By LIZ GONZALEZ, KMPH
TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (CIRCA via KMPH) — A California family is desperate for the return of its dog.
What sets this dog apart? It's a show dog that was set to compete at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show next month.
"It's been a nightmare. It's been a nightmare," said Dean Schieler, gripping one of 1,000 flyers he has handed out in the past couple of days.
The 4-year-old Japanese Chin is formally named "Grand Champion Royal Silk's Next Top Model."
But she was more commonly known as Fierce.
"She's just that golden child," said David Gutierrez, who, along with Schieler, owns more than 10 other dogs. "She's my once-in-a-lifetime type of dog. She's like our child, our kid, that's how much she means to me. She's our baby."
Fierce was last spotted in the area Friday.
Fierce took top honors at the Japanese Chin Club of America's national championships and had qualified for February's Westminster Dog Show. Fierce was being sent to a handler in Ohio for final preparations and training for the competition.
A courier was handling Fierce and stopped in Bakersfield, California, to let her go to the bathroom.
That's when she ran away.
"It was like a worst nightmare. It's the phone call no parent ever want to hear," Gutierrez said.
On Sunday, a search and rescue team was brought in to look for her, too.
"They were able to pick up on her scent (near some apartments)," Schieler said.
A $2,000 reward is being offered for her return, no questions asked.
"Please, let her come home. We just her back. We miss our baby," Gutierrez said.
Anyone with information is urged to call 559-359-2807.
Gutierrez and Schieler hope that if Fierce is found, she can still compete at the dog show.