The telephone bleated like a billy goat.
I grabbed the blower.
A voice told me Max Gerard had vanished again. This time it looked like a professional job.
Dave and Wendy, Max’s devastated parents, filed a police report. They put up a reward. Distributed stacks of fliers.
Then they went for the big gun.
The name’s Ace Clark. I carry a leash.
I’m a pet detective.
“You want me to help find your dog?” I asked Dave, trying to sound like a serious journalist who has more important things to do.
Ah, but Max is not just any dog. The Spokane Valley man explained the seriousness of this caper.
“Max is a mutt,” said Dave, 28, who installs radon monitoring equipment for a living. “He’s not a purebred. He’s not worth anything. Except to us.”
Only a heartless weasel or an incumbent city council member would reject such a sincere howl for help.
Besides, take a gander at the mug shot. You’ve got to be something special to get through life with a goofy-looking puss like that.
No, no. Not my photograph. I’m talking about the dog’s.
Wendy describes Max as a great communicator along the lines of Scooby Doo or Ronald Reagan.
“You talk to him and he back-talks you. He says ‘ruhr, rowuuuhr,”’ said Wendy, 28, who manages a convenience store.
Max disappeared last Wednesday from his fenced back yard. The dog was last seen snoring on the back porch after a huge meal of Longhorn Barbecue scraps. A half-hour later, a friend who lives with Dave and Wendy noticed the pooch was adios amigo.
The Gerards can’t prove this theory, but they figure some fiend drove up, called the overly friendly Max to the fence and dognapped him.
They think it might be related to Max’s first disappearance on Jan. 12. That time Max got out through a loose board in the fence (since repaired) and was gone three months.
“We started the biggest dog hunt in Spokane history,” says Dave. “All our friends helped out. We printed 500 fliers and updated them weekly. We visited the pounds and every veterinarian within 25 miles.”
Nada. The dog was as outta-sight as Jimmy Hoffa.
The Gerards gave up hope, but Wendy checked the animal shelter one more time on April 9. There was Max. He still had his red collar on, but his license and name tags had been snipped off.
The dog was grimy and thin. From the lack of wear on his paws and toenails, it was obvious he’d been living with somebody.
Wendy brought him home. Ten days later Max was gone again.
“If we find out somebody stole him, I plan to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law,” said Dave, who adds that anyone could have learned their address from all the fliers they distributed.
Strange things have added to the Gerards’ suspicions. The day after Max came home, Dave says he started receiving telephone calls from someone who hung up when he answered.
One night at 2:30 a.m., a blue pickup was parked in his driveway. The truck roared off when Dave’s friend opened the front door to see what was going on.
Dave said the weird calls have stopped now that Max is gone.
It may be total coincidence, but the love this couple has for Max is sure real.
The Gerards have had him three years. They nursed him back to health after he was hit by a car, spending a fortune on surgery and medical bills.
They just want their mutt back.
“We don’t have any kids,” added Dave. “Max is virtually part of the family. He’s the best.”
MEMO: Max is a 3-year-old black and tan Rottweiler/shepherd. He was wearing a red collar with a new license. If you know where he is, call 459-5432 and leave a message.