MIRAMICHI, N.B. — It was the call she was hoping for, but not the call she expected.
Denise Ramsay's German shepherd golden retriever mix dog had been missing for four days after vanishing from her yard in Miramichi, N.B. She received a call on New Year's Day and the man on the other end of the line said he had her dog Sadie.
"He could have been my hero," said Ramsay in a phone interview. "But it went bad so quickly."
She said the man wanted money in exchange for the 12-year-old dog and said he would not give her back until the cash was transferred.
Ramsay had let Sadie and her other dog Samie the cocker spaniel outside to use the bathroom around 10 p.m. on Dec. 28. But when it came time for the dogs to go back inside, Sadie did not come.
She's never wandered away from home before because she has a collar that emits a sound when she reaches the perimeter of their property, said Ramsay.
Friends and family searched for Sadie until 4 a.m. the next day. Ramsay even enlisted the help of a snowmobiler to keep an eye out and a drone was used to scour the area. She has also widely publicized on Facebook that her dog was missing.
On Jan. 1, Ramsay received a call from a blocked number while sitting in her husband's truck on a lunch break.
Initially she was relieved because the man on the other end of the line said he had Sadie. But the conversation quickly turned sour.
"My husband told the man he would meet him anywhere, and he said, 'No, that's not how this is going to go down. You need to send me the money first'," said the 39-year-old woman.
Not knowing if the man actually had Sadie, Ramsay kept him on the line and called 911 on another phone, but when the man realized the 911 operator was listening in on the conversation via speakerphone, he hung up.
Ramsay said if she wasn't so distraught, she would have taken the man's email and made the transfer.
"All he had to do was say, 'I found your dog,' and he would have got a reward and he would have been my best friend for the rest of my life," said Ramsay, adding that police have said they will watch out for Sadie, but there's not much else they can do at this point.
Miramichi Police Sgt. Bob Bruce said in an email Saturday that there is nothing to indicate anything other than the dog is missing and that officers are keeping a lookout for Sadie.
"We are aware that Mrs. Ramsey posted a reward for assistance in locating "Sadie" through social media and that someone contacted her seeking the reward money but this cruel person appeared to be only trying to get her money," said Bruce, who added the matter was not officially reported to police as a complaint.
Ramsay's family is devastated without their beloved dog with long black and gold fur.
"It's our worst nightmare ever. I just need her home. It's not the same," she said. "My other dog is crying and whining all the time. They've been together since they were puppies. Sadie is the oldest and I have another dog (Samie) that is a year younger. They've never been separated."
Ramsay described Sadie as a smart dog who is often skittish around strangers, but never acts aggressive.
"She's like a diva. She's lovable and if you can gain her trust, you'll have the best friend in the world," she said, adding that Sadie has unique black markings under her eye comparable to the black marks commonly worn under the eyes of baseball and football players.
Ramsay said she's offering a no-questions-asked $1,000 reward for Sadie's return.
— By Aly Thomson in Halifax.