Scott Southwick, manager of Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream, was at home Tuesday night at 8:30 when his phone rang.
“It was the phone call every parent dreads,” Southwick said.
The caller, one of the ice cream parlor’s staffers, told Southwick that the shop’s mascot, Sparky the bulldog, had been kidnapped.
Southwick rushed to the store to find the statue had indeed been lifted from its usual spot on the Ninth Street sidewalk.
“It was a moonless night,” Southwick said. “When I got there nobody was on Ninth Street. It must have been a drive-by kidnapping because somebody would have stopped them if they were on foot.”
Sparky, a replica of Southwick’s beloved real-life bulldog, has been a fixture on the downtown sidewalk since the shop opened in September 2003. Southwick said this isn’t the first time someone has menaced the ceramic canine.
“On Super Bowl Sunday 2004, he was grabbed by a group of guys, but my 98-pound worker ran out and shouted them down,” he said.
Wednesday, the owner filed an official report with the Columbia police and posted a picture of the statue on the store’s street sign with a message imploring for its safe return.
“If nobody saw anything, it’s pretty difficult for us,” Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said. “The advantage we have with something like this is that it’s a very unique item. If somebody does see it they’re going to know where it came from.”
Southwick said he’d have no problem replacing the statue if it doesn’t resurface, but he said the theft has raised new worries.
“I’m not sure if I should bring by the real Sparky anymore,” Southwick said. “Luckily, he was safe at home snoring.”