Car stolen with dog inside leads to social media hunt and rescue on interstate

National News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Jason Miller got the scare of his life recently when his car was stolen with his dog, Gunner, inside.

“It’s just a horrible experience to lose your dog like that and not know, and really, I never thought we’d get him back,” Miller said on Monday.

Courtesy WFLA.com

It all started last Tuesday at a Hampton Inn in downtown St. Petersburg. Miller says he stopped at the hotel valet and briefly ran to the front desk. Less than 30 seconds later, a stranger jumped in the car and took off with Gunner inside.

Miller immediately got on Facebook, posting pictures of his puppy, pleading for help.

“I’ve never used social media like that before,” Miller said. “(I) put it out there, ‘hey can you guys please share this,’ and it just took off really quick, that’s how we got him back,” Miller said.

Gunner was rescued that Tuesday night by two dog lovers – Lindsey Stiefvater and Kevin Minner, a couple who have two dogs of their own.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say we’re heroes,” Lindsey explained. “I would just hope people would do this any time they saw a dog. We love dogs, we see them like our children.”

Lindsey and Kevin were on their way home from a friend’s house when they happened to notice sweet Gunner on the side of Interstate 275. The German short-haired pointer was scared, suffering, and stuck in a storm drain.

“He was just frightened and you could tell that … I was trying to be self-conscious about how close I was getting so I didn’t spook him. He looked very, very sad,” said Lindsey.

Courtesy Lindsey Stiefvater

The couple came to the rescue quickly, saving Gunner’s life just in time.

They, too, posted on social media that they found the frightened fella, and that’s when the magic happened.

“It took off within 30 seconds, we had 100 people hit us up and send us the original post with his number on it,” said Kevin.

They called Jason Miller and a new friendship was formed.

Miller was soon reunited with Gunner after four frantic hours.

“There’s good people, you know, it’s really cool they actually did that because if they didn’t stop, Gunner would probably be dead,” said Miller. “They saved his life.”

Lindsey says 2020 has been a difficult, depressing year, and this moment, she feels, was a moment of pure joy and happiness.

“The rescue of Gunner has probably been the highlight of our year, and just made our hearts happy again,” she said.

Courtesy WFLA.com

As for Gunner, he got a lot of special treats that night and lots of belly rubs.

Miller’s car was found days later.

“It was trashed,” he said. “But, that’s not important. Gunner is home. That’s what counts.”

St. Petersburg police are still searching for the car thief.

As for the valet service at Hampton Inn, a public relations spokesperson at Hilton Corporate released the following statement:

“I have confirmed that the Hampton Inn at 80 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg is independently owned and operated. That means as a franchise property, it carries a Hilton brand, but is not a Hilton owned or managed hotel. As I do not have insight into the facts of the case and cannot speak for ownership or management, I will endeavor to find a PR representative who can address your questions.”

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