A year ago, saying “Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and her french bulldogs were stolen” would have sounded like the punchline to a bad joke.
In 2021, after murder hornets, the entirety of Australia being on fire, a global pandemic, and an insurrection at the Capitol, it’s a headline that barely registers.
Still, it’s an undoubtedly bizarre story that leaves us with more questions than answers. Was Lady Gaga specifically targeted? Is the dog-knapper asking for a ransom? Why was such deadly force necessary to wrest two small dogs from a presumably unarmed man? Does the dog walker have some kind of shady past that caught up with him?
The dog walker who was victimized has not officially been named, but Dr. Fred Pescatore, a former employer, identified him to Entertainment Tonight as Ryan Fischer. Fischer previously walked dogs in New York but moved to Los Angeles four years ago in order to care for Gaga’s French bulldogs.
Ryan Fischer from his Instagram account
Pescatore said of the incident, “It’s just heartbreaking and I know he must’ve been absolutely trying to protect them. He would literally lay down his life for any one of our dogs and I certainly hope that that was not the case this time.”
He continued, adding that Fischer “really took care of those dogs like they were his children and they were, I mean, he was unbelievable — kind, kind, gentle man.”
“He was actually really an artist and he was actually leaving. He was actually leaving the profession in just a few months. He was wrapping up his gig with Gaga and leaving to go and do his artist thing.”
Fischer is currently hospitalized and in critical condition.
Lady Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, told CNN on Friday that they’re “hoping for an act of kindness so we can get the dogs back. We are upset about [the dog walker]. It’s very appalling that someone would shoot somebody to steal some dogs. Hopefully, they’ll be caught so we can get the dogs back safely.”
Los Angeles Police Department Officer Mike Lopez told CNN that the department is going through surveillance footage that shows two people attacking the dog walker, shooting him in the chest with an automatic handgun before escaping with the dogs, Koji and Gustav. Fischer was walking a third dog, as well, but the video shows that dog escaping the kidnappers and running back to Fischer, who was laying on the sidewalk.
On Thursday an individual close to the singer told CNN that she was “offering half-a-million dollars to anyone who has her two dogs, no questions asked. Anyone who has the dogs can use this email, KojiandGustav@gmail.com to retrieve the reward.”
While it’s possible that the source did not accurately represent Gaga’s stance on the matter, there’s something shockingly callous about the suggestion that such a generous reward would be offered without any intention of bringing the assailants to justice. Of course Gaga wants her dogs back; and, in such a high profile case, offering that reward with no strings attached is probably the best way to make that happen.
On the other hand, an employee who moved cross-country to work for her was violently assaulted the job and sent to the hospital, critically injured… Surely the first priority should be ensuring that the people who shot him are identified and prevented from inflicting harm on others.
To be fair, studies have shown that people tend to have a stronger emotionally response to the thought of an animal being hurt than another person, and that tendency is likely to be stronger when it’s your own pets in danger. The dog walker, after all, is not the one you cuddle up with on the couch.
But on a rational level we should all recognize that a human life is more important, right? A man nearly died, and the people who shot him are walking free. Would it even be legal for Gaga to make a six-figure deal with them — or whoever has her dogs now — without pointing the police in their direction?
It might turn out that the reward is actually meant for information leading to the dognappers — or that this is all a ruse to lure them into a trap. But if Gaga’s offer really is $500,000 for her dogs, “no questions asked,” it suggests a pretty disgusting lack of humanity.