In a year full of coronavirus, collapsing economies, and some say murder hornets, what else could go wrong? Well, someone could steal your dog. Drug dealers could be trafficking in stolen dogs in a way that doesn’t even make sense, and your pooch could be on the line.
Actor and producer Enzo Zelocchi, who recently had one of the most viewed trailers on Instagram during the COVID-19 lockdown (over 26 million views for “The First Secret,”) found out from a family member that his beloved dog Bengie was gone.
“A missing dog is not a high police priority,” Mr. Zelocchi says, “especially during these sensitive times, but I wasn’t going to give up.”
He says he established contact with the kidnappers in less than 24 hours by leading them to himself. (Not Recommended).
In a matter of days, his search exposed a criminal enterprise based in San Diego County. The facts coalesced around a surveillance video of the actual dog extraction from two local drug dealers at Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego County, about 110 miles from the actor’s residence in Beverly Hills.
“While pretending to negotiate with Bengie ‘s captors,” Zelocchi says, “money became no object. I was actively tracking their approximate location and getting closer.”
“At some point,” he adds, “they found out that someone posted on Facebook that the dog had been stolen and that there was footage of the two taking my Bengie. They got scared and sold my dog to a local homeless drug addict woman for $20.
An informant sent the footage to a personal contact showing a homeless female drug addict taking Bengie to a San Diego grooming establishment called City Dog located at 550 Park Blvd in San Diego to self-wash him and paying $14 cash.
“I went to City Dog,” Mr. Zelocchi says, “and spoke with the store owner, Gary. He looked at the
surveillance recording and kindly offered to drive me around to show me the part of town where this woman was most likely to be found. After finding the woman and my Bengie in a stroller surrounded by five homeless males in an area covered with trash and syringes, I jumped out of the car with a strong demeanor and grabbed my dog. Some of these men had some funny thoughts about me, but they shortly understood that it wasn’t their lucky day.”
He felt sorry for the woman and gave her $100 to compensate for her unwitting part in the ordeal. Bengie got another bath right away and a trip to the groomer and the vet the following day. The family pet had marijuana residue on his teeth and traces of meth and heroin, but thankfully he was fine.
“Now, we are all happy again!” Mr. Zelocchi says, reflecting on his family. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who helped in some way to find Bengie.”
When asked if this true story could be the raw material for a future film, Mr. Zelocchi acknowledges that it might.