Couple says dog trainer lost their puppy

Posted at 10:02 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-28 07:32:16-04

CINCINNATI -- Michelle and Eric Cosgrove felt like Nola was meant to be their dog.

They'd lost their old Labrador retriever last year. She was 15 years old when she died, and they grieved, like any pet parent would. Then, on what would've been their old dog's birthday, the Cosgroves picked up their new pup.

Nola was a little rambunctious, they said, like most puppies.

"They are bitey and they need to be trained, so we signed up with a dog trainer here locally that we actually knew some people who had used before," Michelle Cosgrove said.

The Cosgroves turned to All About Dogs Training Academy, which John C. Smith has run since 1994. Nola was enrolled in a 10-day training program, which cost $1,500 and included boarding. On April 18, they dropped off Nola at Smith's facility near Lunken Airport.

Tuesday was the first time they were supposed to see her.

Then Monday morning, they got a phone call from Smith: Nola had gotten out and was missing. She'd escaped from his yard in West Chester Township over the weekend.

"I was very upset and asked why he didn't call us until 10:45 a.m. on Monday morning when she's been gone for almost 42 hours," Michelle Cosgrove said.

Smith said he's had 5,000 clients in his 22 years of training dogs. Never has one escaped, he said. And he said he didn't have the Cosgroves' contact information at his home.

"I didn't want to, one, cause alarm if there wasn't a need. And maybe I should've called them a little bit sooner, but nevertheless, I did what I thought was right, which was to put my efforts towards finding the dog at and around where the dog was," he said.

The Cosgroves said they didn't know Smith would be taking Nola to his West Chester home; he said he tells all clients that's where their dogs stay at night.

Michelle Cosgrove drove to Smith's neighborhood and has been talking to neighbors, posting flyers and signs and reaching out through social media to find Nola. So far, she's still missing.

"She's family. My husband and I, we don't have kids. I'm an aunt, and I love being an aunt, but she's part of our family, and she's probably the closest thing that I'll have to being a mother," Cosgrove said.

Smith said he'll do whatever is "fair and just" for the Cosgroves, including refunding their money.

"I've been a wreck over the situation," he said. "As I've mentioned, it's never happened to me before. I'm going to be certain to make sure that it never happens again."

Nola is 15 weeks old and is microchipped. She wears a green collar and needs to take medication, the Cosgroves said. She was last seen near Cox & Barret roads in West Chester. Anyone who sees her can email