A family of four have been left in “agony” after their beloved dog was stolen out of their car in a Morrison’s car park.
The Kowalczyks, from Chingford, East London, were extremely traumatised by the incident on May 7 this year, but have not stopped searching for their beloved French Bulldog Tina.
“We will never give up,” said 21-year-old Joanna Kowalczyk, who was sitting her final year exams when Tina was stolen.
“We do not care how many people try to stop us, try to calm us down. We will never give up.”
The family had Tina for a year and a half.
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“It’s not just a dog. To my dad, especially, Tina was a third daughter. If one of your children got kidnapped, would you ever give up?”
Joanna and her dad were shopping together in Morrisons in May. They left Tina on the backseat of the car, hidden by tinted windows.
The family said it felt safe as they went there often and it was surrounded by cameras. They had no idea dog thefts like this even happened.
“My husband would worry about his tools being left in the car, more than Tina,” her mum Patrycja Kowalczyk explained.
When they carried the shopping to the car half an hour later, they found the back window was smashed and Tina had gone.
“It was like a nightmare come to life,” Joanna recalls.
“That’s the problem,” says mum-of-two Patrycja.
“People are not aware. Everyone needs to know they need to be more careful. It needs to be spoken about.”
Joanna adds: “The first week was absolute agony. The thoughts that were going through my head were horrible.”
The family were so traumatised by the incident, the three bags of shopping they brought back from the Morrisons trip sat on their kitchen floor for an entire week.
“The meat was rotting. The ice cream was melting. We just didn’t care,” says Joanna.
“Our whole world froze. All we could do was do things for Tina.”
On the advice of charities, the family immediately launched a major appeal to find her, sticking hundreds of posters up all over the neighbourhood.
Volunteers that help families in their situation created a Facebook group for them and extended the search across the UK. “I wasn’t aware about crime and nasty people, but at the same time, I wasn’t aware that strangers could help you so much as well,” says Patrycja.
Sadly, they quickly became subject to horrific prank calls from people claiming to have Tina. Criminals would lie about holding her captive, demanding hundreds of pounds upfront for her safe return.
They also say that their local council, Waltham Forest, ordered them to remove the posters or receive a fine of £1,000.
“It’s bittersweet,” says Joanna, “because the people who we thought were there to help us, like our local council and the police, have done pretty much nothing.”
The family say the police didn’t take the incident seriously, and wasted valuable days in the initial stages of the investigation. “We had to find witnesses ourselves,” says Joanna. They say a number of important leads weren’t chased up by the police.
Since then, the Kowalczyks have travelled all over the UK to chase possible sightings of Tina shared on Facebook, but it’s never been her.
Patrycja says: “All we do is worry about Tina.
“I think, how is she feeling? Where is she right now? Are they looking after her well?”
Tina has a number of health problems. She suffers from pancreatitis and some serious allergies, and requires a special diet. Patrycja recalls that the fridge would be full of chicken breasts for Tina and often not much else.
They worry that she isn’t receiving the right care for her needs.
“We barely left her by herself. She was almost never alone. We go to Church because we are Catholic, so we would go there for one hour, and when we came back, she would be so upset.
“She used to play with balloons, and sit in the little basket we made her so she could cycle with us. She loved watching TV.”
“She’s not just ‘a dog’, she is a member of our family,” Patrycja says through tears. “We just want our life back.”
“We miss her every day.”
The Kowalczyk family use the hashtag #findtina across social media, and have a Facebook page dedicated to the search. You can find it here .
Waltham Forest Council and the Metropolitan Police were approached for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.
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