RocÍo Lopez loves the holidays. Especially this year, when she planned to spend extra time with her fiance Anthony Vasquez and their five bulldogs–Blossom, Peanut, Penelope, Blue and King–which she often dressed up this time of year.
But now she dreads the holidays–on Sept. 30, someone stole her five dogs out of her Anaheim backyard. Now, nearly two months later, the dogs are still nowhere to be found.
“I sometimes feel very hopeless, and I think what if I don’t find them?” Lopez said. “My life would completely change, and I would not be the same.”
Monday, Sept. 30 started as a typical day. Lopez remembers taking her dogs out to play that morning, before she got ready for work. Then she secured the bulldogs in their large backyard playpen. She, her fiance and his uncle left all left around 11 a.m.
Vasquez routinely went home during the day to feed and make sure the dogs were safe. But when he got there that day, the dogs were gone.
Alarmed, Vasquez checked the rest of the yard, house and the surrounding neighborhood. Unsuccessful, he called Lopez.
“He was just in a panic, and I just couldn’t believe that this was happening,” Lopez said.
Lopez was in disbelief, partly because of the seven feet of concrete that conceal the yard and the dogs, making the home a difficult target for theft. She also said she lives in a busy neighborhood.
Lopez’s dog, Peanut, has a diagnosed choking problem from eating too quickly.
After the call, Lopez quickly headed home. There, she and Vasquez walked the neighborhood, called out for them, but found nothing. Later that day, the couple began contacting shelters and news organizations. They posted pleas on Facebook and obsessively browsed Craigslist listings. The couple also distributed missing dog flyers.
Then on Oct. 1, they received a call from someone who believed they knew the whereabouts of the dogs.
The lead lived three hours away. They drove there that night. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a man who let them take a tour of his house but said that the dogs were not there. The couple returned home, feeling even worse.
“After we left, two weeks later, he contacts us saying he may know who has the dog,” Lopez said. “It was just so strange, and he hasn’t called us back yet, but we’re still looking into him.”
In hopes of raising more awareness, Lopez and Vasquez created an Instagram page (@thestolenfivebulldogs) in hopes of bringing them home. Lopez said the Instagram account where she posts daily has helped them share their bulldog’s story. It now has more than 1,600 followers.
“The Instagram account has been very helpful because we’ve got thousands of people to repost the dogs,” Lopez said.
Since they went missing, Lopez said the most challenging day for her was Halloween because she could not dress any of her five bulldogs up in the costumes she had planned for them.
“It was hard because last year we dressed Blue like a crocodile,” she said. “We didn’t have the other dogs yet. This year I was going to dress them all up, but I didn’t get to dress up any of my dogs, which was upsetting.”
Her biggest fear is that the dogs could be sold or used for breeding purposes, as not all the dogs were old enough to be spayed or neutered. She also said that some of the dogs need constant medical attention and regular veterinary visits and worry that they’re not receiving proper care.
While Lopez and Vasquez are worried continuously, they remain confident that they’ll see their dogs again. “I don’t think that I’ll ever find it in me to stop looking, even if it takes months or years,” Lopez said. “I’ll never stop.”
The couple is offering a $55,000 reward for the safe return of all five bulldogs. Lopez and Vasquez said that they would sell or do anything to see their dogs again.