PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The owner of a dog daycare and boarding business panicked this week when a thief stole her van — along with a dozen dogs inside.
Sunni Liston, who has owned Dogpatch Resort for nearly 20 years, said they pick up dogs from their owners in downtown Portland three days a week. Dogpatch’s two vans each hold 13 kennels, and some days there might be more than two dozen dogs running around her play yards in Damascus.
At the end of the day, Liston and her team load the dogs into the vans and take them back downtown.
“I parallel park on the street and people come to me and get their dogs. So I sit in my van for about an hour and as each person comes, I unload the dog,” said Liston, who called her business “an extreme passion and love.”
Liston said the theft happened Tuesday when she went to retrieve a client’s dog. “I walked to the back of the van and got out one of the top kennels, handed her her dog and she was starting to walk away and the van started,” she said.
In the minute or so it took Liston to hand the customer her pup, a man had climbed into the driver’s seat and taken off with the van while Liston was standing beside it.
“It took a split second to realize what had happened, and I screamed. I came up the side of the van, the driver’s side, and I was pounding — I was trying to get to the door. I was pounding the wall of the van, and he ran over my foot,” she said.
There were 11 dogs in kennels in the van as well as her own dog, Howard, who was loose in the front seat. Liston said having left her phone in the van, she panicked.
“I was screaming, ‘Call 911, that van’s stolen, stop them,'” she said.
Liston’s stolen cell phone turned out to be her saving grace. Her employees were able to ping the phone’s location, which turned out to be a parking lot.
“You would never have seen it from the street,” Liston said of her stolen van. “The amazing girls who work for me called a friend that lives on 13th and Jefferson and said, ‘Get in your car. You’ve got to find this van.'”
Liston said her employees’ friend found the van and used her own car to block it from exiting the parking lot. The van had been missing for about 40 minutes.
“There were literally hundreds of people — and that’s not an exaggeration — ready to start combing the streets for that van,” Liston said.
Authorities found all of the dogs still inside and unharmed, but Liston said the thief didn’t stick around.
“The policeman called me and I could hear the dogs in the background,” she recalled. “I screamed, I was screaming, ‘You’ve got them, you’ve got them!’ It wasn’t like anything you could describe.”
Liston said the thief also stole the cash in her purse and tried to use her credit cards. A witness described the thief as a man who appeared homeless, with “straggly hair” with a blue coat and red backpack, she said.
Liston said she’s received an outpouring of support since the ordeal.
“Apparently dog napping in Oregon is just about as serious as people napping,” she said. “It’s a very serious crime.”