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Armed robbers in the US want your French bulldog

With their perky ears, their please-pick-me-up-and-cradle-me gaze and their short-legged crocodile waddle, French bulldogs have become the "it" dog for influencers, pop stars and professional athletes

By Thomas Fuller
Published: Jun 24, 2022

Armed robbers in the US want your French bulldogChris Del Rosario, a partner in a French bulldog breeding business with his brother, Jaymar Del Rosario, rides with a night stick and gun in case anyone dares to steal his dog Cashew, in Elk Grove, Calif., on May 18, 2022. The popular breed has become one of the most expensive in the United States, and some owners have started carrying guns for protection. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

ELK GROVE, Calif. — The French bulldog business is booming for Jaymar Del Rosario, a breeder whose puppies can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. When he leaves the house to meet a buyer, his checklist includes veterinary paperwork, a bag of puppy kibble and his Glock 26 pistol.

“If I don’t know the area, if I don’t know the people, I always carry my handgun,” Del Rosario said on a recent afternoon as he displayed Cashew, a 6-month-old French bulldog of a new “fluffy” variety that can fetch $30,000 or more.

With their perky ears, their please-pick-me-up-and-cradle-me gaze and their short-legged crocodile waddle, French bulldogs have become the “it” dog for influencers, pop stars and professional athletes. Loyal companions in the work-from-home era, French bulldogs seem always poised for an Instagram upload. They are now the second-most-popular dog breed in the United States after Labrador retrievers.

Some are also being violently stolen from their owners. Over the past year, thefts of French bulldogs have been reported in Miami, New York, Chicago, Houston and — especially, it seems — across California. Often, the dogs are taken at gunpoint. In perhaps the most notorious robbery, Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav, were ripped from the hands of her dog walker, who was struck, choked and shot in last year’s attack on a Los Angeles sidewalk.

The price of owning a Frenchie has for years been punishing to the household budget — puppies typically sell for $4,000 to $6,000 but can go for multiples more if they are one of the new, trendy varieties. Yet owning a French bulldog increasingly comes with nonmonetary costs, too: The paranoia of a thief reaching over a garden fence. The hypervigilance while walking one’s dog after reading about the latest abduction.

Also read: All dogs are good, and it has nothing to do with breeds

On a chilly January evening in Oakland, California, Rita Warda was walking Dezzie, her 7-year-old Frenchie, not far from her home. An SUV pulled up and its passengers lunged toward her.

“They had their gun and they said, ‘Give me your dog,’” Warda said.

Three days later, a stranger called and said she had found the dog wandering around a local high school. Warda says she does not know why Dezzie’s abductors gave him up but it could have been his advanced age: Frenchies have one of the shortest life spans among dog breeds, and 7 years old was already long in the tooth.

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©2019 New York Times News Service

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