James and Chewbie sitting together on a log beside a river

Joy after puppy scam heartbreak

Author and musician James Bowen rehomes a dog after falling victim to online puppy fraud...

Devastated by the tragic loss of his world-famous companion Street Cat Bob, James Bowen had some much-needed joy on the horizon in the form of a new puppy.

He had put down a deposit on the new four-legged family member with his fiancée Monika and they hoped that a lively new arrival would give them both a focus through what continued to be a difficult time.

But their hearts were broken all over again by a cruel scammer, who had posed as a dog breeder to steal £250 off the couple and cash in on the rising demand for dogs during the pandemic.

James says: “We paid the deposit and then the person disappeared. And it was on what was supposed to be a trustworthy website. “It’s like expecting a new family member and then it doesn’t happen.

“All that energy and emotion that you put into it. You want to have that feeling and that attachment and then before you’ve even got him, it has been torn away.

“I just felt like a fool, I should have been aware and reined it back when things didn’t seem right.”

James and Chewbie sat together on sofa

Sadly, James and Monika are not alone. Puppy scams – many very believable – have soared in the past 18 months.

In March and April alone last year, stats show 669 people lost a total of nearly £300,000 in ‘deposits’ for fictitious pets advertised online.

And Blue Cross has also seen an increasing number of poorly puppies brought into the world with the sole purpose of lining the so-called breeders’ pockets.

Little Chewbie looking into the camera
Chewbie arrived in Blue Cross care when he was eight weeks old

James’ long history with Blue Cross first started 24 years ago with a litter of puppies he found on the streets.

Later, he formed an unbreakable bond with ginger tabby Bob, whose extraordinary tale about helping former drug addict James turn his life around has been the subject of nine books and two hit films.

The pair were regular visitors at our former mobile vet clinic in Islington, London, and Bob has now been immortalised with a bronze statue close to where our van used to sit each week – a fitting tribute to the remarkable cat, who died unexpectedly in June last year, aged at least 14. 

James and Monika out walking with Chewbie

So, before welcoming a puppy home, James had already been in touch with Blue Cross in the hope of raising awareness about how to safely introduce dogs and cats, as he and Monika have four moggies – Bandit, one, Gizmo, one, Jynxie, four and Pom Pom, nine.

And when the couple realised they had fallen victim to a shocking scam, they looked to us in the hope of rehoming a dog instead. 

At about the same time, little Chewbie came into our care. The shih tzu puppy was given up by his first owner after a week because circumstances sadly meant they could no longer care for him.

Chewbie standing on hind legs waiting for Monika to throw his ball
James and Monika offered Chewbie the loving home he needed

We ensured he got the vet treatment he needed for his irritated ears and quickly found him a foster carer, but it wasn’t long before James and Monika offered him a home with them in south London.

The couple immediately fell in love with Chewbie – short for Chewbacca – but ensuring their four cats felt the same was a process that needed lots of care, management and help from our expert Behaviour Team.

Introductions had to be slow and measured, giving the cats plenty of dog-free space to retreat to when they wanted it.

Chewbie indoors playing with cat Bandit

But, thankfully, it didn’t take long for Chewbie to be welcomed into the feline fold.

“We kept them separate at first,” says Monika. “We would then slowly introduce them through a stairgate. It went quite smoothly.”

James says: “Bandit and him [Chewbie] have become best mates, like little brothers. Bandit sleeps on top of his little kennel that he has and they play together.”

The playful puppy’s arrival has also had a huge impact on James and Monika’s life and wellbeing.

James and Monika sat on a bridge while out on a walk with Chewbie
Chewbie couldn't be happier with James and Monika

Monika says: “He’s so happy to see us in the morning.”

James continues: “We come downstairs and he’s always, like: ‘Where have you been?’ It’s like these videos you see of soldiers coming home to their dogs, and he’s like that every morning.

“He’s definitely brought some laughter and a little bit of joy back into the house.

“Things were a bit, you know, sad. I mean, they still are, kind of – they’re very different post-Bob.” James adds: “

"But you know, he’s a little bundle of energy. So, he definitely keeps us on our toes. And he keeps us fit and healthy.”

— Page last updated 28/09/2021