When Avon residents Louanne and George Caspar’s Boston terrier Coconut went missing, they hired a private investigator to help find her.
The self-proclaimed “CSI for missing dogs” business, Lost Pet Professionals — owned by Karin TarQwyn, a Nebraska native, according to its website — determined something tragic; Coconut, 10, was killed by coyotes.
“Coconut was one of the best dogs you could have ever had and she didn’t deserve to be killed,” said the Caspars' daughter, Caroline, 9, who used to let Coconut sleep in her bed and often dressed her up in outfits.
The Caspars’ dog — who was very popular with their friends and family — got loose from the house two weeks ago.
The Caspars Share Memories of Coconut
“She was this very patient, Buddha-like dog,” said Louanne Caspar, who compared her to the dog who is like a human stuck in a dog’s body in the book, The Art of Racing in the Rain. “She would stomp for attention to be onto your lap and be cuddled.”
The Caspars contacted Animal Control Officer Beverly LaPlume to report that Coconut was missing, put up flyers, spread the word on Facebook, offered a reward for anyone who could find her and called their veterinarian’s office at Animal General in Avon.
Coconut — who the family got from a pet store in Philadelphia when she was four months old — was “fearless for food” and loved naps. Caspar recalled one time throwing a snack to a large dog only to see little Coconut jump through the air and catch it instead.
But Coconut also liked to take care of people, staying by the side of Louanne’s father until he passed away in 2003 in Clarks Green, PA.
You could pick her up and put her anywhere for a picture. A photo the Caspars submitted for Patch's Top Dog Contest shows her sitting in a swing.
“She had this really big goofy grin and the most perfectly crooked teeth,” Caspar said.
If you lose your dog, Avon is the place to be because the outreach from the community was incredible, Caspar said. Neighborhood kids offered to go door to door with flyers and Caroline’s classmates and staff at Pine Grove School also kept an eye out for Coconut to turn up.
The Caspars Turn to Pet Detective for Help
When George Caspar searched on Google for other resources to help find Coconut, he said he was very wary of the many scams out there that just want to take advantage of the desperation of people trying to find their pets and the possibility of reviews with false praise. But when he came across TarQwyn’s Lost Pet Professionals, he saw that the business was in her name, there was a photograph of TarQwyn on the website and there was a phone number posted. When he called her, she didn’t try to sell him anything extra.
TarQwyn sent Jordina Thorp Ghiggeri, her Weston-based field agent and a K9 handler, with dogs Brodie and Nash to Avon to search for Coconut more than a week ago. First, Ghiggeri asked the Caspars to gather “specimens” from around the house, from fur to toys, that carried Coconut’s scent.
The field agent had one of the dogs smell the items and sent it out from the Caspars’ Old Wood Road home to follow the scent. The dog ran through neighbors’ back yards on her street and Daventry Hill Road, into the woods and onto the Farmington Valley Greenway bike trail by Oakengates. The dog stopped near a wetland area between Thompson Road and Brickyard Road. Then Ghiggeri sent the other dog out to follow Coconut’s smell from Old Wood and it led her to the same place.
There is a coyote den closer to the Brickyard Road side, Louanne Caspar said. Ghiggeri found fur and teeth in coyote scat that that was likely Coconut's.
The dog tracking pet detective service cost the Caspars $500. Caspar noted that they paid for minimum services and opted not to have the remains sent in for DNA testing for official confirmation. She said they were lucky the field agent lived in Connecticut because it could have cost more if she was further away.
While that was not the result that the Caspars were hoping for, George Caspar said that not knowing would have been worse.
“The thing that was the most beneficial was that we got closure on the situation,” Caspar said.
Preventing Future Coyote Attacks
Caspar, an Avon native, lived here for 25 years before he and his wife moved back. He said that he doesn’t remember hearing about any dogs being killed by coyotes growing up. As a kid, if his family let its dog out or the dog escaped, it would come back safely.
But he’s noticed more wildlife near residential areas in town. Their other dog, Huey, 13, a Jack Russell terrier-Sheltie mix, was attacked by a coyote a few months ago.
“We’re happy that [Huey’s] okay,” Louanne Caspar said. “He’s still looking around for Coconut.”
The Caspars said they want to protect other dogs from this fate and caution owners not to let their dogs out unsupervised in the evening or in the early morning when it is dark. If your dog goes missing, Caspar recommends calling LaPlume at Animal Control (860-409-4205), putting as many flyers up as possible, posting information on Facebook and calling local shelters and veterinarian offices.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that the remains found near the coyote den matched Coconut's DNA, but Louanne Caspar clarified that they did not pay to have the remains DNA tested and that it was unconfirmed. The article was corrected at 8:54 a.m. on Oct. 23 to reflect the update.