Alyssa Sanderford spent 35 minutes running barefoot and hopping in strangers’ cars to rescue a stranger’s stolen dog, but the hardest part of the whole ordeal was relaying the story to her boyfriend.
“I said, ‘Hey, listen, let me just start with I’m OK and I know this isn’t the smartest thing,'” the 34-year-old recalled to the Dallas Observer. “He said, ‘That was the worst start to a story ever, so what did you do?’”
It all started when the Dallas, Texas woman noticed a missing dog flyer a friend shared on Facebook. The photo of the 95 lb. chocolate Lab/Chesapeake mix named Wiley — who was taken from where her owner had tied him up outside a Trader Joe’s — broke her heart.
“I have a Jeep,” she told the paper, “and I have two dogs myself. I’ll run into Whole Foods just for a second and run out. The thought has crossed my mind that they might be taken but never really, so seeing that on Facebook made me feel really sad.”
The next morning, Sanderford was driving when she spotted a dog that looked just like the one from the missing poster — right down to the bright orange collar. There was a man in his 20s holding the leash.
Sanderford pulled over and got out of her car to take a closer look. Upon closer inspection, she was certain it was Wiley.
“I probably didn’t do the smartest thing,” she said. “I just walked up to him and said, ‘That dog’s stolen. You need to give it back.’ He was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘You took that dog last night at Trader Joe’s. Give me the leash.’”
“I tried to reach for it. He got pretty angry,” she continued. “I grabbed the leash, and he jerked it out of my hands.”
The man took off running and Sanderford didn’t think twice about following him. The triathlete took off her flip-flops and pursued the man through the streets barefoot.
She was joined by two Goodwill employees and when they gave up, she jumped in the SUV of a couple who noticed her running after the man and offered her a ride. The couple, too, eventually tired of the chase, at which point Sanderford resumed running. Thirty minutes later, one of the Goodwill employees returned in his own SUV and caught up with the man.
With Wiley’s leash in hand, Sanderford found the number for his owner, Angela Ream, who rushed to the scene. Police also arrived to the scene and did not arrest the man, explaining that it would be difficult to bring charges against him since no one saw him steal the dog.
When Wiley spotted her owner, she ran to Ream’s side and licked her face ecstatically. Ream shared her sentiments.
“I don’t even know this girl, and she risked so much to bring our dog home to us,” Ream said. “It’s an unbelievable story. It sounds a little silly, but it restores your faith in humanity. For the one bad guy who had her, there were so many people who reached out and cared.”