prone to running away.
Baby has been to the clinic before for vet visits, grooming and boarding.
Both the family and the hospital said they are working to find the dog by posting flyers and missing posters. The family is also putting ads on Craigslist and offering a reward for the safe return of Baby.
Hilinski said the clinic was also offering a $100 reward as well as contacting shelters looking for Baby. On Thursday, Rolling Hills upped the reward to $1,000.
“We want to find him, get him back to his owner. We feel terrible. This has never happened. We want to do everything we can. It was just a terrible accident,” Knop said.