RALEIGH — Deborah Plant thinks one of the dogs she loves is being held in the woods for a $5,000 ransom.
Elvis, a 12.5 pound Boston Terrier with limited vision and a seizure disorder, was kidnapped from his foster family's backyard in Historic South Park on May 16, Plant believes.
Plant, who works to rescue dogs from abusive environments, and the foster family went to the authorities for help. They even filed a report: miscellaneous lost or stolen property, larceny of a dog.
A Raleigh police detective was assigned to the case and followed leads as they came in. But after about a week with no signs of Elvis, Plant has turned to the man who bills himself as the country's first pet detective, Sherlock Bones -- yes, Sherlock Bones.
Bones, a.k.a. John Keane, has spent the past 30 years helping pet owners reunite with lost and stolen dogs. In the early days, Bones traveled around the country looking for lost pets for as much as $1,200 per day. He wrote a book, "Sherlock Bones: Tracer of Missing Pets," and may have been the inspiration for Jim Carrey's "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."
Now, Bones offers his clients unlimited advice on increasing the odds of reuniting with their lost or stolen pets from his Washington state home. His fee is $150.
Plant went for the unlimited advice. So, Bones designed a poster with Elvis' vitals, picture and information about a $200 reward. He advised Plant to saturate the 2.5 mile area around the yard where Elvis was last seen. The posters include the number to a cell phone purchased specifically for Elvis tips.
There weren't many calls.
But Elvis is a dog with a story. Plant says he began his life in a puppy mill and lost his ability to see in low light after spending too much time in a urine-soaked cage. He even needs medication to control his stress-induced grand mal seizures. Despite it all, the foster family wanted to become Elvis' "forever family," Plant said.
Elvis' disappearance during a 10-minute constitutional in the family's fenced yard seemed an absolute shame.
This week, Plant and a friend, Cindy Clark, raised the reward from $200 to $1,000 and distributed new posters, 1,000 to be exact.
"We felt like we had to up the stakes to get this dog back," said Plant.
That's when the tips started coming in. One source said a crack addict stole the dog. Another said the addict sold it to a pair of homeless men for $10. Then, a minister who sometimes works at a Raleigh homeless shelter dropped the big news: the men and the dog are holed up in an woodsy encampment not far from downtown.
The men, the pastor heard, were planning to hold out for a $5,000 reward.
But neither woman thought it safe or wise to go looking for the pair alone. Bones is a little surprised that greed and the big reward haven't produced Elvis.
The good news is, homeless men and women who frequent the downtown area are walking around with Elvis fliers in their pockets, Plant said.
"It's like the lottery now, they've all got their tickets," said Plant. "But you know, we've got no beef with anybody who gives us the dog back. In fact, we'll be really grateful."
The hunt for Elvis continues.
Staff writer Janell Ross can be reached at 829-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.