“Oh my God, I’m never going to see my dog again.”
That’s what Brandon Nealeigh thought after Milly, his service dog in training, was stolen from the back of his SUV. As K5 News reports, the Army veteran left the 15-month-old German Shepherd in the back of his vehicle with food and water as he and his family went to the Regal Cinemas in Wilsonville.
While the Nealeighs were watching a movie, someone broke in to the SUV and took the stereo, Brandon’s wallet, and Milly.
Nealeigh typically takes Milly wherever he goes but because she is still in training she is not allowed indoors everywhere.
“She helps me be in crowds and focus on being comfortable in public,” he said.
Nealeigh has faced criticism for leaving his dog behind in the SUV. He has also been advised by professional dog trainers that the space is adequate as long as he leaves food and water. In this case, it was easier to track Milly down once security cameras at a nearby gas station caught it pulling in to fill up.
Then, another breakthrough. Nealeigh got a call from his credit card company asking to approve a change of address.
“The credit card company read me back the address and the apartment number and I said thank you,” he said. “I went over to their house, and me and my wife and some friends sat there.”
Nealeigh’s wife, Laurinda, saw a man leave the house. He looked like the individual they saw in the gas station security footage.
Then, Laurinda got a strange phone call.
“Is this Laurinda?” A voice on the other end of a blocked number asked. “I think I have your dog.”
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The caller may have obtained Laurinda’s number from a missing dog poster offering a $1,000 reward. They said they would drop Milly off in front of a Nike Store at the nearby Woodburn outlet mall, no reward necessary.
“I could hear her crying in the background,” Laurinda said.
When the Nealeighs approached the store, Milly was nowhere in sight, and the mall was closing up. While they looked elsewhere in the parking lot, Laurinda’s phone rang again.
It was the same caller. They said Milly had been dropped off.
“I ran over to North Face and there she was. She was trembling. She was crying. She was licking the pavement for water so she had obviously not been fed or had water,” Laurinda said.
Nearly a day after his dog had been stolen, Brandon Nealeigh was holding her close, once again.
“I can’t believe it. It’s been a crazy 24 hours,” Laurinda told King 5.
“Happy tears, my kids are all so pleased. My youngest son didn’t realize we got b home last night and when he woke up it was like Christmas morning,” Nealeigh said.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.