When Kaitlyn Thomas came home to her Baltimore, Maryland, apartment on Wednesday, the first sign that something was wrong was the silence.
No telltale tumble of her beloved Knox on the stairs. The way he charged down to greet her every time she came home.
Then there were the drawers — in every room, rifled through, belongings scattered everywhere.
But where was Knox?
"I panicked and looked through the house," Thomas tells the Dodo. "Knox wasn't anywhere to be found."
Knox's leash and harness were missing. Someone had robbed Thomas not only of her valuables, but of her best friend.
The frantic search for the 3-and-a-half-year-old pit bull mix turned to social media, where thousands of people shared his story. In just days, a GoFundMe campaign collected more than $8,000 from people around the world, aiming to offer the massive reward for his return.
But that reward turned out to be unnecessary. On Thursday night, Knox was found tied to a tree, just half a block from Thomas' house.
Indeed, the missing dog's sudden celebrity may have made it impossible for his abductors to sell or even be seen with Knox. For just about a day, he may have been Baltimore's most famous missing dog.
This would be the second time Knox has been saved in his short life.
The first time was when Thomas, a foster coordinator at the Maryland SPCA, took him home from the shelter in 2014. She planned to only be his foster mom until he found a home.
Knox had other ideas.
"The first day I took him home, I knew he wasn't going to go back to the shelter ever again," she says.
Knox had found his forever home — except for that one day this week, when someone tried to come between him and the happy ending he had been waiting all his life for.
"My gut [feeling] is that he was stolen for money," she says. "Whether that be just to be sold or to be bred or whatever."
Of course, whoever took Knox would soon realize he wasn't the kind of dog who would ever suit a fighting ring — a motive sometimes cited for pet theft. An early report suggested Knox had been stolen to be used as a bait dog, which involves using an animal, essentially, as target practice for other frenzied dogs.
"Knox is a little ladybug," Thomas says. "He won't hurt anyone or anything."
Not every stolen dog finds his happy ending. In fact, dognappings are on the rise across America.
There's a lot you can do to prevent that. For one thing, Petfinder notes, it's a lot harder for thieves to take your pet if he's inside the house while you're away, rather than in the yard.
Keep your home secured when you step out.
Leaving your dog tied outside of a store dramatically increases her chances of being taken. Spaying or neutering your dog may also dissuade thieves who intend to use her to breed and cash in on the puppies.
And if your dog does go missing, whether lost or stolen, microchipping — a way to identify pets if they show up a local shelter — has proven crucial, time and time again, in reuniting them with their owners.
Also, as we've seen in Knox's case, having lots of clear pictures of your dog from every angle is an important tool to get the message out about a missing pet.
For more information on microchipping your pet, visit the Humane Society of the United States.
You can also read more about how to protect your pet from falling into the wrong hands here.