On June 23, Mirtha Becerra’s newly adopted 2-year-old chocolate lab mix Luna escaped from her fenced-in back yard on Phillips Street. In the process of squeezing through a tiny space in the fence, Luna slipped out of her collar and was later found wandering near the intersection of Orange Street and West Broadway.
The woman who found Luna took her to the Salvation Army’s nearby downtown warehouse, where she called Missoula County Animal Control to report the found dog. Becerra made the same call minutes later to report Luna missing and was told that a woman was holding her dog at the Salvation Army until an Animal Control officer could get there.
“When I got there they told me the woman who brought her in had taken her home with her and was going to place an ad in the paper to see if anyone claimed her,” Becerra says. “So I placed an ad in the paper as well about a lost dog.”
Around 11:15 the next morning Becerra’s husband answered what his wife described as the “strangest, cruelest” phone call of their lives.
“This woman called to tell us she had our dog and wanted to know more about the situation,” Becerra recalls. “So my husband explained what happened. Then she said, ‘it sounds like you can’t take care of her so I’m going to keep her.’”
And then, Becerra says, the mysterious dognapper hung up.
With the help of Missoula police and Qwest, Becerra was able to trace the “cruel” call to a pay phone at the Southside Safeway on South Reserve Street. She’s now working with Qwest in hopes of tracking the cell phone number of the person who called Animal Control to report finding the dog. She’s also busy replacing her “lost dog” posters with a “stolen dog” version.