Today’s news:

Laika is back! Confession, via Brooklyn Paper, helps owner find stolen Husky

for The Brooklyn Paper

Laika, the geriatric Husky whose abduction late last month prompted an immediate and visceral response from cops, readers and even a dog-loving state assemblyman, is back home — and you can partly thank The Brooklyn Paper!

Last seen in grainy surveillance camera footage being taken away from a Fort Greene deli on July 24 by a man in a wheelchair, Laika was discovered by her owner Natalie Barratt around the time that the wheelchair-bound man confessed to the crime in the comments section of our online report last Friday.

“I am very very sorry for my misunderstanding of the dog,” the man, Giuseppe Leonardo, posted on our Web site, adding that he believed that the dog had been abandoned.

“A man told me that the dog had been outside for hours alone, so me and my wife, being loving pet owners, saw to take her in thinking she was left there alone because of her age and health.”

But after reading the subsequent news coverage of Laika’s theft, the man knew that he had done wrong.

Meanwhile, acting on a tip called into a local news station — which picked up the story after The Brooklyn Paper’s intense coverage — Barratt headed to East New York.

Barratt picks up the story there, as reported on her Gone Laika Gone blog:

“Twenty minutes later, we are standing on Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway in the dark. I spoke to a girl with a small dog coming out of the deli.

“‘We think the dog was taken by a man in a wheelchair,’ I said.

“‘Oh yes!” she says. ‘They live right there!’ She pointed across the street to a run-down tenement under the bridge on Atlantic.”

Barratt hurried over only to find an empty apartment.

But one member of her search party suggested calling out the dog’s name (which she shares, by the way, with the first Russian space dog).

“I bend down. ‘Laika! Laika!’ From behind the door, I suddenly hear whimpering, banging, scratching and snuffling. Incredibly, it really was Laika.”

Later in an interview, Barratt said that she and her husband waited for the tenants to come home. When the residents returned, the dog-owners thanked them for taking care of Laika and politely asked for the pet to be returned.

The dog looked healthy, Barratt said, “but looked sad.”

Still, having the dog back — even under these mysterious circumstances — amounted to a happy ending.

But days earlier, such a conclusion looked unlikely. In the horror that followed the July 24 theft, cops worked the case, volunteers fanned out, and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), who loves his dog so much that he has a framed picture of his pup McDonald next to another office photo of Lentol kissing the Pope’s ring, started drafting a bill to make dognapping, catnapping or other pet-napping its own classification of crime.

In the end, the man who confessed to the crime blamed himself alone.

“I am sincerely sorry for my mistake and take full responsibility,” he wrote on our Web site about the dog that he had already renamed “Blue Eyes.”

Updated 2:42 pm, August 16, 2012: Story was updated with more details and a slightly retooled timeline.
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Reader Feedback

Bill from Fort Greene says:
Uh, wrong. According to the gonelaikagone blog written by Laika's owners, she was found thanks to a tip called in to the TV station that aired a story on the dognapping on Friday. That tip led them to the area of the taker's residence, and they located his apartment with help from local residents, showing them photos of the dog. The "confession" on the Brooklyn Paper comments section appears to have been posted by the man who took Laika at some time after the dog had been retrieved - not before. The owners' blog still doesn't make clear how they got the dog back after hearing her through the locked door to the apartment, which was apparently unoccupied at the time. It would be nice to know the full story.
Aug. 3, 2009, 4:21 pm
Gina from South Brooklyn says:
Avoid a repeat, and prevent tragic outcomes for other dogs:
Make tying up dogs like this a ticketable offense.
Period.
Aug. 4, 2009, 1:59 am
Bill from Fort Greene says:
Hear, hear. When dogs are stolen, the owners may grieve, but they get off easy by comparison to the stolen dogs. A ticket would put dog owners on notice that with ownership comes a responsibility to care for their pets. BTW, what happened to the guy who took the dog? Are charges being pressed? The public deserves to know, especially since there was an 88th Pct Detective working on the case on our dime. If the dognapper has a habit of taking other people's animals, pressing charges could prevent the loss of another pet.
Aug. 4, 2009, 12:33 pm
Leon Freilich from Park Slope says:
Some crumb no Laika;

May the cops taika

The lowlife cur

To the nearest stir.
Aug. 4, 2009, 12:35 pm
Dogperson from Bay Ridge says:
If you love your dog, you don't leave him-her unattended and tied up.
These people are lucky that the 'dognapper' was in the neighborhood, thought the dog was abandoned, and wasn't stealing dogs for a lab or dogfight operation.
I've also seen dogs tied up - long enough so that people wondered if the dog was abandoned, and passersby stopped and wondered if they should take the dog home or call Animal Care, since no one could find the owner in stores or on the block.
And dogs DO get tied up and abandoned outside of stores.
Please, dog owners - grow a brain!
Aug. 4, 2009, 2:25 pm
Whitney from Fort Greene says:
If you live in Fort Greene, you know dogs are loved and are a huge part of family life. They are rarely found abandoned outside gourmet food shops on a Friday night.

This man kidnapped the poor dog all the way to East New York, and from the sound of the mixed reports, did not seem to have the Huskie in a safe environment whatsoever.

Sounds shady to me. Did he take the reward money?
Aug. 4, 2009, 3:52 pm
Bill from Fort Greene says:
While there is certainly a large community of dog lovers in Fort Greene whose dogs are "loved and are a huge part of family life," that doesn't address the problem of people periodically taking them when they're left alone in public places. And not just in Fort Greene; in Park Slope and other neighborhoods as well. The man wouldn't have been able to take her if she hadn't been left alone. And whether or not he took the reward money, the fact remains that the entire thing wouldn't have happened if the dog hadn't been left unattended. That's why I endorse Gina's suggestion above. A fine would put people on official notice that this isn't acceptable behavior, and benefit dogs by protecting them. It would also save tax dollars now being spent on police investigations of these crimes.
Aug. 4, 2009, 5:39 pm
g- LEONARDO says:

i AM VERY VERY SORRY FOR THE MISHAVE THAT WAS happen because of this.
The dog was care for and love in my home
my cats treated her as if she was one of them and she was not abuse or mistreated
please know When we was told of the dog being missing and someone elses i was hoping they didnt go far
If i lost of one of my cats i be the same way looking for them
I hope laika's human brother and sister can forgiive me for my mistaken info on the dog along with natalie the dog's owner
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:13 am
g- LEONARDO says:
What i did for that dog thinking she was left out
being told she was leftthere from 5 to 6 hours
i did out of the kindness of my old heart not for money or gain
or to be on TV or anything else

Aug. 5, 2009, 4:17 am
Jerry from Windsor Terrace says:
I think this Leonardo guy deserves a break.
He's posted (here and after previous story) several times, apologizing, and he's clearly troubled.
I've known people who had same issue - was a dog abandoned? if so, should they leave it tied up alone, esp at night? how long do you wait? whose info can you trust? But this guy apparently didn't know or couldn't deal w/the logistics re what to do or who to contact.
These folks are lucky the dog was found, and was OK and cared for.

Let's not trash this guy. As Bill from Fort Greene said -- this wouldn't have HAPPENED if the owners had acted responsibly ... or been located and ticketed the first time they tried this.
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:44 am
twinkletoes from clinton hill says:

From the editors at the NYT Fort Greene blog:
"Laika was definitely tied up outside the store for hours. Her owner, Natalie Barratt, has said that her ex-husband took Laika for a walk at 3:30 that afternoon and tied her outside Provisions while he went inside to do work there. He checked on her periodically till 6, when he was called away from the store and forgot about Laika. At 8:30, he returned to Ms. Barratt’s house without the dog. She asked where Laika was. When he ran back to the store, Laika was gone."

It's so incredibly deceiving how this story was originally portrayed by Laika's owners! They took no responsibilty for what happened to their dog and instead of being forthcoming they witheld the truth and instead painted Guiseppe and his wife as criminals, villains and low-lifes. They should really be ashamed of themselves.
Aug. 10, 2009, 11:08 am
twinkletoes from clinton hill says:
oh and the source is here -- includes videos of the Laika's Rescuers: http://fort-greene.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/laika-nappers-she-enjoyed-her-time/#comments
Aug. 10, 2009, 11:09 am
twinkletoes from clinton hill says:
oh and the source is here -- includes videos of the Laika's temporary caretakers : http://fort-greene.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/laika-nappers-she-enjoyed-her-time/#comments
Aug. 10, 2009, 11:09 am
ty says:
oh and the source is here -- includes videos of the Laika's temporary caretakers : http://fort-greene.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/laika-nappers-she-enjoyed-her-time/#comments
Aug. 10, 2009, 11:11 am

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