Friday, July 25, 2003

Dog returned for $10,000 reward



By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP - Winnie the Rodeo Dog became the $10,000 Pooch Thursday.

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Joni Statzer of Cleves gets a kiss from her Parson Russell terrier, Winnie the Rodeo Dog. Statzer and her husband paid a $10,000 reward for the return of Winnie, who had been missing since Saturday.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
Saturday, Joni Statzer and her husband, Kevin, rode their horses down the driveway to a nearby cornfield. Joni, who competes in professional rodeos, was practicing barrel-racing.

Winnie, the couple's 11/2-year-old Parson Russell terrier, followed them, though they didn't realize it right away.

Winnie wandered onto Kilby Road, near the busy intersection with U.S. 50. The Statzers saw the dog and saw a car stop near her, then drive off. Winnie was gone.

They thought they were victims of a dog-napping.

The situation was urgent because Winnie had a litter of four puppies only three weeks before. The pups, born to such a young mother, had an enzyme deficiency requiring medicine given via mother's milk.

Without their mother, the puppies might die.

Plus, Statzer said, "it's kind of like a child being kidnapped. The longer it's missing, the less chance you have of getting them."

For days they searched. They posted signs describing Winnie - 12 pounds, about the size of a football, with brown and black splotches over one eye. Joni visited puppy farms throughout the Tristate. They offered a $10,000 reward for "the love of my life," as Statzer calls the dog who accompanies her to all her rodeos.

Then came a phone message at 1 a.m. Thursday:

"I have your dog."

The Statzers met Adam Hoffrogge, 22, an hour later at the Kroger parking lot in Cleves. Winnie jumped from the window and started licking Joni's face. Joni cried and Winnie howled, almost like she was singing.

It wasn't a dog-napping after all. Thursday morning Statzer gave a $10,000 check to Hoffrogge, who'd picked up Winnie Saturday on Kilby Road after two cars nearly ran her over. Hoffrogge, himself a dog lover, will use the money to buy two bull terriers and breed them.

"It's worth that to me," Statzer said. "Every human can relate to the love you feel with a pet you're close to. That's the most human feeling of all - love. And to have that loss, and then have the return of Winnie - it's a fairy-tale ending."

E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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