Missing-dog mystery sparks police investigation | January 20, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 20, 2023

Missing-dog mystery sparks police investigation

A Palo Alto woman gave her German shepherd to a trainer. The dog she got back wasn't hers.

by Sue Dremann

Carolina Bruchilari wants her dog back.

The Palo Alto resident thought her beloved German shepherd, Scott, would only be gone for two weeks when she entrusted him to a trainer in mid-December to help him get over a few nervous habits he exhibited after emigrating from Brazil.

But instead of getting back a well-behaved Scott, Bruchilari says the trainer brought a totally different German shepherd — wearing Scott's Apple tag tracking collar.

An honest mistake? Bruchilari doesn't think so. In fact, she now claims the trainer "stole" her 7-year-old purebred, and she's worried she'll never see Scott again. Police departments in two California counties have gotten involved.

The situation had seemed promising at the start. Bruchilari and her family had brought Scott to Palo Alto from Brazil, where they previously lived, six months ago. But Scott exhibited signs of anxiety, and he pulled on his lead. So Bruchilari searched Thumbtack, an online home services app that lists professionals, for a suitable dog trainer. The one she chose had many good reviews, a 4.9 rating and was "verified" on the website, she said.

She and her husband interviewed and liked the trainer and felt she would be a good match for Scott. The trainer departed with Scott from Bruchilari's home on Dec. 18, saying she would bring him back on Jan. 2. The trainer sent updates on Scott's progress along with photographs. But on Jan. 2, the trainer called to say she had a family emergency and would bring the dog back on Jan. 4 instead.

When it came time for Scott's return, the trainer came with an imposter, Bruchilari said. Scott has rich, tan fur with some black and a somewhat comical expression. The faux Scott was mostly black and had a leaner body profile. Bruchilari was out of the country at the time.

"My two sons, ages 17 and 20, were in my house, and they called me and discussed the situation. I spoke to (the trainer) on the phone. I told her that wasn't our dog because of the photo my son had sent me ... I wanted to know what was happening," she said.

The trainer — who is not being named in this article because she has not been charged with any crime — came to the house when Bruchilari returned home and promised to bring Scott in two days. As the trainer left with the dog who was not Scott, Bruchilari said, she allegedly removed the tracking collar from the faux Scott's neck and threw it in Bruchilari's yard.

Scott hasn't come back, and the mystery of what happened to him has only deepened.

Bruchilari contacted the Palo Alto police, who called the trainer. The officer learned that Scott had been left with a person in Humboldt County while the trainer was out of town.

Because of that, the trainer now is claiming no responsibility for Scott. She sent Bruchilari a text message in which she said the missing dog is a matter between Bruchilari and the third party who was dog-sitting.

What's more, the trainer said, Scott isn't ever coming back.

"There's no return to facilitate," the trainer wrote in the text message. "The dog is most definitely dead. Broke through a window screen in the middle of the night, and (the dog sitter) didn't see until the morning. It was during the big storm, he searched all over and found blood streaks and clumps of the dogs (sic) fur, as well as part of a paw/arm, so we can only imagine," the text stated.

The trainer said she had used the dog sitter before without incident.

"When I returned, I was not informed of any of this and he loaded up my dogs when I went to use the restroom. He told me the details yesterday when I pressed him and told me that he panicked and is coordinating with the police," the trainer said.

The trainer hasn't given Bruchilari the third party's name nor the contact information. Police are also not providing the information since the case is under investigation, she said.

But Bruchilari is skeptical of the story.

"I think because my dog has a pedigree and is a pure German shepherd, maybe someone is trying to sell him or to use him for breeding. It costs about $5,000 for a dog with that pureness," she said.

The trainer denied in the text message to Bruchilari that she stole the dog.

In a text message to this news organization, the trainer confirmed that the dog sitter talked to the police.

"There is really nothing to tell as I wasn't there during the incident and I can't personally speak to it," she said.

Bruchilari is looking into possible legal action. She said she and her children miss the dog.

"It's like my son," she said.

Dog trainer removed from Thumbtack

Bruchilari had trusted the Thumbtack service because it had "verified" the trainer and because she had satisfactorily used the app for another situation, she said.

A spokesperson for Thumbtack said in an email that Thumbtack, which introduces customers to service providers, takes the integrity of its professionals seriously.

"We adhere to industry standards for background checks, which are processed through a nationally accredited third-party provider," the spokesperson stated. "In the rare event we receive a concerning report, we take immediate steps to address the situation.

"As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we took action against this service provider and removed her from the Thumbtack platform as a result of their violation of our terms of service," she said. "We are working with the local authorities to help them with their investigation."

The company didn't respond to a follow-up question about which violations the trainer allegedly engaged in.

Thumbtack can require professionals who use the service to participate in mediation, arbitration, or other resolution processes with customers; charge the professional's credit card to compensate the company or a customer for funds owed, damages or other payments; begin court, insurance or collection proceedings; or permanently cancel the professional's account, according to the company website.

Are dog trainers certified?

Dog trainers aren't required by states or the federal government to be certified or have a professional license, according to the Animal Humane Society. Some organizations do certify trainers, however, such as The Association of Professional Dog Trainers and The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

The Certification Council requires 300 hours of dog-training experience and passing an exam "to demonstrate mastery of humane, science-based dog-training practices," the organization said on its website. Trainers and behavior consultants must be periodically recertified.

The organization's certified dog trainer directory includes local and Bay Area sources. Its website also offers tips for choosing a dog trainer, including avoiding a trainer who focuses on a dominance-and-submission model or primarily punishment-based methods, the website noted.

Palo Alto police Lt. Brian Philip said the department is investigating the alleged dognapping.

"I can say that this is not a common occurrence," he said.


What's your opinion of this missing-dog mystery? See what others are saying, and share your thoughts, on Town Square at PaloAltoOnline.com/square.

Email Staff Writer Sue Dremann at [email protected]


Posted by Allison
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2023 at 12:20 pm

Allison is a registered user.

The trainer lacks credibility. If she truly had an emergency out of town, why wouldn't she just call Carolina and ask her (or a friend) to come pick up the dog? Or just make arrangements with a boarding facility in the Bay Area/close by? Instead, this woman drives the dog 5 hours (10 hours round trip) away to a friend's house? Nope, that doesn't make logical sense. And then she decides to trick the family by bringing ANOTHER dog to them in the hopes they would be duped into thinking that was their dog? Nope nope nope. Very shady story. The trainer should just come clean and tell the real story so she can give this family some peace and closure.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2023 at 2:33 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

What a heartbreaking story. I think the dog was dognapped and sold for financial gain. This story doesn't make any sense which leads me to believe the trainer is an inexperienced thief. If you hire a trainer, hire a certified dog trainer. It lessens the chances of something like this happening. Or train your dog yourself if you have a valuable dog. Wherever Scott is, I hope he's okay.

Posted by Colleen
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 15, 2023 at 2:36 pm

Colleen is a registered user.

The so-called trainer's name is Josie Ragland. Why would you leave the name off? What if there are other victims out there? I found one person that used her and her dog came back smelling of urine and having no training. Please if anyone has used this person step forward.

Posted by Karen
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2023 at 5:42 pm

Karen is a registered user.

As a dog sitter, I am in disbelief that a sitter, tasked with the care of a dog, would leave the dog with another person. When a dog is in your care, you are responsible, period. I hope that Scout is found or at least the truth comes out, giving this family closure.

Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2023 at 11:31 am

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

Jennifer's comment is spot-on. Josie Ragland's plan was to sell Scott if she could, and she had prepared an elaborate story ending with the dog's disappearance for that outcome. Unfortunately, she did sell Scott. I hope the police are able to penetrate her web of lies and find the dog. And then prosecute everyone involved in this miserable crime.

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 16, 2023 at 1:12 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

Given the increased Measure K funding, including for police I hope they spend the time to thoroughly investigate this crime and gather the evidence in this case. So far it looks Josie committed a felony.

Posted by krobinson
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2023 at 1:46 pm

krobinson is a registered user.

The story that the real Scott vanished during the storm doesn’t make sense. If that were the case, how did Scott’s collar end up on this other dog?? It seems like the only consolation for the Bruchilaris is that the criminals probably did sell Scott for $5K to some family that will give him a good home. And I agree no reputable dog trainer would drive 5 hours and leave dogs in their charge to some other party. No way. This Josie Ragland character is a modern day Cruella DeVille.

Posted by Craig Finnegan
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2023 at 8:22 pm

Craig Finnegan is a registered user.

I feel deeply for Scott's owner, but I have to play devil's advocate here. Who in their right mind entrusts their beloved dog to a complete stranger based on review ratings on a website? I know a couple whose one year old French Bulldog drowned at a ritzy doggie daycare because the attendants put him in the pool for large dogs then walked away. My friends had plenty of money, so instead of leaving their dog in their safe upscale home they dropped their dog off even though they were only going to be gone a few hours.
Long ago I left my own dogs at a concrete boarding kennel (for the price of a motel room at the time) and when I picked them up a week later my one very sensitive dog wasn't just glad to see me, she was emotionally traumatized. NEVER AGAIN.
In spite of my disbelief in the naivete of people like Scott's owner, I emailed the Palo Alto PD and questioned what kind of law enforcement agency they were for not pressing charges against the trainer. I encourage all of you who really care about Scott and the entire obscene situation to do the same.

Posted by Julie
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2023 at 9:20 pm

Julie is a registered user.

My dog was likely with Scout—Josie had my dog from December 11 - 26. My dog, who is potty trained, came home covered in excrement after having “an accident” in the car with Josie. I took two videos of my dog upon returned home, as it appeared she was having a full-blown panic attack. Her hip was also hurt. I am terrified of what happened to my poor puppy and am so sorry for Scout’s family. This feels surreal. I’ve reached out to Thumbtack and have passed along all of my information to be shared with the police.

Posted by Craig Finnegan
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2023 at 10:09 pm

Craig Finnegan is a registered user.

Having someone else train your dog is a bad idea regardless of how trustworthy the trainer seems. Here are big reasons why...

1) As in this case, you can't trust the trainer not to steal your dog when their interest in dogs is tied in with profit (I'll never forget the petsitter I once called who became hostile and humiliated me when I politely asked her rates).

2) You can't trust anyone's emotional self-restraint around your dog when you're not there to witness a behavioral problem in the dog triggering a behavioral problem in the trainer. Keep in mind the proper training of dogs is a challenging art form, and any trainer who hasn't mastered it is going to get frustrated and angry by their own lack of progress and blame it on the dog instead of themselves. Scary thought for a vulnerable loved one you've left in a trainer's care, especially considering that virtually all dog trainers are demanding, dominant personality types.

3) By not training your dog yourself, you're missing a great opportunity to bond further with your dog (think boot camp buddy) and save yourself a significant sum of money in the process.

4) Dog's brains are hyper-specific (see 'Animais In Translation' by Temple Grandin), so that training done by a different person likely won't transfer to your own commands, at least not for long. Your dog has become used to your being lax with their discipline, so why would they respond to your commands in the same way they responded to the commands of a very different, more forceful stranger's? (Ever witnessed one parent or teacher or supervisor being obeyed while the other one is ignored or rebelled against?).

My current dog is very independent yet he always listens to me. Did I train that into him? Not directly, no. He's learned to respond to me so well because I shower love on him while making it clear in natural, positive ways that I'm the Dad. Not the drill sergeant...the Dad. I trained MYSELF to be a more loving, independent and confident owner.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2023 at 1:39 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Carolina I urge you to hire an attorney to
sue the trainer and the company who provided you with an unthical trainer in this case Ragland. This is a heartbreaking story. Scott, your dog, is a family member now somewhere unknown. In the law Replevin is the procedure where you by legal means get your property returned to you. In this case your dog. My concern is the police alone will not be able to solve this case. Find an experienced lawyer right away.

Posted by Fritzie Blue
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 17, 2023 at 4:37 pm

Fritzie Blue is a registered user.

This is terrible. I hope Scott is found soon, and safely. This is yet another case for animals needing rights and not merely regarded as property.

I wonder if Scott is microchipped, and if this might surface with a new owner. I hope everyone does the right thing and act immediately to return Scott to his home and person.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2023 at 10:51 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Dreadful situation and ridiculous backup story from (fake) trainer (when queried as to where the heck is owner’s actual dog…)
I urge law enforcement, media and consumer protection media 7 On Your Side to investigate immediately.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2023 at 7:35 am

Annette is a registered user.

So much of this story makes little sense. Is Ragland based here or Humboldt County? If here, why didn't she just call the dog owner to arrange an earlier return instead of taking the dog to a distant dog sitter? If the trainer had the dog's welfare in mind, Bruchilari should have been contacted when the alleged emergency occurred. Also, how can Ragland claim that the issue is between Bruchilari and the 3rd party dog sitter? Is there a written contract that essentially transfers ownership rights from the owner to the trainer for the time that the dog is in the trainer's care? Is this trainer/sitter duo still operating?

Posted by Optimist Pessimist Realist
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2023 at 8:47 am

Optimist Pessimist Realist is a registered user.

It sounds like Barron Parker Too knows for sure that Scott was sold? If that’s so, have you given the police and owner the info you have?

Posted by NanaDi
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2023 at 11:17 am

NanaDi is a registered user.

I completely agree with Allison's comments. This sad story is shady with a capital S. I find it shocking that anyone would perform such a heartless scam on the owner (parent) of a beloved pet, and I hope the perpetrator of this outrageous and cruel injustice is located and spends a long time in prison because of her misdeeds. Society needs to be protected from the incompetent and/or evil vultures among us.

Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2023 at 11:13 am

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

@Optimist etc

Barron Parker Too has no more information than anyone else. I just use common sense.

* Josie Ragnland returns a different dog wearing Scott's collar.
* The owner tells her it's not Scott.
* Ragland then relates an absurd story about taking Scott to someone 250 miles away, who proceeds to lose him.

Best case: Ragland sold Scott and he is OK. So, yes, I'm an optimist.

It should also be evident from the article and the comments that Ragland has Antisocial Personality Disorder, and it is likely that she has a history of doing similar things under different personal identities in multiple localities.

Posted by We Told You So!
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2023 at 12:58 pm

We Told You So! is a registered user.

This is a Sad story. I had something similar happen to Me, 20yrs ago.
Our Fur Babies are a member of out family. This has gone on too long. The proper Authorities should have acted by now. They have enough information that shows, Carolina Bruchilari "Fur Baby" has been abducted and is somewhere wondering where "Mommy" is?
Ragland should have been in custody by now. If just for the simple fact that Scott was last scene in Her custody and Ragland hasn't return the property.
What am I missing? Is Training Money involved? This is suspicious?
There are Laws on the Books about "Dog-napping". The Police are treating this as a "Ha Ha" moment. A Civil matter.
Scenario: Dog Owner gives Dog to an alleged trusted Trainer willingly. And Trainer takes off? There are Laws about anyone leaving property in another person Care and it comes up missing.
Carolina Bruchilar has proven She left Scott, in Raglands Care.
This is factual. Ragland is Held responsible for Scott. Give back the property. If not get Sued or go to jail?
This is not just any old simple "Property Case". (Since my incident), there have been Laws created (mimicking) Child abduction, regarding animals. This is a Dog Kidnapping. Which is covered by Law! And like many have said in the post "Up above" Hire a Good Attorney. Sue the alleged Dog Trainer and The Police Dept. for being "In different". Sure the PD is now investigating. But if Ragland were incarcerated, She would be more cooperative.
Am not as optimistic as "Barron Park Too".
1. Ragland hasn't return the Fur-Baby on time.
2. Anti-Social Behavior? Doing a "Switch & Bait"? How Crazy is that? Ragland obviously lacks Mental capacity? As in majority of Human BabySit cases.
3.The Stories of mis-care of other Fur Baby's being returned in various damaged conditions?
My Theory is, Scott some how gets away, running away in fear and gets hurt? She removes the collar and transfers it ignorantly, devising a Bait & Switch scheme. Where did Ragland get the Other Dog?

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2023 at 1:57 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I believe the dog was sold. 15 states have dognapping laws, and California is one of them. There are 10 purebred breeds that are sold for profit, and German Shepherds are one of these breeds. When Pit bulls are sold, they're sold for fighting purposes.

Suing the trainer makes sense, but will she get any money out of her? If the trainer had any money, would she be selling dogs illegally?

Where did Raglund get the other dog is a good question. Is someone else missing a dog, or did the dog belong to someone who might have Scott.

Posted by Jen
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2023 at 1:24 pm

Jen is a registered user.

Since Scott was wearing an Apple Air Tag, the tracking information map should be accessed to see where the tag has been. The tag could have been removed prior to the trainer passing Scott off to someone else, but it might have some good information logged.

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