Man, 77, Reunited With Dog After Auto Theft

Dogsters, I have a feeling a lot of us could use a happy ending right about now, especially after Monday's story about the shooting death...


Don Peck and his beloved Kiwi, reunited after nearly two agonizing weeks (Photos: Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register)

Dogsters, I have a feeling a lot of us could use a happy ending right about now, especially after Monday’s story about the shooting death of the arthritic old yellow Lab. Dogster Alex in Welderland sent me a story this morning about a 77-year-old man who was reunited with his beloved dog after his car was stolen, and I think it’s just what the doctor ordered (as long as we can try not to cast stones about him leaving his dog in his car and the dog not being microchipped; she is now, and I’m sure he won’t be leaving her in his car again.).

The thing is, I am up against a frightfully impending deadline for the 7th editions of my dog guide books, and I don’t have time to do the story justice. Given this, and that the original article, which appeared in The Orange County Register today, tells the story so well, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do, and include the entire story below. Grab a Kleenex, and enjoy. These are good people, and their happy ending might give you hope in whatever difficulties you might be facing.

By Eric Carpenter, The Orange County Register

ANAHEIM After 12 agonizing days, a 77-year-old Anaheim man has been reunited with his beloved dog, stolen along with his truck.

His 2004 Toyota pickup is back in the driveway, too. But more importantly, 8-year-old Kiwi is again parked in the black shih tzu’s favorite spot at the front doorstep.

“My nightmare is finally over,” said Don Peck, watching Kiwi scamper around his home.

“I’m so thankful to everybody who helped me,” Peck said. “I never thought I would get him back.”

l9u7bg-b78700651z.120101005144717000gr8qro3d.2Peck, a retired electronics worker, wants to thank a lot of people: His neighbor, Peggy, who printed dozens of flyers; his 12-year-old neighbor, Chelsea, who made him a bottle full of paper stars with the phrase: “Lucky Stars to Bring Kiwi Home.”

He wants to thank the countless strangers who offered prayers and hugs and distributed the flyers.

But mostly he wants to thank his daughter-in-law Valada Smith, responsible for bringing Kiwi home from 1,800 miles away.

Peck’s nightmare began Sept. 22 when he came out of a 99 Cents Only store in Anaheim to find his truck gone along with his dog that had been resting in the back seat; the truck window’s had been cracked open to keep him cool.

Three days later, Peck got a call from police that his truck had been found towed after being parked illegally in a lot below a nearby Anaheim apartment complex. The truck was fine. But after paying $250 to get it back, still no sign of Kiwi.

“It was like a death in the family, like losing a child,” said Shirley Sanders, Peck’s fiance.

Peck couldn’t sleep. He spent his days distributing flyers and following leads. He spent nights tossing and turning. He lost 12 pounds.

Back in Indiana, his daughter-in-law couldn’t sleep either.

“I know how much he loves his dog. And I love that man,” Smith said. “So I did what I could.”

Every night when Smith got off from her job waitressing at 9 p.m., she came home, took a shower, then immediately jumped on the Internet to look for Kiwi.

She checked every shelter in Orange County. She tried

No luck.

On Sunday, she decided to check lost-and-found ads on She looked at the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. After hours of searching, she followed a link to an animal shelter in Downey.

“About the 20th one down, I saw this small black dog listed as a Pekingese. And I thought, ‘That’s got to be Kiwi.'”

That was 3 a.m. Indiana time, midnight in California.

The phone rang at Peck’s house. He feared it was too good to be true.

But when the sun came up, he knocked on his neighbor’s door to look it up for himself on her computer.

“Kiwi has a cloud on his right eye,” Peck said. “It was him. And his tail was down, so I knew he was sad.”

A Los Angeles County animal-control officer had picked up Kiwi wandering near Beach Boulevard the day after the theft, miles from the store. And he was up for adoption.

Trouble was, the Downey shelter was closed Monday. Peck and his fiance called anyway and said they were coming.

l9u7bj-b78700651z.120101005144717000gr8qro37.2Once they arrived at the locked door, they showed a staff member a Register story about the dog being stolen. The door opened.

“When they first brought Kiwi out, he wouldn’t even look at us,” Peck said. “Then they got him on a leash, cleaned him up a little bit and brought him back out.”

Once Kiwi saw Peck, his tail began to wag. And Kiwi wouldn’t stop licking him.

Back home, Kiwi ran inside the house and straight up the stairs to his water bowl. Peck had been changing the water every day, anticipating Kiwi’s return.

Back in Indiana, Smith was elated.

“When I told the people at work, everybody was in tears,” she said. “We are so happy.”

Happy doesn’t begin to describe the emotion Peck is feeling, he said.

No suspect has been arrested in the theft. But Peck has everything he cares about.

And hes getting a microchip with pet identification implanted in Kiwi, just in case.

“I’m not really religious,” Peck said. “But I asked God, ‘Why did you do this?’ And I prayed. Everybody said prayers.

“Now I feel like they’ve been answered,” he said.

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