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When the Rickard’s van containing two Akitas and two Corgis was stolen en route to AKC/Eukanuba, the odds of recovering the dogs were dismal indeed.


December 21, 2010

Rickard, TheDogPress Staff


Even as the Show Dogs Stolen story broke,  the hope was that the theft was connected to the big AKC Eukanuba dog show; that perhaps it was dog people who stole them and they would not be harmed because to think car thieves would care for the dogs was unrealistic.  The show could not be put off and there were other dogs to be shown, contracts and obligations to be fulfilled.  But above duty and professionalism loomed the ominous reality that every hour passed lessened the chance that the dogs would ever be seen again.


Consider the circumstances.  The mother Lori Rickard, eleven hours away, agonized helplessly.  She told TheDogPress, “We prayed that the media and police in the busy Southern CA metropolis would take time from murders, rapes, thefts, and missing children investigations to look for a van with our beloved pets. We were told cars are stolen every 30 seconds down there.”


This story has a happy ending thanks to quick thinking and the persistence of owner handler Kirstina Rickard, her family, fellow handler Tamara Houser, Detective Ron Vandevegete and the Bellflower Sheriffs detective team.  Some would say it was a miracle.  But then how many dogs are as famous as their namesake?  See the photo below autographed by country music star Trace Atkins.


We asked Lori Rickard how it could have happened without anyone hearing a ruckus.  “At every dog show motel there are LOT'S of vans full of dogs, many barking all night. We hear car alarms go off all night long, no one gets up to see what is going on unless they know their alarm sound.  In Southern CA there is noise 24 hours a day. It is a city that never sleeps.  Even when you see someone getting into a car and the alarm goes off do you call the police?  No, you assume it is the owner.”

Lori put the timeline together for TheDogPress: “November 29, 2010 11:00 pm, David & Kristina arrive in Bellflower to await the next day to go to Long Beach for their turn in line for a grooming spot at the Long Beach/Eukanuba shows. They checked in at the Motel 6 after checking security.  They walked the seven dogs and filled water buckets. By habit, the van doors were all locked, including the sliding door and the back door.”


“When they finished, it was close to midnight.  They went to the 2nd floor room with the 3 short coated dogs that prefer warmth to cold, leaving the 2 Akitas and 2 Corgis to sleep in the van where it was cooler.”


RECOVERED AKITA SHOWDOG "TRACE" | owned, shown by Kirstina Rickard, Trace & Corgis stolen at Motel 6 en route to  AKC- Eukanuba dog showWhy would a thief break into a van that held dogs?  Lori’s response “This is a Chevy express van with no windows on the sides.  They couldn’t have seen the dogs.  Trace is in the Top 5 Akita's in the US.  He and DiDi, the younger Akita, are very used to people coming and going in the van, taking them in and out of crates, getting them to ringside and all.  They wouldn’t bark and although Corgis do tend to bark as they are Corgis, ours do not bark at people.  They’ve learned.  You can not have a dog that travels every weekend to shows with you that would carry on if people approach their beds or cars.”  The stress is still evident in her voice as she laughs and tries to make a joke, “Now if the thieves had a dog to add in the van I am sure ALL of our dogs would have had some words to say!”

The next morning David, Kristina, and the three dogs headed downstairs and discovered their van was gone!  Panicked, they called 911 and within minutes, the Bellflower sheriff’s team was there.  By 6:45 the news media was on scene, having picked it up on their scanners. 


Lori continued “While waiting for the police to come David called home and Kristina’s father Tom left within minutes for the 11 hour drive. They also called Tamara Houser who was going to be staying with them the rest of the weekend for the shows. Tamara left her home at 7 am to go help her friends.”

The Sheriffs start an immediate investigation.  Speaking with the two security guards they learn the van there at 5 and at 6 a.m. They spoke with motel guests but no one had seen or heard anything - except for “the young blond girl screaming and running in circles just screaming, laying on the ground with her hands on her head just screaming.”  Notes from police report.

On December 1st, at 12:30 p.m. Tom, Kristina's father, received a call from Detective Ron Vandevegete.  Rickard continues “They had both Akita's at the Downy SPCA, verified by the microchips!  The sheriffs told our family that a lady turned them over to the police after seeing them on the news. A testament to our dog’s temperaments is they were handled by her and her two children ages 8 and 10. The SPCA and the police officers could not compliment their temperaments enough, how sweet and loving the two of them were and ‘what great guests they were for the past four hours.’ Yes, they the sheriffs, had them for four hours before calling us, while they continued their investigation because the Corgis were still missing and they could not jeopardize them.


“They told us that the van had also been recovered.  It was found in Compton CA! The Detective explained that the thieves had broke in through the driver’s side door with a metal bar they call a slim jim.  The professionals then break the ignition column, start the car and within SECONDS, they are gone!” 


Rickard said “The sheriffs said that kind of van is one of the top 5 vehicles stolen in that area as it holds a lot of property and can transport lots of people. It sounds like the thieves did not open the sliding door, just jumped in the front and drove off!  They would not tell us where in Compton the van was found as they didn’t want us to go to that area to search for the Corgis. The sheriffs stressed for us to STAY AWAY from the area.”

Then at 11:30 p.m. the family received a phone call from Detective Ron who sent a photo to David's phone which confirmed they had the Corgis, Bunny and Peter. Lori Rickard was close to tears all over again as she said “At 1:40 a.m. our family drove to the Victorville police station, 110 miles away, and were finally reunited with all of our beloved pets. We learned that people found the dogs running in the streets of Victorville, had seen them on the news and wanted to claim the reward.  Bunny and Peter were in great shape and very happy to see everyone. Our terrifying tragedy was over.”

Speaking for the family, mother Lori wants to publically thank Detective Ron Vandevegete and the Bellflower Sheriffs detective team, all of the news media, the prayer circles, animal communicators, friends and vendors at the show and the entire Eukanuba staff!


She said “Without ALL of you this could not have ended the way it did. We are having a very blessed Holiday and we hope everyone else in the world feels as blessed as we do! God Bess you all.”

As a side note: Trace is owned, bred, and handled by Kristina Rickard.  He is the 2nd generation of her own dogs, bred from 5 generations of Lori’s dogs. DiDi is owned and handled by Kristina who also handles both Corgis.  The Rickards have been in Akitas since 1969 and were part of Al and Liz Harrell's extended family.  This editor and former Akita breeder wishes them continued success with their dogs.  I also thank them for providing great photos of Trace.  His success is well deserved. 10123.IM1230



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