Flo Mitulescu, 29, was playing with two-year-old poochon Honey in Pavilion Gardens at around 3pm on Saturday, March 6, when she realised two men had been standing nearby watching her for several minutes.
Their presence made Flo feel uncomfortable enough that she quickly led Honey away, but then something else happened.
She said: “I was near the miniature train shed when a woman appeared out of the bushes, walking straight towards us. She was looking around like she wanted to avoid being seen.
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“It was a quiet bit of the park with no one else around. It felt very suspicious after what happened with the men.
“Honey was at the bottom of a tree trying to see a squirrel and the woman walked up and went to grab her harness where the lead connects. I pulled Honey away and then the woman acted as if she just wanted to lean on the tree.”
Flo did not stop to challenge her and left the park in a hurry. She describes the woman as aged 35-45, five foot three, with straight, blonde shoulder-length hair, a red Adidas hoodie, blue jeans, and white trainers.
While she knows the incident could be an unfortunate set of coincidences, Flo has reported it and hopes the experience will make other dog owners more wary.
Police across England have reported a rise in dog thefts as lockdown has driven high demand and soaring prices.
Flo said: “I like giving people the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve never felt so uneasy. A person who wants to say hello to a dog will start a chat with the owner, not try to grab their harness.
“Honey is the kind of dog thieves will target. Her puppies could sell for £3,000 and she is the right age to breed. I plan to have her spayed now.”
She added: “I see lots of owners around Buxton not taking precautions. For many their pet will be a lifeline like Honey is for me. Having her stolen would crush our world.”
Pet care charities advise owners to invest in anti-theft leads and to never leave a dog unattended in public.