Qiaoqiao, one of only ten registered service dogs in Beijing, was stolen Monday morning, thought to be the work of thieves who have perpetrated a series of dognappings in the city. Qiaoqiao’s owner, Tian Fengbo, runs a chain of massage parlors, and an assistant was walking the Labrador retriever when a group of men snatched the dog. The disappearance was covered widely in a country where service animals are rare. On Tuesday evening the dog reappeared with a note attached: “Please forgive us.” The New York Times reported:
The Beijing police said on their official Weibo account that the dog’s return was the result of the high level of public interest in the dog’s disappearance. An assistant to Mr. Tian, who operates a massage parlor chain, was walking the dog Monday morning when men in a gray van stole her.
“It seems the suspects in Qiaoqiao’s theft have recognized their error,” said the Beijing police statement. “We hope they will take a step forward, give themselves up as soon as possible, explain the situation and strive to be treated leniently.”
The organized training of dogs to assist the blind was first implemented to serve veterans in Germany during World War I, but the practice wasn’t introduced in the United States until the late 1920s. One early recipient of American-trained dogs was Gordon Lathrop, whose service dog, a German shepherd named Millie, provided him with a great degree of freedom—though not without the occasional interruption. In a 1931 Los Angeles Times story, Lathrop recounts Millie’s brief adventure away from home—and the changes they both faced upon her return:
Seven hours after her disappearance she was brought in by a policeman. She came to me with head low. She crouched on the floor and licked my shoes, but not in abasement nor even in whole-hearted humility. She was apologizing to me for something, but her attitude was not that of a dog caught in wrongdoing and expecting punishment. I could not analyze her state of mind. I did not try very hard; I was so glad to have her back. I did not even punish her when, after a mildly punitive chaining of her to the leg of the table, she leaped to the top and ravenously devoured half a pound of butter carelessly left there.
She had never done such a thing before and this, in connection with her attitude upon returning only at the behest of the policeman, made me ponder in a new direction. Millie’s attitude and behavior, I saw, was that of one who is apologetic but yet not wholeheartedly so. She was sorry. She regretted her disobedience, was sorry to have caused me worry and trouble, but on the other hand she wasn’t a bit sorry for what she had done. He stealing of the butter was rank defiance of the disciplining process to which mad had put her through. She didn’t care whether she was in for a “licking” or not. She had more important business at that particular time than hauling around a blind man.
In June, I was presented by her with four male puppies.