A COUPLE whose beloved Husky dogs were stolen from their remote North Yorkshire farm on New Year’s Eve face a race against time to get the animals back.
Carol and Alistair Ostell are appealing for help to find their pets Zac and Blu, who were taken from their home in Greenhow, near Pateley Bridge, early on December 31 last year.
Despite reporting the theft to police and making an appeal on Facebook, the couple have yet to receive any meaningful information about their dogs, who were three-and-a-half when they were taken.
Mr Ostell, 70, who was already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at the time of the theft, has since been diagnosed with a lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
His wife, who is now the former University of Bradford professor’s full-time carer, said: “We had the dogs since they were little puppies and they are part of the family. My husband became really ill a few months after they went missing. I feel certain that them being taken has not helped him at all.
“It has had such a terrible impact on him, on the two of us. If we could have them back as soon as possible that would be just a joy.
“He has come out of hospital. It is hard to say in terms of prognosis but he is very frail and fragile. Routine was really important for Alzheimer’s patients, and the dogs were always there.
“He knows they have been stolen and it is a question of where they have been taken to. That is the biggest question, and will we get them back. It is just a really sad situation.”
Mrs Ostell, 60, who previously worked for a counselling service in Harrogate, said her husband’s overall health was “not good at all” and that there was a “limited amount of time left”.
Claire Verity, a friend of the family who is aiding their attempts to get publicity, said: “It is tragic when people, for the sake of a few pounds, can go and take someone’s possession.
“I am sure there are people who are going through the same thing, but for Carol she is having a hard time as it is, all she had was the dogs for company and a bit of normality in life. For them to be stolen like they were is just tragic.
“Alistair is not very well. It would be amazing if we can get the dogs back for him. It is a race against time to get those dogs back, before anything awful happens and then it is too late.”
Mrs Ostell said that on the morning of the theft, she let the two dogs out at around 6.20am so they could run around the secure area around the house, while she prepared their food inside.
She said: “I heard a commotion outside. I thought ‘what on earth is going on?’. When I went out there was a bit of sound, I looked and saw the gate had been opened and the two dogs were gone. I knew instantly they had been taken.
“A neighbour has CCTV and it showed great big spotlight at the gable end of our house at 6am, they were obviously out waiting for them. The CCTV also showed a vehicle streaking along the field before 6am.
“I feel they watched us and knew our routine and they were there before 6am, determined to take our beautiful boys.”
Since then North Yorkshire Police have been called in to investigate, but the dogs have not been found despite the couple receiving the occasional promising lead. A Facebook page called Help Find Blu and Zac has been set up to gain publicity.
Mrs Ostell said: “We have done everything we can to publicise it. You get the odd bit of information and then check it out, and it is not the boys. It is utterly heartbreaking.
“The police were really good and came up, they were really supportive but obviously it is a question of resources, they have got so many things to deal with.
“The night Blu and Zac were taken, in the early hours of that night a Land Rover was stolen locally. I had wondered if the Land Rover has been used to transport our boys because they were big dogs and needed their space.
“They are valuable, they are particularly gorgeous dogs, Zac was really stunning. Blu was a marvellous character, he was more like an Alsatian. They were very good looking dogs, they were just gorgeous.
“They weren’t vicious, you train your pets not to be vicious. You train them to be good and that gives people the opportunity. These people were professional anyway.
“I had no idea dog theft was such a big thing. I had no idea it existed. When you look into it, it is horrendous the number of dogs that are stolen. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of coordinated response.”
Both dogs have been neutered. Zac suffers from pancreatitis and is on a special fat-free diet and Blu shows signs of asthma if he has anything tight around his neck.
Anyone with information should call North Yorkshire Police on 101, and ask for PC 1893 Spittlehouse, quoting reference number 12150000513.