A RETIRED former policeman whose family bought him a pet pooch to help with his anxiety has posted a £5,000 reward after he was mugged for the sprocker spaniel in a London park.
Mike Jasper was walking his dog Ted in south London after visiting his allotment when he was brutally attacked by two men wearing face masks.
One of the dognappers approached Mr Jasper as he was walking on Cannon Hill Common, in Merton, and started asking questions about Ted, including what breed he was.
When Mr Jasper, 66, who spent ten years in the police force in his twenties, said he was leaving, the man responded with: ‘What, do you think I’m going to steal your dog?’
Just as he bent down to put Ted on his lead, a second man came up behind him, punched him in the back and pushed him to the floor.
They then grabbed Ted’s lead and ran off laughing, he says.
The short-tailed sprocker spaniel, a cross between a cocker and springer spaniel, joined the Jasper household three years ago.
He was been a source of comfort and support for Mr Jasper, who suffers from depression and anxiety.
Hoping to get Ted back, the family have posted a £5,000 reward on social media and put up posters around the Wimbledon area.
He paid £600 for the dog three years ago, but it is probably now worth around £3,000 as prices have shot up due to people rushing to buy a pet in the pandemic.
Mr Jasper said: ‘He is everything to me and my family and the house is so quiet and lonely without him.
‘I’ve really struggled with my mental health over the last few years and Ted was a big part of my recovery. Without him, I don’t know how to go on.
‘It just feels like I’m living in a nightmare with no end in sight.’
It was the first time Mr Jasper had been walking on Cannon Hill Common in the past six weeks.
The last time, he thought he heard someone snapping pictures of Ted on their phone.
A fellow dog walker also claims to have spotted the two men on the common before the incident.
The dog snatchers have been described as two white males in their late 20s, between 5’10 and 5’11, one with a London accent wearing camo trousers and a black hoodie, the other, a black Puffa jacket and a baseball cap.
Mr Jasper said: ‘I never thought anything like this would happen to me.
‘I’ve always been able to take care of myself and I never believed someone would be able to do this.
‘I just keep thinking, “No, this can’t have happened. Ted can’t be gone.”‘
He added: ‘Ted is the happiest, most loving dog, and having spent my life owning dogs, I’ve never known one like him.
‘His tail never stops wagging and he would follow me absolutely everywhere. I feel like I have lost a family member and a best friend.’
Mike’s daughter, Lucinda, 28, who arrived in the scene shortly afterwards, said: ‘My dad has been struggling with his mental health for the past four years.
‘So after a year of battling depression and anxiety, my mother decided to buy Ted.
‘It was amazing to see the amount of change Ted had on my dad.
‘Obviously, he still has his down days, but Ted was a massive part of his recovery.’
UK dog theft has surged 250 per cent since the beginning of last year.
The rise is being blamed on the increasing demand for cuddly canine companions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three petitions calling for pet law reform and harsher penalties have now received over 250,000 signatures.