How a stolen dog made it back home to Playa del Rey

Sparky investigates a welcome home gift basket from police officers at LAPD’S Pacific Division Station with owener David Arbogast
Photo by Maria Martin

For three weeks, Playa del Rey resident David Arbogast was beside himself.

Burglars stole his truck and about $100,000 worth of gold coins and watches from his home last month, but they also took his best friend: a very friendly black-and-white Boston terrier named Sparky.

But thanks to Arbogast’s own tireless search efforts, an outpouring of assistance from friends and neighbors, some detective work by the LAPD’s Pacific Division and the emergence of a Good Samaritan, Sparky is now safe at home again.

Sparky’s March 6 homecoming was extra special, said Arbogast, because it coincided with Sparky’s third birthday. “I am so thankful to have my boy back in my life,” he said.

Arbogast’s ordeal began on Feb. 15 after he returned home from a business meeting in the San Fernando Valley. Renovations are being done on his home, and he had temporarily taken off the deadbolt above the handle on his front door.

“When I came home all the doors where open. Everything was tossed around. But the first thing I thought about was ‘Where’s Sparky?’” recalled Arbogast, a consumer fraud attorney.

Frantic, he called the Pacific Division station and was surprised when Capt. Robert Long, who happened to be on patrol near Playa del Rey, came to his home after hearing the radio call about the burglary.

“I was really grateful that he came out,” Arbogast said.

LAPD Det. Robyn Salazar, a Pacific Division burglary investigator, says burglars rarely steal dogs.

“This was an unusual case. We listed Sparky as stolen and dedicated some of our patrol units to look for him,” she said.

Arbogast’s neighbors also sprang into action, helping him place flyers with Sparky’s image and the promise of a $1,000 reward as far east as Inglewood. They also advised him to join the social networking site NextDoor and post photos of Sparky there as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Arbogast even contacted famed animal communicator / pet psychic Joan Ranquet, who agreed to a consult.

Sparky had been Arbogast’s constant companion since his divorce four years ago, and at times he wasn’t sure he’d ever see his best friend again.

“I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to think about anything bad happening to him. The house was empty without Sparky,” Arbogast said. “I had been on pins and needles for weeks.”

On March 3 police got a break in the case when they located Arbogast’s truck in South Los Angeles. Arbogast posted more fliers of Sparky throughout the area, hoping that someone had seen his beloved friend.

Three days later, a call came in from a man who identified himself as Mario and had recognized Sparky from all those lost dog posters.

“He said, ‘I have your dog,’” Arbogast recalled.

Arbogast and a brother who was visiting raced to Broadway and Manchester Avenue, where Mario was waiting with Sparky.

“As soon as [Sparky] saw me, he ran to me and jumped right into my arms,” Arbogast said.

Mario told Arbogast that he had seen Sparky with a homeless man and “bought” him for $100, knowing the dog’s rightful owner was searching for him.

Salazar gives Arbogast all the credit for bringing Sparky home.

“He did it on his own. A lot of people were looking for Sparky, but Mr. Arbogast really did this on his own,” she said.

Sparky is now something of a local celebrity. On March 9, Sparky and Arbogast visited Pacific Division Station, where a group of officers dressed in black and white in Sparky’s honor, took pictures with Sparky and gave Arbogast a basket of dog treats. Salazar also declared Sparky the station’s “unofficial” mascot.

After the homecoming, Sparky’s veterinarian examined the pup and gave him a clean bill of health.

“He looked very good. He seemed to be in good spirits,” said Marie Bertman, chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital of Culver City.

For Salazar, the story continues. She said police have developed some solid leads since recovering the truck.

“I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to identify at least one of the suspects,” she said.

Arbogast remains thankful for Salazar, her colleagues and his community for their assistance during what he described as among the worst weeks of his life.

“It was a horrible thing to go through,” he said, “but it was a beautiful ending.”