Homeowner Denise Crowder left her house a little bit earlier on Halloween morning to take her husky-mix dog, Val, to the vet in McKinney. In the confusion of an early morning and dog wrangling, she left her cell phone at home. When she returned to her house later that afternoon, she found her front door open and a missed calls list a mile long.

The police, her husband and the alarm company had been calling her; Crowder had been robbed. Her neighbors, who happened to be home when the crime happened, were tricked by the thieves’ unusual behavior.

“When my neighbors saw the two men at my front door, they said they appeared to be talking to me,” Crowder says. “They were making hand gestures and moving their mouths.”

In reality, they were trying to break down her front door, held fast by a sturdy deadbolt. Crowder’s front door is a full-view glass door, though, and the peering thieves saw through to the two French doors in the back of the house.

Once again, the neighbors saw the thieves and assumed that Crowder knew they were there.

The alarm went off; the crooks were inside. They made a quick line toward the bedroom and took her 9mm handgun and some cedar boxes. These hopeful thieves thought they had jewelry boxes when, in fact, the contents were far more personalized: the cremated remains of Crowder’s past dogs.

“They were looking for something that was small since they didn’t have a car,” Crowder says. “They were quick, and they didn’t rip the drawers out.”

Damages to Crowder’s house totaled almost $4,000 because she had to replace the two French doors.

“A dog is the answer,” Crowder says. “If I was there with Val, then I don’t think this would have happened.”

Lt. Michael Woodbury of the Dallas Police says thieves are always looking for an opportunity to find an easy target.

“The best thing to do in this case is to get a solid door,” Woodbury says. “Don’t leave things out in the open. They make blinds for doors like that so no one can see through. Also, they can put alarm stickers on their windows to warn thieves. But if the thieves are determined to steal, they will still do it.”

—Gabby Martinez