News Toronto

Social media key to retrieving stolen dog

By Jenny Yuen, Toronto Sun

When Penny the dog went missing, the Internet quickly banded together to bring her home.

Joel Longland popped in to a KFC near Dufferin Mall Wednesday around 6:55 p.m. and tied Penny, his six-month-old caramel-coloured poodle outside. During the moments he was inside, a woman with short dark hair, a backpack and dark glasses was captured on surveillance video walking away with the animal along Bloor St.

Longland frantically searched the nearby park and immediately called his fiancee, Ashley Wallis, who alerted some of their friends about the doggie theft.

Pictures and details of Penny’s last whereabouts were circulated on Facebook, Reddit and on Bunz Trading Zone. Within hours, the posts went viral with hundreds of comments.

“She was alone for maybe 45 seconds to a minute and in that time, she was taken,” Wallis, 31, said Thursday. “Joel called the cops and nobody was going to be able to get to it for some time. About 8:30 p.m., we got a tip that someone had seen her on the subway around 7:55 p.m. That person got on at Ossington and when she got off the subway, Penny was still on at Spadina.”

Then, more tips rolled in.

“Someone had seen her at Yonge-Dundas Square,” said Wallis. “At that point, everyone who was looking in their neighbourhood, hopped in their cars and cabs to the Eaton Centre-area to start looking.”

That led to another online tip that Penny was spotted in front of the Forever 21 store.

“We called the Eaton Centre security folks and they were looking and eventually a friend of mine of called me at 10:55 p.m. She said she could see Penny,” said Wallis. “This woman was walking her down Yonge St., towards Queen St. and I just said, ‘Keep your eyes on her!’”

The friend alerted a paid-duty officer she saw nearby at a construction site of the suspected dog thief. Wallis said she is forever grateful to the officer, who questioned the woman.

“The woman who had (allegedly) taken the dog pretended not to speak English and then said she had received the dog from a friend,” said Wallis. “The cop said she was in possession of stolen property and she just kind of dropped the leash and ran off.”

Wallis and Longland – who are getting married this weekend - are relieved she’s home safe.

“She came home and was like, ‘What’s the big deal, guys?’ while we were crying over her,” she said.

jyuen@postmedia.com