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Dog owners offer P50K reward for missing Bichon Frise: 'Just bring back our baby'

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Nov 23, 2023 9:45 pm Updated Nov 23, 2023 11:03 pm

Dogs fill a void in people's hearts which can turn extremely painful once they go missing. This is exactly what the fur parents of Tantan have been enduring since the dog was reported missing earlier this week.

News of Tantan’s disappearance began circulating among dog groups and pet foundations on Facebook when its owners, Bam and Verah Abiera, announced that their fur baby had gone missing at a grooming salon in Makati on Nov. 19.

The post comes with a photo of Tantan and a note that the all-white Bichon Frise was last seen at The Golden Fur pet salon and hotel on Arnaiz Avenue at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Bam and Verah are offering a reward of P50,000 to whoever can return their fur baby safely.

The amount may be relatively big, but the couple thinks it’s the least they can do to have Tantan, whom they fondly call their “baby,” back in their arms.

“’Yun ang gusto talaga naming mangyari. We’re willing to drop everything, we’re willing to forgive, basta mabalik sa amin si Tantan,” Verah told PhilSTAR L!fe.

Her husband, Bam, added that the intention was really to entice the dognapper to return Tantan to them.

“I think the number one motive of any magnanakaw is really the money. And imagine magkano lang nila mababenta ‘yung dog? So we thought of a figure that would be very enticing to them so they could just bring back our baby,” he explained.

The couple brought Tantan to The Golden Fur at noon on Nov. 19 for an appointment initially set at 1 p.m. that day. They said that they did so because of other commitments that would coincide with the 1 p.m. schedule.

Bam and Verah weren’t expecting anything unusual as they already had Tantan groomed at the salon—then named The Dog Spa—seven to eight times since the canine was just six months old. Little did they know, things would take a different turn this time for their one-year-old fur baby.

Verah said that last Sunday, she noticed that what was supposed to be just a one-and-a-half-hour grooming session for Tantan had already been extended to more than three hours.

“At around 3:30 p.m., wala pa silang message or call that he’s ready for pick-ip. So, I messaged them, sabi ko, ‘Okay na ba si Tantan, puwede na ba naming siyang i-pick up?' But then they replied, ‘Ma’am andyan po ba si husband niyo? Gusto po naming siya makausap.” she recounted to L!fe.

 Worry started creeping up on Verah as she handed her phone to her husband, more so when she noticed his eyes getting bigger in shock during the conversation.

“I was crying,” she continued. “Kasi pakiramdam ko, may masamang nangyari kay Tantan pero hindi ko alam kung ano.”

Bam said he wasn’t able to capture everything that the salon’s staff told him except for “We don’t know how to tell you this, Sir, pero nawala po si Tantan.” He rushed to the grooming salon as quickly as he could, describing the feeling as “like losing a baby.”

Bam rushed to the grooming salon on the second floor of the building where The Golden Fur is located. On its third floor is The Golden Fur’s pet supply store where a security guard is stationed; there's none at its salon.

He told L!fe what the staff told him: “Actually, they already admitted their fault. They all went out for lunch and unfortunately, they were not able to secure the place, meaning, no CCTV was working. They didn’t leave anyone to secure the place, the holding area. Even the door was unlocked.

Sad and confused, the couple went to Barangay San Lorenzo’s police station. There, they viewed the grooming salon’s CCTV footage which, they said, didn’t clear things up as it only shows the street and not the store’s façade.

“Hindi na-capture ‘yung harap ng building so hindi naming makikita doon if ever kinuha si Tantan and sino man, kung pinasaok siya sa bag at dinala sa baba,” Verah added. “And take note, wala daw napansin ‘yung guard, wala siyang Nakita that time.”

Desperate to find their fur baby, Bam, and Verah started spreading the news of Tantan’s disappearance on Facebook and the Makati Dog Community’s Viber group.

Their source of joy 'since day one'

More than providing them with reasons to be happy every day, Tantan is extremely special for Bam and Verah as the pooch has been with them since they started their journey as a married couple in 2022.

They adopted Tantan in the same year, after falling in love with the pup as soon as they laid eyes on him.

Bam recalled, “This was actually right before we were about to get married. We went to a breeder in Valenzuela, we just saw this puppy, and the first time we him, we really knew that he’s the one already. That’s why our baby means so much to us kasi he’d been with us since day one of our marriage.” 

From then on, the couple has been showering Tantan with so much love, even bringing the pup with them during their travels and dates.

“He’s very dear, dear to our heart. He’s our baby,” Bam continued. “He, in fact, sleeps in our bed day and night. We bring him with us to all the restaurants and we have to consider if it’s pet friendly.”

Verah added, “When we go to Tagaytay, he’s always with us. We take him with us during vacations. Parang anak talaga.” 

The love they’ve been giving Tantan is also the love he’s been giving to those around him. Verah said that their fur baby is popular among people in their condominium building, often saying “hi” to them and even going near them.

That is why Tantan’s disappearance has left a hole in their hearts, which they hope their fur baby can amend with its return. 

“What’s really painful is that we’ll be transferring to a house. We were so excited, we were thinking, ‘Si  Tantan, makakalad-lakad na sa park,’” Bam said.

“And then I’m also eight months pregnant,” Verah added. “So we were imagining na si Tantan and baby namin, they would grow up together, magkasama sila.”

Community effort

Looking back, Bam claimed that Tantan’s disappearance was caused by the grooming salon’s neglect of duty. “It was due to negligence,” he lamented. “I’d understand if ni-lock ‘yung door tapos pinilit buksan [ng magnanakaw] pero hindi ganoon, e.” 

Bam also shared what he thinks the grooming salon should have done to prevent the incident from happening.

“I think what the management has done, dapat pareho ang security ng store sa third floor saka ng grooming or holding area sa second floor. What they secure is the store, not the most valuable, the dogs,” he told L!fe. “So the biggest mistake is that they didn’t adapt to the change. They should have the same security sa store nila and sa grooming and holding area.” 

Since the couple found out that Tantan is missing, they have been receiving an overflow of support from dog communities and fellow dog owners across Facebook.

“Gusto din sana naming mag-thank you sa lahat ng tumutulong sa amin, ‘yung Makati dog community, sa lahat ng messages. We really appreciate mga nagme-message na concerned kay Tantan” Verah said.

She also encourages all those who will be reporting that they have seen Tantan or a dog with similar features to send a photo of its whereabouts to help them locate their dog better. 

The Golden Fur, for their part, released a statement on their Facebook page following PhilSTAR L!fe’s email request for comments.

It publicly apologized for “any distress this incident has caused within our community’ and has decided to temporarily stop operation from Nov. 23 to 25 to “further intensify the search and investigation” of Tantan’s disappearance.

The salon’s management said that as pet owners themselves, they “understand the impact this has” on the dog community.

“The management has been working hand in hand with Tantan's owners from the beginning of this ordeal. We want to assure you that we have taken immediate action and will continue to do everything in our power to locate Tantan,” it continued. “Our entire team is committed to bringing Tantan home and ensuring the safety of our furry friends in and around our vicinity.” 

In addition, The Golden Fur vowed to “strengthen the safety and security of all pets” coming to its salon and hotel, with “enhanced surveillance, increased staff training, and improved facility protocols.” 

Amid all these, Bam and Verah hope that whoever has taken custody of Tantan will have a change of heart. 

“Sana po magka-change of heart and please, please give our baby back,” Bam pleaded. “It’s so hard to lose our baby so I hope that you have a change of heart. And we won’t press any charges. Kahit siya ang kumuha, we’ll still give the reward. Just give back Tantan.”