That time I bought a stolen dog on Craigslist and broke my kids’ hearts

By Brittany Rollins, Core Writer

Through a series of unfortunate events, we were a dog family for a week this summer. Being a dog family wasn’t unfortunate, but the short time frame definitely was. Just in case you’re wondering how long it will take your child to become attached to a family pet, the answer is, less than a week. When I had to tell them that we couldn’t keep our new dog anymore, they were devastated. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

My girls didn’t know that one of the things on my summer bucket list was “get a dog.” They’d been asking for one for over a year. Life always seemed too chaotic, but it finally got to a point where I thought if we found the right dog, I’d be open to it. So I searched on all of the local rescue sites, the Humane Society,, and Craigslist. From the day school ended, I had my morning routine of searching the websites to see if any new dogs were added.

There were tons of cute pups, but none that met all of the preferences I had for a dog. None seemed like the right choice. I knew this was a ten to fifteen year commitment for our family and wanted to make sure I didn’t regret the decision a month (or even a year or two) into it.

Finally, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a young (but not a puppy) yorkie/westie mix who didn’t bark, was house trained, was great with kids and other dogs, and was in our price range. He seemed perfect so I asked why they were getting rid of him (they said they were moving and couldn’t take him to their new place). I made sure he had a health certificate and set up a time to meet him without my girls, because I didn’t want them to be disappointed if I decided he wasn’t the right fit for our family.

I met him and he seemed perfect. I handed her $300 and she handed me our new family member. I took him to a pet store to buy all the things we needed for him and spent over $150 buying food, a bed, leash and harness, some treats, food bowls, and a couple toys. He was very well behaved in the store and I beamed with pride as everyone told me how cute he was. I took some selfies in the checkout line and couldn’t believe that this dog was actually ours!
The girls were over the moon when they met him! They couldn’t believe this sweet surprise. They named him Roti, after our family’s favorite food. With that name, he was officially ours. But, in the excitement of getting him, I forgot to get his health certificate and vet records from his previous owner.

This is where our story took the unfortunate turn…

His owner told me she’d email them to me, but I never received them. After several unanswered texts, I finally called her, only to discover that the number had been disconnected. This was officially weird. I told my husband what was going on. A few minutes later he sent me a link to a Craigslist ad for a missing dog.

The dog looked exactly like our Roti.
The ad was posted the day after we bought him.
My heart sank.

I called the number on the missing dog ad and sadly told her I thought we had her dog. I fought back the tears as I heard the relief and joy in her voice.

Their dog, named Dougie, had gotten out of their yard while she was outside playing with him and their other dog. The wrong person found him and saw this as an opportunity to make a quick buck. Hindsight is 20/20 and the way she covered her tracks and handled the whole situation made us realize she was a professional thief and surely had done this before. She knew how to scam families.

I sat the girls down and tried to explain to them what had happened. It was hard to have a conversation about it because their little minds couldn’t comprehend someone doing something so wrong. My oldest, nine years old, understood right away. She gasped and began to sob. It took a minute for the younger two to catch on.

I asked them what they thought we should do. Their broken hearts couldn’t say the words, but I knew they knew. I told them we got to be Paw Patrol superheroes for this other family (making it relevant and as fun as possible for my five-year-old) and return their dog.

Their hearts were broken. They had a hard time seeing him as someone else’s dog. I asked him if their grandma’s dog, whom they love, was ever stolen and the family who ended up with him ever found out he was stolen, what they would want that family to do? This helped them understand and they knew we had to give them back.

That definitely doesn’t mean it was easy. Dougie’s owner told me she cried all the way home after picking him up because she couldn’t get my girls’ tear-stained faces out of her mind. My heart hurt, too, but I was happy we were able to reunite this family with their dog.

A parent might say they never want their child to go through a heartbreaking situation like this, but I know that’s not realistic for this world. We only had Roti (Dougie) for a week, but I know that the lesson they learned about doing the right thing, even if it is hard, will last a lifetime.