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In Stoughton, a missing dog’s strange saga

Janet Torren of Rochester with Shai, who was given away by the Stoughton animal control officer. Janet Torren of Rochester with Shai, who was given away by the Stoughton animal control officer.
By David Abel
Globe Staff / November 3, 2009

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Janet Torren sensed something was wrong when the animal control officer didn’t return her calls. When she reached the officer, it seemed peculiar that her story changed with each question, she said.

It was not until Torren threatened to call police last month that she learned the Stoughton official in charge of finding stray dogs had given away her “little princess,’’ a 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier that Torren calls Shai.

“I felt like I was lost in a maze, and I kept on going the wrong way,’’ said Torren, of Rochester. “I felt like I was trying to get the dog back, and no one was helping me, and the people supposed to help me weren’t.’’

She and Shai were eventually reunited, but not before enduring a series of events she said left her seething.

It began on Sept. 18, when Torren brought Shai for a visit to her son’s house in Stoughton. They went out for breakfast, leaving the dog in her son’s kitchen, and Shai wiggled past a sliding glass door and ran loose until someone brought her to the town’s pound.

But Torren did not learn for 12 days that the dog had been brought to the pound and she spent nearly every one of those days knocking on doors and making phone calls in search of her beloved pet. She called the Stoughton pound many times, but was told they did not have her dog.

“I was frantic,’’ she said. “Our children are grown, and Shai is a baby to us; we treat her as our little princess. She’s a family member. She’s absolutely loving.’’

Shai had an identifying microchip implanted behind one of her ears, and Torren called one microchip company, thinking they would know if it had been scanned by a pound or a veterinarian. They had not received any reports. On Oct. 1, Torren called another company and learned the microchip had been scanned, by the town pound in Stoughton, on the day the dog was lost.

So, once again, Torren called Kristin Bousquet, the town’s animal control officer. There was no answer. After Torren left a message threatening to call police, Bousquet called back and tried to suggest someone else at the pound or the local rescue league may have scanned Shai’s microchip, even though Torren said the company told her that Bousquet had registered Shai.

“It was a continuing change of the story,’’ Torren said. “There was nothing solid to what she was saying. If I asked her a question, she changed the answer. It was one lie after another.’’

Bousquet did not return calls to the Globe, but in an e-mail to The Enterprise of Brockton she admitted she had not been “100 percent truthful’’ about the incident.

After Bousquet said the dog was about to be taken to Florida, Torren gave her a half hour to return her dog. Then Torren met with Chief Thomas Murphy of the Stoughton Police Department. They chatted in his office for a few minutes, and he walked out and came back carrying Shai.

“It was a huge relief,’’ she said. “It was like this whole, horrible story was over.’’

After a brief investigation, Murphy found that Bousquet had given the dog to a police officer’s girlfriend, who was planning to move to Florida with Shai. He found that the dog was well fed and in good condition. The officer and his girlfriend, neither of whom Murphy identified, did not know that the dog had been missing, Murphy said.

He added that there is no indication that Bousquet had made similar gifts of lost pets.

“Thankfully, the dog was reunited with the owner, and it was well kept,’’ Murphy said by phone. “Unfortunately, the pain, the worries, and the anguish weren’t necessary. I hope she can enjoy a long life with her pet.’’

Torren has decided not to press charges against Bousquet.

In the end, she said, Bousquet got what she deserved. Last Friday, after about seven years as an animal control officer for Stoughton, she was fired by the town manager.

As for Shai, life is now a party. Torren and her husband celebrated her return last weekend with doggie cookies, a Yorkie stuffed animal, and an ice cream cake.

“She’s doing fantastic,’’ Torren said.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.