SALT LAKE CITY – A Salt Lake City family holds their pets tight after their dog, Norma, was stolen just outside their home.
The nearly year-old pug was snatched from Margarette Wheelwright’s townhouse on Thursday morning.
“She was upstairs working on some stuff, and she heard Norma here having breakfast, so she didn’t think about it,” Wheelwright’s daughter Natassja Lindsay said.
A property maintenance worker saw that the family’s door was wide open. Wheelwright said it usually locks automatically and their doorbell did not alert them that it had opened. They couldn’t find Norma anywhere inside.
“We didn’t know she had been abducted. We just thought she ran away,” Lindsay said.
The family called animal shelters, vets and posted signs. Then they checked the images from their doorbell.
“You can see at 8:58 a.m. the front door opens, you can see a shadow behind it, then you see the man pick it up and leave,” Wheelright explained in security footage.
The dark figure was a man she recognized from a conversation she had with him earlier in the week.
“Two days before he disappeared, there was a strange man who approached me,” Wheelwright said. “He’s like, ‘Oh, I’m looking for something. Can you help me?’ He said to me: ‘Do you have a dog? What kind of dog? and I am friendly. I come from the south.
The family went looking for dogs online and came across an ad that made their hearts pound: a picture of Norma for sale.
“She was listed as ‘A pretty lady, one year old. $350.50.”
They thought they would never see their precious pet again and called the Unified Police Department.
“[Police] told me, ‘Call KSL, have them take it down,’ Wheelwright said.
Hours of silence followed until a Facebook post featuring a familiar face was spotted.
A couple the Wheelwrights didn’t know posted a photo of Norma, whom they named Eve, and their dog playing together.
“Someone recognized Norma and said, ‘This is Norma from Facebook,’ and they said, ‘What are you talking about?’ so they sent them the flyer that we had all done,” Lindsay said.
The couple who hosted Norma said they thought they were doing their friend a favor.
“The lady, her husband’s friends with the gentleman who robbed her, and he apparently wanted to keep the dog in the car,” Wheelwright said. “They’re like, ‘No, we’re going to babysit.'”
The couple told Wheelwright their friend, who has the same first name as the man who posted the dog on KSL Classifieds, tried to sell Norma, but they found her story suspicious.
“She says, ‘This dog is healthy, she’s big, she has short nails, well groomed, she’s clean, she’s not aggressive, she’s someone’s pet'” , Wheelwright said.
Thanks to quick connections made on social media, the couple called the number on the missing dog poster. Wheelwright’s husband responded and the couple immediately headed for the strangers’ house, just five minutes away.
“She opened the door, and Norma literally ran and jumped into my arms, and I could see her, touch her, and smell her,” Wheelwright said.
Wheelwright said her family called the police and let them know Norma was at home. They said they plan to sit down with a detective to talk about the story and press charges against the person who stole their dog and tried to sell her.