Woman claims Beaucoup is her missing pet pit bull Fred

Flipping TV channels one evening in March, Karen Morin caught a glimpse of a black pit bull and immediately was convinced it was Fred, her 7 year-old pit bull that had been missing since January 2013.

It was the way the black dog with a white streak down his forehead turned his head to look at the person walking him that convinced Morin he was Fred.

The dog was featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls & Parolees” about a New Orleans shelter, Villalobos, that rescues and finds homes for pit bulls.

But the pit bull in that episode was named Beaucoup and it had been adopted from the shelter by a New Orleans couple and their children.

“I know in my heart it is him,” Morin said.

Efforts by Villalobos Rescue Center and the New Orleans family that adopted Beaucoup almost a year ago along with Morin to resolve the identity of the dog have become embroiled in acrimony and recriminations.

“I always tell them the same thing: ‘I would love to give them the dog,’ ” Tia Torres, who operates the nonprofit Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans, said of people who have seen a dog on the show and contact her to say it’s theirs.

But, first, there’s the question of establishing its identity, she said.

They’re trying to find a way to determine whether Beaucoup really is Fred and, if so, how a reunion with his original owners might happen, said Marta Richards, who said she’s working as Morin’s attorney on a mostly pro bono basis.

On Jan. 8, 2013, Morin’s ex-husband, Daryl Morin, called the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to report a burglary at his mobile home in St. Amant.

A window in the mobile home was broken and his pit bull was missing, he said.

Major Kevin Hanna, of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the deputy who responded to the burglary wrote in his report that it seemed likely the dog got out of the house on its own.

“The glass was pushed from the inside and there was some blood, likely the dog’s,” Hanna said.

Another officer told Hanna there had been severe weather at the time and the dog night have gotten anxious.

“We’re not going to rule out burglary,” though, Hanna said.

Karen Morin and her son, Jeremy Jackson, who raised Fred from a puppy, disagree with the deputies’ findings, saying they believe their dog was taken in a burglary.

Fred wasn’t afraid of storms, they said. Moreover, they said, not far from the shattered window, which is about 4 feet off the floor, is a metal shed, so close to the mobile home that the dog would have been injured if he had slammed into it by jumping through the glass.

When she learned Fred was missing, Morin traveled to St. Amant from her home in Alabama where she cares for her father, and stayed for several weeks, searching the area for Fred.

Meanwhile, someone turned in a black pit bull last year to a small shelter in Livingston Parish that works with Villalobos in New Orleans. The people who brought in the dog said it wasn’t working out with their other dogs at home, Torres said.

The dog was moved from Livington Parish to Villalobos on North Claiborne Avenue that’s become famous through the “Pit Bulls & Parolees” show.

The shelter is staffed by Torres and her family as well as a crew of ex-convicts.

Animal Planet has followed the shelter from its original location in California to New Orleans where it was moved in 2012, in part because of the Torres family’s animal rescue work after Hurricane Katrina.

When the black pit bull from Livingston Parish arrived at Villalobos, he had no microchip or identifying tag on him, Torres said.

“This particular dog we had for about four months before we found a home” for him with a New Orleans family, she said.

It seemed like a happy ending for the dog the shelter had named Beaucoup.

The dog can be seen on the show’s website, at animalplanet.com/tv-shows/pit-bulls-and-parolees/videos. At the bottom of the page under “Watch More Pit Bulls and Parolees Videos,” Beaucoup — or is it Fred? — can be seen in the segment called “Boo! A Haunted New Orleans Scare for Tia.”

Once Morin saw Beaucoup on TV in March, she and her son drove the same day from Alabama to New Orleans and met with Torres. Morin said she was convinced Torres had unknowingly received stolen property.

The ensuing conversation between the mother and son and Torres became, from all accounts, increasingly heated.

“I’m the good guy here,” Torres said she told Morin and her son. “ ‘Why are you angry at me? We are just an animal shelter. Tell me what I should have done.’ I walked away.”

Torres said she saw Morin’s distress, though, and called her back on her cellphone to say she would try to arrange a meeting with Beaucoup’s owners and, if the dog indeed was Fred, would ask if the new owners would be willing to give it back.

Torres said she’d contact Morin after the weekend.

“The next morning she showed up at my door with the New Orleans police,” Torres said.

And negotiations broke down.

Morin and her son had spent the night in their car outside Villalobos after speaking with Torres.

They didn’t have a place to stay in New Orleans and didn’t want to return to Alabama, said Morin, who said she had understood they’d find out something the following day.

By noon that day, Morin said, they hadn’t been acknowledged by anyone at the shelter, and she called the New Orleans police to see if they could help her.

“I just want to see if he’s my dog. I just want him back,” Morin said. “If he’s not my dog, I don’t want to cause grief.”

Morin has a hard time talking about Fred without crying.

Even someone who’s never met the 7-year-old, 91-pound animal could see his personality through the stories Morin tells and the photos she keeps in her cellphone.

She has photos of Fred that show him riding in a car, looking cool and comfortable in a pair of sunglasses, and another in which he’s “kissing” Morin.

When she was living in St. Amant, Morin said, she got in the habit of going through the McDonald’s drive-through every afternoon with Fred to get him a treat of chicken McNuggets.

Once, Morin said, she and her husband were at a campground by some water with Fred on a leash attached to a picnic table.

The dog normally never barked or growled, but on this occasion it began to do both in the direction of the water, she said.

She walked with him toward the water — Fred tried to bite it — and a little boy’s head bobbed up.

“A 4- or 5-year-old fell off the fishing pier and (then) bobbed up from the water,” Morin said.

His family hadn’t known he was missing until Fred sounded the alarm.

The little boy was helped out of the water and was fine.

“You have no idea how much I love the dog,” Morin said.