'Our Dog Changed Our Lives for the Better, Then Tragedy Struck'

In the summer of 2018, we welcomed Baya, a French Bulldog into our home. Baya was a very smart and sociable puppy and she was very attached to my son and my daughter.

Baya and my children became a trio and did almost everything together; they would always play outside, watch television and even sleep next to each other. Baya would travel with me to drop off my son and daughter to school; she really was a part of our family.

After Baya became part of our family, our kids significantly developed their compassion and their sense of responsibility by looking after her. Every morning, before attending preschool, my daughter would wrap Baya in a blanket and kiss her goodbye on her forehead.

Then, on December 17, 2020, a week before Christmas, tragedy struck. I was working an evening shift when my wife called to tell me that Baya was missing. I immediately stopped working and went back home. My family and I spent a few hours looking for Baya and we couldn't find her anywhere.

I felt in my gut that something was wrong. So, I asked my neighbor who had a CCTV camera in front of his house, if we could check the footage to see what happened to Baya.

Adam's Dog Was Stolen For Two years
Baya pictured with Adam's children before she was stolen. Adam Nawrocki

Discovering our dog had been stolen

When I saw the footage, I panicked. I felt heartbroken because I discovered that Baya was taken by somebody in a dark colored Jeep.

My son had been playing with her on our front porch. When he was a few meters away from her, a car had pulled into our estate, grabbed Baya by her neck and pulled her into the car. When my son had turned around, he was confused to find that Baya was not there. It didn't even cross his mind that she may have been kidnapped.

When telling my children about what happened to Baya, I had to be sensitive because they were already very anxious and they were both crying. My daughter was only 3 years old and my son was 7 years old at the time, and I had to tell them that unfortunately, in our world, there are bad people who don't think about how much harm they may inflict on people.

That evening, the authorities came to our house and we wrote a statement but I still couldn't sleep. I spent the night driving around our estate in Galway, Ireland, searching for Baya. My children also couldn't sleep, they were in shock. They couldn't believe that a part of our family was gone.

As a father, I felt like I had disappointed my family. That week before Christmas, I drove over 600 kilometers. My wife printed over 1,000 leaflets and placed them in many grocery store. She also knocked on every door in our area and asked for assistance in spreading the word. We then contacted every single vet in our area and they all knew that Baya had been stolen.

Adam's Dog Was Stolen For Two years
Baya (pictured with Adam's daughter) was found in January, 2023. Adam Nawrocki

In Ireland, there was a growing rate of dogs being stolen by people who were looking to make money by forcefully breeding them, and unfortunately, some of the families that receive puppies have no idea of the backstory.

I spent every single day that week looking for Baya. During the day, I drove around many different areas and in the evening, my family and I raised awareness of her kidnapping on social media. I was relieved to find that many people on social media were resharing our posts and they, too, were on the lookout for Baya.

Christmas without our beloved dog

On Christmas Eve, I was in bed scrolling through my phone when my son and daughter approached me. They said, "Dad, could you tell Santa to not bring us gifts this year? Instead, can we have our dog back tomorrow?"

I couldn't hide my tears. I immediately got into my van and began driving around again. We had Baya's Christmas gifts under our tree, and the thought of spending Christmas Day without her was heartbreaking.

Christmas Day was hard, but luckily, five days after that, I was given a few leads that directed me to some dangerous people who were conducting underground dog fighting rings. When I attempted to go there to look for Baya, I was threatened and my son said that he was scared for me. Authorities got involved, but Baya was not found, so, I continued my search for Baya on the internet only.

Before I knew it, I had spent months looking for Baya online. In fact, as a family, we never stopped searching.

Adam's Dog Was Stolen For Two years
When Baya was found in 2023, she was in a poor condition. Her ear was swollen and she had an infection. Adam Nawrocki

In 2021, a year after Baya was stolen, we bought another French Bulldog. My children were finding it hard to adjust to Baya's absence; we didn't want to replace her, but we knew that we wanted another dog in our family.

A glimmer of hope

On January 13, 2022, I was sitting at home, relaxing, when I received a phone call. To my surprise, I was told that Baya had been found wandering in Dublin. Because she has a chip as a name tag, it led directly back to my family.

I couldn't believe it. I began crying straight away; it was surreal.

But I will never forget one particular moment: The person who was talking on the phone told me that Baya was in a poor condition. She had an ear infection, she was partially blind in one eye and she also had a paw infection.

He then said, "Do you still want to collect her?" I thought: Of course, that's still my dog! So I said, "Look, I will be there tomorrow morning with my whole family."

As soon as I had hung up, I called my wife and told her that Baya was found. There was silence, followed by the sound of crying. She was overjoyed.

Adam's Dog Was Stolen For Two years
When Baya was found in 2023, she was in a poor condition. Her ear was swollen and she had an infection. Adam Nawrocki

I told my kids as soon as they arrived home from school. My daughter's face lit up and she began jumping for joy, saying, "We need to get her now!" It amazed me how much she remembered about Baya, as she was only 3 years old when Baya was stolen. That night, my children couldn't sleep. They were so excited to be united with Baya again.

On January 14, we got up early in the morning, ate breakfast, and drove to Dublin, but our reunion was bittersweet. When we saw Baya, she looked very old. She was wrapped in a blanket and her ear was very big from the infection. Her face was also gray and her paws were swollen. She looked sad and exhausted.

When she first saw my wife and me, she didn't remember us. But as soon as I hugged her, she recognized my smell and she became joyful again. She began licking me and my wife and a spark began to form in her eyes again.

The kids, at first, were a little distant with Baya; they were afraid because she looked very sick.

Baya's speedy recovery

During the first week that Baya was home again, she spent the majority of the time eating and sleeping, as she was recovering. She was also taking a lot of medication to ease the swelling in her ear and her paw. But in the following week, she began to get her energy back. She was jumping for joy and visiting the kids in their bedrooms. It made me very happy to see her recovering speedily.

Although we have two French Bulldogs now, we share our love for them. We can't pet one without petting the other. Even when we give Baya medication, our other dog becomes jealous, so we have to give them a treat at the same time, too.

The doctors have told my family and me that Baya is currently reacting well to her medication. Her skin is becoming soft again. The vet had said that it was rigid because she was probably kept outside during the time that she was stolen.

I would encourage every pet owner to be very careful when it comes to the health and safety of their dogs. I believe that some people are looking at your pet and thinking about how much money they can make from breeding them.

I still suspect that Baya was stolen so that she could be bred, and when the kidnappers realized that her tubes were tied, they eventually set her free. I feel that in Ireland, not enough is being done to protect missing or stolen dogs as there is no specific law against the kidnapping of dogs. Unfortunately, because of this, a stolen dog is treated as property; the same as a stolen laptop.

But having Baya back home is wonderful. I'm glad that she has somebody, other than us, that she can spend her time playing with too. She completes our family.

Adam Nawrocki lives with his family in Galway, Ireland. Their dog, Baya, returned to them on Saturday 14 January 2023. Adam will be joining a protest against missing and stolen dogs in Ireland, you can find out more about it here.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor, Carine Harb.

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