A retired businessman is leading a search for his champion racing terrier after an alleged dognapping.
The prize-winning Parson Russell Terrier boasts a string of 49 wins only broken when he got an ear infection and was beaten by his own son Radar.
Police say six-year old Bertie was stolen between 7am and 12pm on December 4 in Corbridge, Northumberland – and his owner fears the culprits may hold him to ransom.
The owner, who does not want to be named in case he is targeted further by the thieves, is offering a £500 reward for any information leading to Bertie’s safe return. He said: “There are the odd few dogs that come along once every now and again and do things which are exceptional. He’s the dog.
“He stands out head and shoulders above the rest, He really is the alpha male, he leads the little pack, they’re all lost without him.”
Bertie is described as long-legged and rough-coated with tan ears, a black spot on his back, and two teeth missing in his lower front jaw.
His owner says two separate witnesses claim they were offered the dog for sale by an Asian man described as “stocky” and with “very poor English.”
After putting up an advert in The Journal he received a suspicious phone call brusquely asking if he could raise the reward from £500. The line cut off and the man did not return his calls.
The owner placed an advert in Wednesday’s Journal because he believes the culprit might be commuting from Newcastle.
Bertie started racing at just seven months old, winning nine races in a row and returning to the start of the course after each one.
The events see terriers placed in greyhound-style traps then let loose to chase a fox’s tail which is wound on a string down a hundred-yard course.
On one occasion Bertie was taken to Sedgefield Racecourse and left asleep in the front seat of his owner’s vehicle. The wonder dog squeezed out of the window and made it across 400 yards of car park and crowds before managers found him and issued a bemused tanoy announcement.
Another time he propped up the bar at a rural pub in Bellingham by treating all the owners to a drink with his £98 prize money. The landlord initially refused to admit the dog, but let him sit on the bar after someone told him: “But he’s a champion – and not only that, he’s got money.”
Last year the charity DogLost claimed dog thefts had risen by 19% since 2011, with thieves waiting for rewards to be offered before coming forward posing as innocent finders.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria police urged anyone with any information to contact Northumbria police on 101, extension 6919, quoting reference 070632Y/13, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. They can also contact Bertie’s owner directly on 07721 611474.