Many, many years ago when I lived down south I used to walk regularly on the north Norfolk beaches. One day we were walking along the sea wall to the dunes and Sam, my Springer, was having fun as usual, chasing the geese off the marshes. As I had done countless times, I continued walking with the other two assuming that Sam would eventually catch up as he always did. But when I got to the dunes, there was no sight of him. I waited a bit and then decided that he had gone back to the car park. As I walked back along the sea wall I saw a woman with a Springer on a lead walking towards us and the dunes, away from the car park. It was my eagle-eyed daughter who said, "That's Sam!" And it was. I asked the woman what she was doing and she said she'd found him in a distressed state (I knew she was lying because laid-back Sam just didn't do distress) and was taking him to the dunes. She happily confessed that if she hadn't found his owner she was going to take him back to London! I was so stunned and relieved that we had Sam back I simply walked away with him. It was only later as we were driving home that the reality dawned: Sam had been dognapped. A few minutes more and she would have been in the vast expanse of the dunes and presumably would have waited there all day until we had finally given up. If she had really been looking for Sam's owner, why didn't she take him to the car park?
Dognapping is now big business and apparently on the increase. A few of the more unusual breeds are stolen to order, but the vast majority are sold on quickly or held for ransom. Some are stolen from the owners' gardens or kennels (well trained gun dogs are particularly vulnerable), or from outside shops (would you leave your baby outside a shop?) or from inside parked cars (quite correctly, we leave the windows open for them). All too many are never seen again.
As a response to the increased incidence of dog theft, several pet detective agencies have set up in business. Knowing that most of us will spend whatever it takes to recover our beloved dog, some of them charge £1,000 or more a day. But most pet insurance companies will now pay for the publicity involved. I suspect that some agenices are better than others and before spending thousands, I would advise thoroughly checking them out and what they do before parting with any money. Door-to-door enquiries and posters (although they wouldn't have helped in Sam's case as he would have been taken 200 miles away) and the internet to look for dogs for sale are all things an owner can do themselves. Microchipping won't help find the dog in the first place - unless a vet checks the chip of every new dog on its books - but will at least help prove it is yours when it is found. As a last resort, there is always the Retrieva collar, a tracking device linked to GPS.