Umbrella's disappearance sent shockwaves through the community. The nine-year-old cocker spaniel is a high-profile pet belonging to the two founding members of local band Proximity Butterfly. She accompanies the band to many of their local gigs and is so widely recognized she often receives more greetings than do the members of her human entourage.
It was during a gig, in fact, that she disappeared. The band was playing a show for an event near their live-in practice studio. The attendees were mostly neighbors and friends. Still, nobody had any leads as to where she might have gone. It wasn't likely she'd wandered off and gotten lost, given her familiarity with the area.
Umbrella has a long history with the band members and, with her long ears nearly dragging on the ground, she is somehow a perfect fit, completing their dreadlocked, DIY-flared-leg jean image. She knows how to navigate crowded, noisy bars to position herself in front of whoever might be eating within a certain radius, her puppy-dog eyes patiently penetrating the eater's soul, until he or she gives in and tosses a scrap down.
The idyllic land of Flower Town (三圣乡, Sansheng Xiang) had been brought to its knees; its peacefulness had been plundered. Flower Town is a destination; well-to-do city dwellers drive their cars there to spend a relaxing weekend among the flowers and quadricycles and home-style inns. Thieves were lurking about.
Suddenly, reports of theft began surfacing all over the place. "My house was broken into when I was away!" said one resident. "They took 6,000 kuai!"
"Somebody hopped our gate the other night," chimed in another. "Today I hired a worker to embed glass shards all around the perimeter of our property."
"When I went upstairs last week, there was a guy hiding behind the door with a knife! I asked what he was doing, and he tried to skulk away! But I held him and turned him into the police."
The village clamored for justice.
Proximity Butterfly called the police, asking what to do about the situation at hand—namely, the disappearance of their dog. We don't dispense advice, the police said. We enforce the law.
They made posters with photos of Umbrella making sad faces at the camera. "Looking for my dog," it read, followed by a brief description. "We love her very much. If you have any information please contact me!" They hung them all over town.
That night, the phone rang. "I have your dog," said the shifty sounding voice on the other end. "I need 2,000 Renminbi for her safe return."
The local police were persuaded to join the band in meeting the kidnappers in a remote location to retrieve the dog. The transaction was a negotiation. Give us the money first, and then we'll give you the dog. Why should we give you money for giving us trouble and worries and wasting our time? You should give them money as a show of goodwill and international diplomacy. Why don't they get in trouble? They get a warning. That's all? What, it's not like we're going to send somebody to prison over a dog.
In the end, the dognappers got 300 yuan out of the deal, and the Butterflies got their dog back. And everybody in Flower Town locks the extra lock on their doors at night.