Family tracks down stolen dog, pet dies shortly after reunion - CBS46 News

Family tracks down stolen dog, pet dies shortly after reunion

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SHARPSBURG, GA (AP) -

When their expensive purebred Yorkie disappeared, the Tunnells were worried sick. But this wasn't about the money. They were missing a member of their family.

"He ate at the dinner table, he slept in our bed, he went on our vacations. It was devastating for us," said Michelle Tunnell.

Their dog, Max, somehow sneaked out of their Sharpsburg house and seemed to vanish into thin air.

Neighbors and people as far away as Fayetteville, who heard the news on social media, came to help search the area. They later found a witness who saw a woman pull over in her car and grab the dog out of a nearby yard.

Hoping the woman had good intentions, Patrick Tunnell stood near the place where the dog was picked up, holding signs that read "lost dog."

"We're very protective of our pets and we just became very vulnerable at that moment," said Tunnell.

Tunnell, by the way, is a Troup County Sheriff's investigator, and both he and his wife engaged in some good old fashioned police work that eventually paid off.

They contacted every veterinarian and groomer in the area, asking if they'd seen any sign of Max, until they found one in Newnan who recognized the dog.

Pet Paradise put them in touch with a customer who brought the dog in for grooming. It turns out the customer bought her from someone on Facebook for $60, a fraction of what the dog is worth.

They also learned Max was sold an hour after he went missing.

The woman who bought the dog thought ahead. She knew she was buying it from a stranger on the internet so she asked to meet in front of a building, which she knew has an outside security camera. Just in case there were any surprises down the road, there would be a video record of the transaction.

Coweta County investigators got that video and now it's part of their evidence against Amber Chunn, who's charged with theft. In her text messages with the buyer, she claimed to have owned the dog for several weeks.

The Tunnells were reunited with their beloved pet, but their happiness was short lived, because Max died a week later from complications due to stress from the entire dog-napping experience

"That alone was very hard on a small animal. They have a lot of separation anxiety," said Tunnell.

The Tunnells said they learned a hard lesson. If Max had been microchipped, it may have been noticed at the dog groomer or at the veterinarian the new purchaser took him to, and he may have been returned that much sooner, perhaps sparing his life.

Now, the Tunnells are vowing to become microchip advocates.

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