A Mulino family says they're feeling blessed because they got their family dog back after she was stolen out of their car Thursday night.
“I can't believe it. It's been a crazy 24 hours,” said Laurinda Nealeigh.
“Happy tears, my kids are all so pleased. My youngest son didn't realize we got her home last night and when he woke up it was like Christmas morning,” said her husband Brandon Nealeigh.
On Thursday night, Brandon said he and his family decided to catch a movie. He left his 15-week-old German Shepherd in the back of his SUV like he’s done before.
Brandon says his family has received a lot of negative messages and comments on social media about leaving Milly in the back of the SUV.
Brandon said he’s spoken to dog trainers who have told him the space he has in his car is more than adequate, with a kennel, water and food.
Milly, he says, usually goes with him wherever he goes. But he said she’s still in training and isn’t allowed to go everywhere with him.
In addition, he said keeping his puppy in a kennel for a period of time helps with potty training and gives her a level of comfort.
The SUV was parked outside Regal Cinemas in Wilsonville when someone broke in, and stole his stereo, wallet and Milly.
"I was like 'Oh my God, I'm never going to see my dog again,'" said Brandon.
It was a blow, especially because Milly is a service dog in training. She helps Brandon with his anxiety. He’s an Army veteran.
“She helps me be in crowds and focus on being comfortable in public,” he said.
Brandon said the thief, or thieves, didn't waste any time. He got his hands on surveillance video that showed the suspect filling up at a gas station in Woodburn. Then he got an email from his credit card company asking him to verify a change of address.
“The credit card company read me back the address and the apartment number and I said thank you,” Brandon said.
What happened next took initiative.
"I went over to their house, and me and my wife and some friends sat there,” he said.
They sat, hoping they'd see Milly. Laurinda said they even saw a guy come out of one of the apartments who looked like the man they’d seen on the surveillance video. But then they got a weird call from a restricted number.
“He said, ‘Is this Laurinda?’ and I said yes. He goes, 'I think I have your dog,'” said Laurinda.
The anonymous caller said Milly would be dropped off in front of the Nike store at the Woodburn outlet mall.
“I could hear her crying in the background,” Laurinda recalled.
But when Laurinda arrived about five minutes later, her heart sank.
“The mall's closing and nobody's there,” she said.
She circled the mall. That's when she got another call, again from a restricted number, saying Milly was in front of the North Face store.
“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,” said Laurinda.
“She was in the middle of the parking lot all by herself in front of North Face, terrified,” Brandon said.
The Nealeighs think the caller may have gotten a hold of their number from flyers they put up looking for Milly.
They said there was a $1,000 reward, but whoever the caller was didn’t want it.
“I’m assuming the pressure got a little bit hot and they wanted to drop that puppy,” said Brandon.
While the family is still dealing with the thousands of dollars in charges that have been racked up on their credit card, they're just thankful to have Milly back. But they've got a message for whoever is responsible.
“Thanks. I got my dog back and I know where you live,” said Brandon.
“You're stupid. It would be smart of you to stop, and they're going to catch you. They're going to get you,” Laurinda added.
The Nealeighs say they’re hoping the thief or thieves are caught so they don't do anything like this to another family.