Columnist

Since the April day that Jeff Abramson and Beth Edinger’s beagle, Sassafras, slipped her leash and ran off, dozens of people have helped look for the dog, showing the kind of selfless dedication that buoys our opinion of human nature.

But I don’t want to talk about those people just yet. First I want to talk about the absolutely horrible people out there, the twisted people who get some sort of sick satisfaction from tormenting Jeff and Beth.

“That’s the really awful and unexpected piece of this,” said Jeff, who lives with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter in Takoma Park. “Everyone I tell the stories to is just sort of shocked. Kids do prank calls but not normally malicious like this.”

How malicious? Well, Jeff, Beth and their friends have placed 2,000 posters of Sassafras around Washington. The posters include the number of the cellphone the pair bought just for the search. They often get crank calls around 3:30 p.m., when school lets out, kids who call and say, “I found your dog,” giggle and hang up.

But some people spin detailed tales designed to . . . well, I’m not exactly sure what they’re designed to do, other than earn themselves a special place in hell.

Shockingly, some have taken pleasure in adding to the pain of Sassafras’s owners. (Courtesy of Jeff Abramson)

One person called to say he saw Sassafras in the street being beaten by an angry mob. Another person called to say Sassafras had bitten him, then called a few hours later to say a friend was holding the dog down. Then the line went dead. One ugly call went to voice mail. The male caller said: “Um, hey, I saw that dog you all are looking for and it was very delicious. It was salt [sic] and it was fried and I can tell you that dog meat is very good.”

What possesses a person to call a perfect stranger and claim to have eaten his dog?

People often call inquiring about the reward. Jeff spoke with one man who hinted he knew where Sassafras was, but when Jeff started pressing him for details, the man shouted, “Shut up . . . I just want to know how much the reward is!”

Said Jeff: “We have times where the negative side weighs on us.”

I’ll bet.

But more people try to help than try to harm. One man called after seeing a poster and said he’d seen a guy in Anacostia with a beagle. It seemed like a setup but Beth and Jeff went out the next day. “And the guy had a beagle that he had found, but it wasn’t Sassafras,” Jeff said. “It was someone being genuine and trying to help.”

Jeff, who works for an arms control group, and Beth, a law librarian, got Sassafras from a rescue organization when she was about 7 weeks old. “In many ways, she was our first child,” Jeff said. The dog — now 3 1 / 2 — plays with their “human daughter,” Kalliope. “They interact,” Jeff said. “She’s part of our core family. We’re missing a quarter of our family right now.”

They have a blog — findlostbeaglesassafras. blogspot.com — on which they detail the search and e-mail for tips: findsassafras@gmail.com.

It was April 8 that Sassafras got loose from her dog walker. She was spotted near the National Zoo and then farther east, near North Capitol and Florida. The tracker the couple hired said Sassafras could be 10 or 15 miles away now.

Jeff wonders if Sassafras is trying to find her way back home. “We still leave the gate open.”

“We have received dozens of calls from people offering advice on how to do the search or offering sympathy,” Jeff said. “The search is heartbreaking, but the response from people willing to help speaks volumes for humanity.”

Unfortunately, the people eager to hurt speak volumes, too.

Proof of death

Jeff and Beth have become unfortunate experts in lost dogs. One thing they were surprised to learn is that pet carcasses picked up from D.C. streets are not catalogued. Even if the animal is wearing a collar or a tag with contact information, the owner is not notified.

“For people like us, it’d be invaluable,” Jeff said. It would be terrible to discover Sassafras was dead, “but it’d be closure.”