Ruby Creekbaum breeds and sells Yorkshire terriers, but she treats them like her children. She even built a playroom for them in the house, complete with their own TV.
So Creekbaum was horrified when she returned home Friday from a short shopping trip to find nine of her Yorkies had been stolen.
"I want my dogs back. I'm just sick about it," said Creekbaum, 68, who's had severe health problems in the past few years. "They're the only reason I have to get up in the morning."
Creekbaum said she has been raising and selling Yorkies for 10 years. She gets $750 for a male and $950 for a female. The money, she said, goes back into the dogs whether it's in the form of the playroom, the television or toys, such as a real fire hydrant for them in their outside play area. In addition to the Yorkies, she has a yellow Labrador retriever named Sandy and a Pomeranian named Buster.
"He's a lover," Creekbaum said of Buster.
Creekbaum said she left her Pinellas Park home a little after 9 Friday morning to go to Home Depot. It had rained the night before, so most of the dogs were in their playroom, but three were on the screened porch with the door propped open so they could run into the yard.
She returned about 11 a.m. to find Buster and one of the Yorkies, Vicky, running around outside, trying to get back into the yard. Vicky was covered in weeds and stickers. Creekbaum caught them and then realized the back gates were open and a lock was broken. Gone were the dogs that had been on the back porch as well as dogs that had been in the playroom.
In all, nine dogs, ranging in ages from 5 months to 8 years, were missing. Three were male; the rest, female, including one about to have puppies.
"I have cried. I have no appetite," Creekbaum said. "My daughter-in-law said, 'Mom, don't let this kill you.' I said, 'Who's going to stop it?' "
Pinellas Park police spokesman Sandy Forseth said officers have few clues. In fact, police only have one lead: A neighbor saw a white Dodge pickup with two men inside backed up to the house about 9:15 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Right now, Forseth said, police are treating it as a burglary and a felony because of the value of the dogs.
For Creekbaum, the value goes way beyond the money she could have gotten if she sold the dogs.
"Even though I have more, I want my babies back," she said. "I still want my dogs."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.