Two days after Bella, an 11-week-old german shepherd, went missing from her home, her family had given up hope of ever seeing her again. Dayyaan Ismail says the puppy disappeared from their yard in Bothasig on Sunday 19 January. He immediately posted on Facebook, asking for help in finding her.“For a solid 24 hours, until 02:00 in the morning, we received comments. A lot of people posted they had seen two men in a black GTI Volkswagen Golf in Vryburger Avenue, driving away with a german shepherd. A few said the car was grey; others said silver.”But 48 hours later, they still didn’t have a solid lead. On the Wednesday morning, Dayyaan’s wife, Ferial, received a message, saying someone was seen walking the dog in Grassy Park.“At that point, I realised Bella was gone. We basically gave up,” says Dayyaan.Two hours later, he got a call from his barber, Youssef Tazi, saying he had something for him. “We are also good friends, and I knew he drives a silver GTI, so when he phoned me, everything made sense,” says Dayyaan.It turns out the two “suspects” accused of dognapping in the Facebook posts were actually the good guys. Youssef is one of the owners of Barber’s Range, a chain of barber shops in Bothasig, Plumstead, Steenberg, Claremont, Plattekloof and Century City. His home, which he shares with his business partner, Ali Elmkadad, is close to the shop in Bothasig. Youssef says he and Ali usually drive to work together, but that morning he was running late and Ali decided to walk. “Driving down Vryburger Avenue a few minutes later, I saw Ali, talking to a vagrant on the side of the road. The vagrant was holding a puppy,” says Youssef.He pulled over to investigate.“Ali kept on asking him where he got the dog, but he kept avoiding the question,” says Youssef.They eventually offered the vagrant R20 and took the dog home. Two days later, the “lost puppy” post surfaced in his Facebook feed. To his surprise, the dog’s owner was his client and friend Dayyaan. Although Bella’s adventure ended in a warm reunion with her family, not all puppies who go missing are as lucky.Belinda Abraham, communications, resource development and education manager at the SPCA, says there seems to be a growing trend of animals disappearing from their homes with no obvious signs of escape. “Power breeds are at the greatest risk of being stolen for dog fighting or breeding and smaller breeds may find themselves bait for dogfight training purposes or they are sold for monetary gain,” Abraham says. She advises pet owners to microchip their animals.“It provides you with proof of ownership. Neutering and spaying also reduce the risk of theft for breeding purposes,” she says. If your pet has been stolen, Abraham advises you lay a charge of theft at your nearest police station. “Stolen pets may be dumped if a buyer is not found, so notify your local animal welfare organisations. Raise as much awareness as possible for your missing pet.”Abrahams says buying a puppy from a hawker perpetuates a cycle of abuse and cruelty. She says these individuals are likely to either be stealing owned animals or breeding indiscriminately, with no concern for breeding females’ living conditions. What you should do is to post pictures of these repeat offenders on social media.“In doing so, a case file is built up which strengthens our motivation when appealing for a harsher sentence against the perpetrator,” says Abrahams. Those looking for a pet are asked to first consider adopting from the SPCA. “While many of our puppies and adult dogs are wonderful mix breeds, we often have purebreds too,” she saysIf anybody tries to sell you a puppy on a street corner, contact law enforcement on 021 596 1999, the SPCA on 021 700 4158/9 or your local police.