In an instant, chihuahua vanishes

Published May 5, 2007

SPRING HILL - Ed Ziemba checks the dog pounds every day. His wife, Jeanne, sits by the phone waiting for calls about the signs and ads for the reward.

But ever since April 20, it has been the same. Coati, their 16-year-old longhaired chihuahua, is missing.

Eighty-seven-year-old Ed let the 7-pound white and blond furball out to piddle one afternoon in the front yard as usual. Leaving the door cracked open, he stepped inside for a minute to answer a question from his son, Mark, who was visiting from Miami.

When Coati didn't come back in as she always does, Ed peeked his head outside. Coati was nowhere to be found.

Ed and Mark scoured the neighborhood, looking under bushes, in the woods, in the drain pipes under driveways. It was like she vanished off the face of the earth.

Coati never was the type to wander far from the Ziembas' lot in the Oaks. She didn't even like going in the grass in the front yard because it was too high for her - to do her business she would stand with two paws on the pavement and two in the grass.

"She stayed mostly inside," Jeanne, 84, says. "She only liked walking to the mailbox down the street with Ed."

Unable to walk much because of pains in her legs and back, Jeanne can't stop thinking about Coati. Ed is scared that his wife will make her heart problems worse with all the worrying.

All day long, she sits in her room running scenarios over and over in her mind.

Where is Coati? What happened? Does whoever have her know that she's deaf? Do they know that she needs medication for the pancreatitis? Do they know that she has the beginnings of doggie Alzheimer's?

"Are they loving her and treating her the way we do?" Jeanne asks, wiping her tears with a blue tissue. "I just want my Coati back. All I do is cry."

The house has been eerily empty without the little dog. The couple never realized how much conversation revolved around her, how many laughs they had because of her.

It was fun watching Coati spin in circles for her treat, or even bending over to lift her up onto the bed because the tiny thing couldn't jump up on her own.

Ed has filed a missing dog report at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. But nothing can be done because they aren't really sure what happened.

That's the worst thing about this whole mess.

The Ziembas think someone drove by and took her. It must have been a two-person job, one thief driving while the other took the dog. How else could she have disappeared so quickly?

But it doesn't matter. They just want Coati back. Until then, Ed will continue to check the pounds daily. Jeanne will sit by the phone worrying.

"Whoever returns my dog, there will be no questions asked," Ed says. "Just bring the dog and get your reward."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.