Roxie, Pearl, Sparkles. Three names given by three different families who all thought they had purchased the same pug puppy.
Ashlee Potter in Crossfield, Karen Cambaliza in Calgary and Tawnya and Gary Berkholtz in Camrose tell strikingly similar stories about their encounters with an Edmonton breeder.
After months of looking for a pug puppy, Potter saw a post on the classified ad website Kijiji in January and called right away.
“I drove three hours to see the pug puppy, to make sure there was a pug puppy there, and fell in love with her as soon as I saw her,” she said.
Potter put down a $300 deposit on the puppy with owners Shawn Russell and Reshmika Nicolis-Russell and went home excited.
“I left there, guaranteed, that I would have a pug puppy that I could pick up in two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Cambaliza expressed interest in the same puppy – her own two dogs had recently passed away.
“She said the girl was still available, after other people had come to visit.”
She drove with her children to see the puppy and played with it for an hour.
“Obviously we fell in love with her and decided yes, we want her and we put down a deposit,” she explained.
That same afternoon, Tawnya and Gary Berkholtz drove from Camrose to the Nicolis-Russell home to see the same dog.
The Berkholtz’s also put $300 cash down as a deposit and received a receipt, too.
All three families thought they’d done their due diligence. They communicated with the sellers on the phone, multiple times. They went to their home and saw not only the puppy, but its parents. They asked a lot of questions, which they said Nicolis-Russell answered with ease.
But when it came time to get the puppy, the families all received a similar text message.
“The day before, we got a text message saying that she had let another dog in her house that didn’t have any shots and all of the puppies got sick. They all had to go to the vet. The vet said they’d be in there for a week or two weeks,” explained Tawnya.
The news made Potter suspicious.
“I asked if I could have the vet’s information, so my vet could contact this vet to see what was actually going on. She wouldn’t give me that information,” but still, she waited.
WATCH ABOVE: Three Alberta families say they put deposits down on the same pug for sale but none of them ever got the dog. As Sarah Kraus reports, they have a warning for people buying puppies online.
Two weeks later, with the families again preparing to pick up Roxie/Pearl/Sparkles, another text message: the puppy was sick again.
Then, the families were told they couldn’t have the puppy at all. The Berkhotlz children were upset.
“Take all of the excitement that you built up, meeting her, holding her, loving her. Talking about her every day to… It’s not going to happen. And then the question is why?” said Gary.
“She told us we had to wait 30 days for our money back because she had very expensive vet bills,” Cambaliza said. “I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to trust her and believe in her.”
At that point, Cambaliza went back to Kjiji and posted looking for a replacement black female pug puppy.
Tawnya responded to the post, urging her to avoid buying from the couple in Edmonton.
Potter also responded to the post, and they all realized their stories were very similar, right down to the texts they had been sent.
They contacted a lawyer and demanded their money be returned. It has been, all except $150 still owed to Potter.
Russell said the whole incident was an accident.
“We do apologize for the mistake. We oversold them,” he said. “I was very upset and very worried.”
He said that the puppy the families put deposits on was never really sick.
“My explanation to them that the dog puppies was sick was my state of panic, realizing what had happened. I told them that story hoping it would be ok.” He went on, “We had taken extra deposits by mistake.”
When asked to explain how the mistake happened, Russell responded saying “No. I can’t. I honestly couldn’t talk on that matter.”
“As for the number of deposits we did take, no I’m not willing to speak on that,” he added.
He said the puppy is now with another, fourth family.
Next time his dog has a litter, he said he won’t get involved in selling the puppies, but leave it up to his wife. “We will make strides in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen ever again.”
The experience left Potter frustrated.
“It’s pretty disturbing that these people can play with people’s emotions like that. Put me through an emotional roller coaster for two months and not even care.”
The families chose to share their stories to warn others, believing there might be other families around the province who also put a deposit on the pug.
“I just don’t want people to be heartbroken like we were. I don’t want them to go through the same thing we were,” Cambaliza said.
Gary said he’s not sure what his family could have done differently to protect themselves, but urged people to be careful.
“You hear about these scams going on all over the internet. I was like, it’s not going to happen to me. I know better than that.”
Two of the three families have since purchased other pug puppies, from different breeders.
The Edmonton Police Service is currently investigating the families’ complaints.