Shelter dog who steals clothes, money has touching motive

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 4-year-old lab mix named Kevin, who’s up for adoption at the Austin Animal Center, is a bit of a kleptomaniac.

He steals just about anything within his reach — toys, food bowls, spare change, clothing, blankets, even a purse. Kevin lives in an office at the shelter because there are no available kennels, and he’s built himself a nest of stolen goods he curls up in underneath a desk. 

Every time that I’ve been assigned to take care of the office dogs, I’ll go in there and I’ll notice his pile happens to be a little bit bigger than the last time I was in there, said Caitlyn Kretsinger, an animal care worker at AAC.

It can happen fast. Another employee, Kretsinger said, left her office briefly to take a phone call. And as soon as she got back, her sweater that she had taken off was underneath Kevin and he was snoozing on it, she said.

But Kevin’s motivation for stealing others’ belongings, shelter employees believe, is rooted in something deeper. Kevin’s owner surrendered him to the shelter, and he’s been living there now for four and a half months. 

“He doesn’t really have a whole lot, you know,” said Jennifer Olohan, AAC’s communications and media manager. “He’s got a couple toys, he’s got his food bowl, and he’s got his bed, but that’s really all he has.”

The tendency to take, employees think, comes from the absence of people he’s come to know.

“I think he’s trying the best he can to maintain that presence by taking our stuff,” Kretsinger said. “It makes his feel closer to us.”

“It’s kind of sweet and endearing,” Olohan added, “even if you are the person who’s lost your shirt.”

Kevin might be the only dog at the shelter who likes to steal, but he’s not the only one living in an office. Austin Animal Center has been at capacity for close to six months now, as a spike in intakes has over-burdened an already-full space. Pretty much all the offices have dogs in them, Olohan said.

They need to find permanent homes for a lot of pups, especially medium and large dogs like Kevin. 

He’ll likely need a patient home, because he’s developed some protectiveness over his food as well. But he’s very sweet once he warms up to a new person, has lived with dogs and cats, and walks well on a leash.

Just keep an eye on your stuff for a while if you take him home, Kretsinger suggests.

“I think he’s actually asking for help” by stealing stuff, she said, “someone to come take him home.”

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