A Prospect Heights couple is desperately searching for its beloved pooch after a trio of alleged lady dognappers convinced a cop that they owned the furry little guy.
Winston — a white West Highland Terrier — went missing in Prospect Park on Friday, prompting a strange chain of doggy handoffs that has tormented a family, baffled the cops and triggered an all-out neighborhood puphunt.
“We don’t have children — so he’s what makes us happy,” said owner Michael Reinhardt with a quaking voice. “This is miserable.”
Reinhardt’s nightmare began when he and his girlfriend Kumiko Masaoka — who live together on Bergen Street — left the Ra Ra Riot concert in Prospect Park with the pooch at around 9 pm.
They headed to the park’s Long Meadow for off-leash hours, but the 1-year-old dog got spooked by a flashing dog collar light and ran away. He was wearing a dog collar, but not his dog tag.
The couple searched in the dark before going home to make posters and to call veterinary shelters. The next morning, according to Reinhardt, a representative at Sean Casey’s Animal Rescue in Windsor Terrace explained that someone had found Winston near Eastern Parkway as he tried to sniff his way back home.
But Winston’s would-be savior handed the pup over to a cop instead of taking him straight to the shelter — and the officer then made the mistake of his young career.
Three ladies in a black car with Virginia license plates had approached the cop — “the new guy” at the 77th Precinct, according to a source inside the stationhouse — on Eastern Parkway near Franklin Avenue, where surveillance cameras caught the action on tape.
The female trio somehow convinced the officer that Winston belonged to them — and the cop handed over the dog.
Reinhardt and Masaoka learned about the dog-napping, and ramped up their search, hanging dozens of fliers, checking online forums in Virginia and contacting FIDO, Prospect Park’s esteemed dog group, which posts information about missing animals online.
“We have about 700 people keeping an eye out for him,” said Bob Ipcar of the group. “That’s a lot of eyes and ears.”
Gumshoe neighbors also joined the hunt, with coffee shop owners and concert-goers offering missing dog tips — and even posting Craigslist ads — to help with the sleuthing.
It’s not the first time a beloved mutt has been stolen in brownstone Brooklyn. Last February, Sugar, a sweet little bulldog was snatched near Grand Army Plaza . And in August, 2009, Laika, an old Husky, was abducted after owners left her in front of a Fort Greene deli — a phenomenon Ipcar compared to, “leaning a $3,000 bike against a pole with no lock.”
Even so, a spokesperson for the police department said dog theft is very rare. “Has it happened before? Yes,” he said. “Is it widespread? No way.”
In this case, suspects could be charged with grand larceny — Winston cost $1,000 — although the crime is emotionally more on par with a kidnapping.
That’s why the distraught and exhausted couple is offering a $1,000 reward and the promise to not press charges.
“We just want him back — no questions asked,” Reinhardt said. “He is our child.”
If you have any information about Winston, call Michael Reinhardt at (646) 256-7343.