After Two Weeks, Stolen Service Dog Reunited with Owner

The Yorkshire Terrier was "everything" to Robert Runkle -- now, she's safely back home.


Two weeks ago, Robert Runkle’s Yorkshire Terrier was stolen out of his car in San Francisco while he attended a medical appointment. The thief smashed the window and took to the dog, leaving her collar. People suspected the theft was part of a dog-napping ring, similar to ones we’ve seen around the country in which purebred dogs are sold on the black market.

Lola, however, is a medical service dog. Runkle is battling chronic kidney disease, and two years ago he acquired the certified assistance dog as a companion animal. He also recently discovered he had lymphoma — four days before his dog was stolen.

“I don’t have a significant other,” Runkle told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Lola was everything to me. She got me up and got me motivated.”

His neighbors quickly took up the effort to find the dog, putting up posters and canvassing the area. Neighbor Tracy Moon led the effort to raise a $3,000 reward.

“Unfortunately, I’ve learned more than I wanted to about a black market for purebred Yorkies,” Moon told the Chronicle. “That’s the reason I put up such a large reward. I know they can get $300 on the street.”

“Robert is devastated,” Moon said at the time. “He dotes on that dog.”

As the days passed, Runkle began to give up hope.

“Last Saturday morning I had to say to myself, ‘She ain’t coming back,'” he said, despite the round of publicity the theft has generated in the city. “God knows where she is. I just hope she’s being treated well.”

No doubt you’re waiting for the happy ending, and here it is: Lola is back.

“It is a holiday miracle,” said Moon. “It is beyond what you can imagine.”

On Saturday, Moon got an e-mail from an Oakland woman, who wrote that she had found the dog running free near a large park in Oakland, which is a very long bridge and dozens of city blocks from where the dog was taken in San Francisco. She asked not to be identified. She said a friend had seen the dog on the news and wondered whether it was the same animal.

Moon was skeptical, so she called police in case things went south. She also worried that she might not be able to recognize the dog — she was just a neighbor to Runkle, after all. She shouldn’t have worried.

“The dog just leapt out of her arms and came to me,” said Moon, who gave the woman the $3,000 reward. “I knew instantly.”

Moon brought the dog home to Runkle and surprised him at his house.

“I never came so close to fainting in my life,” Runkle said. “I was crying every day. And when she came back, I cried again, but it was a different kind of crying. And now I’m done. I don’t cry anymore.”

Police are still investigating the theft. Anyone with information can call the San Francisco Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle

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