Originally posted on r/nosleep on Thursday December 15.
I was 8 years old when it first happened.
We were sitting in the park, exhausted from playing outside. The summer sun had completely drained our energy, and we found refuge under a shaded tree nears the sandpit. Out of breath, and dying of thirst, we laid on our backs in silence, looking up at the clouds and seeing what sorts of shapes we could find.
I eventually propped myself up, solely to make sure I wasn’t going to take a quick nap under the tree. In the distance, I saw Billy sprinting towards us, a stupid grin plastered across his face. It amazed me how fast he could run, considering how his body resembled Pillsbury Dough Boy. He wouldn’t even run after the ice cream truck, so whatever he was going to tell us made him excited enough for his fat tub of lard ass to move.
“Guys, guys! Hey, you guys!” He hollered, out of breath once he had reached us.
“Hi Billy,” we said in unison, almost bored.
“Did ya hear about what happened at the Kursor’s last night?”
That perked our ears up. He sat down and we leaned in, eager to hear what happened. Mr. and Mrs. Kursor owned one of the biggest houses in our town, equipped with a pool, and would invite us kids over to swim during the summer. My mom said she couldn’t have any kids of her own, so she kept her own spirits up by having us around.
“Someone stole their dog, and then-” he paused for dramatic effect. “Put him back on the lawn, like uh, what was that word the Sheriff used?” He paused once more. I rolled my eyes — this was going to take a while for Billy to spit out. Firstly, he wasn’t the brightest bulb, and secondly, he made a habit of exaggerating. At a young age, we learned to take whatever he said with a grain of salt.
“So what, they put it back? What’s the big deal?” I asked, annoyance significant in my voice.
Billy looked at me with such absurdity it was as if I had asked him to solve a University level math equation.
“Yeah, but the dogs were stuffed, like taxidermy.” He grinned, surely because that was the word the Sheriff had used, and he had gotten it right by using it in its proper context (for once). “And, their mouths were sewn and glued shut.”
I cringed. I thought of my own dog – Drogba – a two-year-old Doberman. If what Billy was saying had an inch of truth, would I wake up one day and find him stuffed on my lawn?
“Stop lying,” someone from beside me said.
“I’m not lying!” Billy almost shouted, his eyes wide in bewilderment. “He’s called the Dog Snatcher! He comes whenever you let your dog out. If you turn your back for even a quick second, your dog disappears into thin air. And then, you’ll wake up in the morning, and your dog will be there, only it’s not alive anymore.”
“Why would anybody do that?” I asked, challenging him.
Billy shrugged. An awkward silence filled our circle of friends, and Billy got the hint. As he left, he made sure to bark at us, taunting us with his fabricated story.
When I got home that day, I spent more time with Drogba than I have in the two years of owning him.
I heard the front door close — it was my mom.
“Honey, did you let him out?” She yelled, the familiar jingle of her keys as she set them on the table, and the thump of her purse following.
I could almost feel my blood freeze.
“No,” I yelled back.
I heard her call for him, his ears perked up, and he bolted down the stairs. I ran after him and almost tripped.
“No! Mom! Don’t let him out!”
My mom looked at me with an annoyed expression, and she put her hand on her hip.
“You have been home for 3 hours and have not let Drogba out? You know his system is awful, he’s probably gone to the washroom inside already! Oh, your father is going to have your head….”
“Billy said the Dog Snatcher is out there! He’s going to steal Drogba and return him dead and stuffed! Taxidermy!”
She didn’t want to hear anymore of it.
“Take him out, now.”
And so I did. I put the leash on him, and let him out in the backyard. I didn’t need to put the leash on him — he wouldn’t run away, but I was scared. My eyes never left him, even when it got awkward and he began to poop; nobody wants to watch you poop. I didn’t care — the Dog Snatcher was not coming to take Drogba.
The next morning, I found my mom sitting at the dining table, cradling a coffee in her hands. It was odd — usually on Saturday mornings, she was out running errands.
The small change in her routine worried me, and I immediately thought of my Dad.
As if she read my mind, my mom spoke. “Dad is fine. Three people on our street had their dogs go missing, and turn up in the same way Billy told you about. You get on the phone right now, young lady, and you ask Billy if this was his doing.”
I never called Billy.
It went on for months, and suddenly it stopped just as quick as it began. Nobody had any idea who was behind this, the police had no leads other than Billy. When it stopped, it was as if a collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the town.
Ten years later, it’s happening again in our small town in Montana. Officials have coined the creature the ‘Dog Snatcher’, and while as lame as it was, it still built fright in the locals’ minds.
I was sitting at the 24-hour diner, Lucky Star, mostly because of my best friend, Kaitlyn, who worked there and gave us a nice discount when we were craving breakfast for dinner. It was the only diner in our town. Many others have been built but did not last – besides, high school kids and college kids have referred to the Lucky Star as their second home.
Our friend group hadn’t changed much since we were eight-years-old, playing on the playground. I guess that’s true for most small towns; the friendships you build at a young age, remain the same for a lifetime.
“Stacey, did you hear what happened with Billy?”
She was pouring coffee into my mug, a quizzical expression on her face.
I sighed. Whenever anybody asked about Billy, some elaborate beyond belief story followed. It was a real-life broken telephone.
Kaitlyn looked around before lowering her voice, almost to a whisper. “The Dog Snatcher came to his neighbourhood last night.”
Sure enough as if on command, Billy walked through the front doors of the Lucky Star, his eyes bloodshot, evident from the amount of crying (and drinking) he must’ve done.
Without a word, he squished himself into our booth, and took my coffee mug, finishing it off in three deep gulps. Kaitlyn raised her eyebrows, refilling my mug once more.
“Is it true?” She asked, fear in her voice.
Billy looked up at her, “Why do you give a shit? You’ve got cats.”
That silenced her real quick. While he was blunt, Billy was right; in the months that The Dog Snatcher was around, the only house pets that had been snatched and put back were dogs. Crazy Charlie from down the road was a real weirdo; he began to talk about Hellhounds, Myths, and Cult Sacrifices. None of it made sense to us when we were younger, so we ignored him.
“I didn’t even think twice, I just let them out at night like usual. But my goddamn brother forgot his house keys again and I had to let him in. I was away from the back door for ten-seconds tops, and they were gone. This morning I went out to the backyard, and I didn’t see them, so I thought they ran away. But, there in the snow, was some raccoon, it’s insides ripped out, no — it was cleaned out, almost perfectly. And then, I saw the dogs. They were side by side, stuffed.”
He closed his eyes as if trying to wipe the image from his mind.
“Their eyes were clawed out, there were rocks in place of them. And then their mouths, God, it was disgusting. Their mouths were sewn shut.”
We sat in silence for a moment. A customer calling out to Kaitlyn brought us back to reality. Remember when I said we took whatever Billy said with a grain of salt? This was the one exception.
Since owning Drogba, my mom adopted two more dogs from the shelter — a Shetland Sheepdog who was 85% deaf, and a yappy Yorkshire Terrier. My mom was working the graveyard shift at the hospital that night, so I was home alone. I depended on my dogs as a sense of security.
Billy’s story kept replaying in my head – I had the same gut wrenching feeling as I did ten years ago. I was lost in thought until I heard one of the dogs whining to be let out. I walked towards the front door, where three leashes hung on the wall, and picked them off.
“Come on,” I called, coaxing them. I snapped on the clip for the leash on each collar, propping open the door with my foot. I fumbled with Roxy, the Yorkshire Terrier’s leash, and it slipped out of my hand. She bolted, relieving herself.
I panicked – I had to keep my eye on her, or else the Dog Snatcher would come.
“Roxy! Roxy, come back girl,” I said watching her. The other two dogs whined by my legs. I looked down, just for a split second — and that was it. Roxy was gone. I pushed the dogs back in towards the house, and shut the door behind me, bolting the lock.
The dogs whined, but I wasn’t going to let them out.
That night, I ended up putting puppy training pads down on the floor. If my dogs needed to relieve themselves, they could do that in the house.
I was up all night; my mom was too tired to notice Roxy was missing when she got home.
Eventually, I drifted off to sleep on the couch, my back towards the window that faced our backyard. Drogba’s barking woke me up, followed by another bark. At first, I didn’t know where I was, but when my eyes adjusted, I could see both dogs barking and growling at me.
‘Stop it,’ I whispered, confused as to why they were treating me like a stranger. Drogba began to bare his teeth, and I realized he wasn’t barking at me — he was barking at something behind me.
I turned around, and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Roxy was in our backyard — once again, rocks replaced her eyes, and she had been stuffed. I couldn’t see from how far I was, but I was certain that her mouth was also sewn shut.
Something was beside her, and as I stood up, off the couch, I saw it. A big creature, its spine bent out of shape, a permanent hunch in its back. His beard was black and thick, almost touching the ground, bits of snow caught in it. He seemed to bend down lower until he was almost crouching, and he flicked his tongue out — a long black tongue that had something dripping from it. I squinted; no, it wasn’t saliva. It was dark and red.
It turned its head, looking straight at my barking dogs through the window, and paused. Then, it locked eyes with me, and I could feel a sense of dread as it came closer to the window — he wasn’t finished here, he wanted my other dogs as well. We were inches apart, glass separating us.
I knew if it wanted to, the Dog Snatcher could easily break the glass and reach for my dogs, but it just stood there, staring. I didn’t dare to move, I was frozen in my spot. A large hood covered most of his face, but its tongue stuck out occasionally, licking the window, leaving smears of light red in its spot.
All the barking woke my mother up, and she came downstairs. Flicking on the light, she looked around. The Dog Snatcher was gone, but it left behind a souvenir. Under Roxy’s propped body were drops of dark red, the same color dripping from the Dog Snatcher’s tongue. My mother’s screams echoed through the house, and I just stood there, staring through the window at the drops of blood.
I don’t know if it’ll return, or if the Dog Snatcher will take other dogs to fulfill its satisfaction, but I’m hoping that those of you who live in Montana hold your dogs close to you.