It only took a moment, and then she was gone.
On Nov. 20 Sharon Wheat drove herself and her beloved dog Sami, a 4½-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback Pitbull mix to the South 320th Street Safeway to walk around and get some fresh air.
During their walk, the 68-year-old retired school teacher decided to tie Sami’s leash to a bike rack outside of the store’s front entrance to run inside and use the restroom.
“What a foolish thing I did,” Wheat said, thinking back on tying up her dog.
As soon as she realized her beloved Sami had been taken, she immediately called the police.
Federal Way police Lt. Daniels and officers Tilford, Meshkoff and Jaeger responded right away, and started working the case to reunite Wheat and Sami.
The officers were able to get surveillance footage from Safeway, and pulled a few identifiable photo stills to try and track down the suspect.
Distressed and wanting to find her dog, Wheat started talking to different people around the area, including a homeless man who police later identified to be the father of the Safeway dog-snatcher.
While the search only lasted one day, Wheat was on her own emotional rollercoaster worrying she might never see her dog again.
“I went between ‘never seeing the dog again’ to ‘knowing she will be OK,’ ” Wheat said.
The fact that Sami, a rescue dog, was a Christmas gift from her son four years ago made the stressful event even harder on Wheat.
“She’s my best girl,” she said. “She’s the light of my life.”
Luckily, because of the stills the officers were able to get from surveillance, they recognized the suspect. Thursday morning, they found him in an abandoned home on South 320th Street, east of Interstate 5.
When officers knocked on the door to the house, occupied by the homeless man Wheat had spoken to and his two sons, they heard barking inside. When they got inside the home, they found Sami, identified by her red collar and a black marking on her tail that Wheat had described in her initial report to them.
While officers were able to safely retrieve Sami, who was unharmed, as of the afternoon of Nov. 21 the suspect who took her was still at large.
But even so, Wheat was overjoyed to have her Sami back, evident from their happy reunion filled with Sami’s dog kisses Thursday afternoon.
Wheat gathered with the officers who saved Sami at the Federal Way Police Department office inside City Hall around 12:15 p.m., with plenty of happy tears and smiles to go around the lobby.
Cmdr. Casey Jones, who oversees the Animals Services department, was thankful this case had a happy ending.
“Anytime you can reunite a dog like that, it’s awesome,” Jones said.
Wheat said that without the swift police reaction she had from FWPD, she knows Sami may have never been found.
“I’m very impressed by their work,” Wheat said of the rescue efforts. “I am so grateful. I appreciate their help.”
Sami was not chipped and did not have a dog tag, Wheat said, but she intends to change that moving forward.
According to FWPD, the suspect has an active warrant from Lakewood, with a probable theft charge from his dog-napping.
Peacock lost and found
Federal Way resident Hossein Fini and his wife Fahima have also dealt with their own missing pet problems, only their pet is different than most.
Their pet is a peacock named Blue.
Blue, almost three years old, has lived with the Finis his entire life on their Federal Way ranch property. He’s unleashed, they said, and he likes to wander around their yard, which happens to be close to a lush golf course.
One day, Blue decided to wander over to the golf course. At the time, Fini was unaware that it was illegal for him to let Blue wander alone, according to FWPD.
After the officer on scene contained Blue, he was able to reunite him with Fini, who said it was likely he and his wife would re-home him. Fini said that while they do let Blue wander wherever he wants, he does not usually stray from their yard.
And if he does wander away, Blue usually calls for his owners to come get him and bring him back home.
“Peacock’s voices are different,” he said. “So when he calls we say, ‘Hey, Blue, what’s going on,’ and then he gets quiet because he knows we are here.”
Fini first owned peacocks about six or seven years ago, when he and his wife bought their large property and wanted to fill it with chickens.
“We went to an animal auction,” he said, but instead of walking away with some chickens for their yard, they bought Blue’s father.
Luckily, they had a friend who also owned peacocks, and they bought a female peacock for Blue’s father, which soon enough gave them Blue and eight of his siblings. They decided to give their friend all of Blue’s siblings, Fini said, but they kept Blue because of how intensely blue his coat was.
After getting Blue back from the police, though, Fini and his wife decided to give Blue to their friend so he could have more room to roam and be around his own kind. Blue is set to move to another ranch in Vancouver, Washington, with even more peacocks, Fini said.
They will visit Blue when they can, but they also don’t want to disturb the new owners too much.
Fini said they don’t know if they will get another peacock, but they are very unique animals.
“If peacocks like you, they will come up to you and dance for you,” he said, chuckling.
To see the video FWPD took of Blue after they found him, visit the Federal Way Police Department’s Facebook page.