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Dognapped! Pooch Thefts Are on the Rise, Animal Advocates Say

Dognapped! Pooch Thefts Are on the Rise, Animal Advocates Say

Dognappings were up 33 percent in 2013, statistics show

Dave King/Getty

When Sunny, a 1-year-old Pomeranian, ran out of his Chicago backyard and into an alley, the pup’s owner tried to chase after him, but the dog scampered away too fast. She caught up just in time to see a woman escaping with Sunny under her arm.

Her shouts didn’t stop the thief, but it wasn’t long before she got a ransom call. Using contact information from Sunny’s tags, the alleged dognapper called the woman, 66, on Thursday, demanding $250.

“I have your dog, but what’s the reward?” the caller reportedly said, according to DNAinfo Chicago. “Because I ain’t giving it back unless I get a reward.”

Sunny’s owner went to police, who hatched a sting operation to ensnare the culprit. As they listened in, the victim phoned the dognapper and said she would meet the demands if her little Pom was returned, Chicago police tell PEOPLE. The thief agreed but threatened to shoot the elderly woman if she “got anyone else involved,” according to DNAInfo.

It’s just the latest example of an increasingly common crime. In 2013, dognappings were up 33 percent over the year before, with 609 dog thefts reported across the nation, according to 2013 statistics from the American Kennel Club. The full number could be even higher because not every theft is reported to the organization, Hillary Prim, AKC spokeswoman, tells PEOPLE.

A Crime with Two Victims

Police consider dogs as property, but it’s a particularly heartbreaking crime “with two victims at play, the owner and the dog,” she said. “Unlike other forms of property, victims of pet theft are often suffering from the loss of valued family members.”

Pit bulls and pit mixes were the most stolen dogs last year, followed by Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers and Pomeranians, the AKC says. And the rate shows no signs of slowing – so far in 2014, dog thefts are on pace to match last year’s numbers, though this year thieves seem to be targeting pit bulls and pit mixes, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Rottweilers, German shepherds, bulldogs and Shih Tzus.

It’s a crime largely driven by economic factors, with thieves often motivated by the chance to get a ransom or to resell to others, Prim said.

Experts say that in order to ensure maximum protection, pet owners shouldn’t remove their dogs’ leash while out, or leave their pets unattended in the yard. The AKC also advises pet owners to refrain from disclosing to strangers how much their dog costs, or leaving the pooch alone in a car or tied outside a store. The organization also recommends that pet owners have their dogs microchipped (since collars and tags can be removed).

As for Sunny, he ended up back home safe and sound. When the alleged dognapper drove back with the furry tan-and-white Pom on her lap, police arrested her. Daniela Ramirez, 26, of Chicago was charged with phone harassment and theft, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office tells PEOPLE.

“I just thank God I got my puppy back,” Sunny’s owner, whose identity was not disclosed, told DNAinfo. “When you have a puppy for a long time, a puppy is just like your kid.”

Dognapped! Pooch Thefts Are on the Rise, Animal Advocates Say
Source: Dognapped! Pooch Thefts Are on the Rise, Animal Advocates Say

Robin Williams’s Family Remembers Him as a ‘Gentle, Loving, Generous’ Man

Robin Williamss Family Remembers Him as a Gentle, Loving, Generous Man

Zelda Williams and Robin Williams

Kevin Winter/Getty

In statements released Tuesday, Robin Williams’s children reveal they are trying to come to terms with their while remembering the generous and loving spirit of their beloved father.

“Yesterday, I lost my father and a best friend and the world got a little grayer,” says the actor’s oldest son, Zak. “I will carry his heart with me every day. I would ask those that loved him to remember him by being as gentle, kind and generous as he would be. Seek to bring joy to the world as he sought.”

Daughter Zelda offers a heartfelt message to Williams’s countless fans and to any critics as well. “My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world,” she says. “But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare.”

“My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments,” she says.

“While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least it’s a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.”

“To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.”

“Dad was, is and always will be, one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence,” she adds. “We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”

Son Cody is finding strength in his belief that he will see Williams again in the afterlife. “There are no words strong enough to describe the love and respect I have for my father,” he says. “The world will never be the same without him. I will miss him and take him with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life, and will look forward, forever, to the moment when I get to see him again.”

Marsha Garces, who was married to Williams until 2008 and is Zelda and Cody’s mother, is grateful for all that the actor gave to their family and the entire world.

“My heart is split wide open and scattered over the planet with all of you,” she says. “Please remember the gentle, loving, generous – and yes, brilliant and funny – man that was Robin Williams. My arms are wrapped around our children as we attempt to grapple with celebrating the man we love, while dealing with this immeasurable loss.”

Robin Williamss Family Remembers Him as a Gentle, Loving, Generous Man

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The Williams family is asking well-wishers to send contributions to charities close to the actor’s heart in lieu of flowers. Suggested organizations include St. Jude’s Research Hospital, Challenged Athletes, USO, the Mohammed Ali Parkinson Center, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.

For more on Robin Williams’s tragic death and his legacy of comic genius, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Robin Williamss Family Remembers Him as a Gentle, Loving, Generous Man
Source: Robin Williams’s Family Remembers Him as a ‘Gentle, Loving, Generous’ Man

Justin Ross Harris’s Wife Calls Him a ‘Wonderful Father’

Leanna Harris is standing by her husband.

Ever since Justin “Ross” Harris was charged with murder after leaving their 22-month old son, Cooper, in a hot car, questions have swirled around Leanna, his wife of eight years. In a July 3 probable cause hearing, Detective Phil Stoddard testified about a bizarre jailhouse conversation between Ross and Leanna Harris. According to Stoddard, Leanna asked him, “Did you say too much?”

But despite testimony that Harris, 33, sexted a half dozen women while his son died, Leanna Harris has not abandoned him.

In a victim’s impact statement obtained by PEOPLE, Leanna Harris pledged her support for her husband – and insists that Cooper’s death was accidental.

“Ross was a wonderful father and he loved Cooper with all of his heart,” she wrote. “Because I saw how he treated our little boy for 22 months, I know without a doubt he would never have knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son. I want you to know what a loving father he was.”

Leanna Harris, 30, also adopted a forgiving tone about her husband’s alleged online behavior. “Whatever issues that transpired in our marriage is between God and us, for He will judge those moral sins,” she wrote. “The rush to judgement by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society.”

Justin Ross Harriss Wife Calls Him a Wonderful Father

Leanna Harris

Kelly J. Huff / Marietta Daily Journal / AP

While Harris sits in jail without bond, Leanna says she has grappled to come to terms with the loss of her son – and her husband. “I have been seeing a counselor for my grief due to the loss of my child and my husband,” she wrote. “Treatment will likely last the rest of my life.”

“The death of my son is still unreal,” she continued. “Not a moment goes by when I don’t think about him or what our future would have held. The amount of grief this has caused is indefinable. It cannot be explained in words or emotions. I now live a tortured existence. I depend on my Lord for strength and guidance.”

Justin Ross Harris worked at Home Depot until he was let go in July. Leanna worked as a dietitian – but is also unemployed. “I had to transfer my job to Alabama,” she wrote. “My return to work has been delayed due to the media hounding me. I did lose a consulting job I have had in Alabama for four years due to the media. As of 8/1/14, I have been out of work 43 days.”

“The storm around my family has prevented us from grieving in the right way, if there is a right way,” she writes. “Some days, I completely break down because I miss my baby and my family so much. August 2nd would have been my precious boy’s 2nd birthday.”

Justin Ross Harris has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond in the Cobb County Jail. His attorney, Maddox Kilgore, says the death was unintentional and calls Cooper’s death a “tragic accident.”

Justin Ross Harriss Wife Calls Him a Wonderful Father
Source: Justin Ross Harris’s Wife Calls Him a ‘Wonderful Father’

Lauren Bacall Dies

Lauren Bacall, the sultry presence who first hit movie screens in 1944 and then went on to play a series of sophisticated, tough-as-nails roles for the next six decades – even in real life – has died, the Humphrey Bogart Estate announced on its Facebook page.

She was 89 and a longtime resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“With deep sorrow for the magnitude of our loss, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall,” said the Facebook message posted Tuesday night.

Launched by a Harper’s Bazaar cover when she was a 19-year-old model, the former Betty Joan Perske, born to Jewish immigrants in New York City, was signed by Warner Bros. in 1943.

Whatever she may have lacked in acting experience, the willowy teen made up for with a certain grace that was made camera-ready by the great director Howard Hawks. Lauren Bacall, as she had been renamed, modeled her character in 1944’s adaptation of a Hemingway novel, To Have and Have Not, after Hawks’s stylish wife, Nancy “Slim” Keith, and delivered the immortal line to the grizzled Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

A star was born. So was a legendary off-screen romance.

“Everyone could see their love right there on celluloid,” their son Stephen Bogart told PEOPLE in 1996. “He was the great love of her life, and she his.”

Bogey and Bacall

During their first scene together, “I realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart,” Betty, as she was always known, wrote in her 1978 autobiography, Lauren Bacall: By Myself. “It worked.” In fact, “the Look” would be known as Bacall’s trademark.

On May 21, 1945, shortly after Bogey’s divorce from his third wife was finalized, he and Bacall were married on a friend’s farm in Ohio. Three years later, son Stephen (named after Bogie’s character in To Have and Have Not) was born, followed in 1952 by daughter Leslie (named in honor of Bogey’s late pal, The Petrified Forest actor Leslie Howard).

Then, tragedy struck in 1956, when Bogie was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. Bacall nursed him throughout the illness, and on Jan. 14, 1957, he died. Afterward, the devastation that Bacall, then 33, suffered was nearly indescribable.

She and Frank Sinatra had an affair (“He behaved like a complete s—,” she later said), then came a rocky, 12-year marriage to stage and screen star Jason Robards that produced another son, actor Sam Robards, but ultimately fell apart due to Jason’s heavy drinking.

Once Bacall left Hollywood for New York in the late ’50s, she found a new career working on Broadway, where, despite her raspy singing voice, she won Tony Awards for the musicals Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). “The theater,” she said, “has been fantastic to me.”

A Beauty

Filmmakers didn’t forget her, either. Though she wasn’t nominated, she delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as the widow taken with the charms of the dying Old West gunfighter played by John Wayne in director Don Siegel’s 1976 The Shootist.

Twenty years later, at age 72 (the same year PEOPLE named her one of the 50 Most Beautiful) she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing the mother of Barbra Streisand’s character in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Said Streisand, who also directed the film: “Lauren’s special beauty is the reflection of her elegance, her intelligence and her invigorating will.”

Finally paid her due, in 2010 Bacall received a Life Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

And while the star always played down any praise that happened to come her way about her looks – “I always thought I had crooked eyebrows and crooked teeth. That’s why I never understood why people called me a beauty” – she did once say, “[Comedian] Jack Benny told me I had perfect timing. That’s probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten.”

Lauren Bacall Dies
Source: Lauren Bacall Dies