Social media networking worked its wonders Sunday night, June 7, resulting in a happy ending to a very sad day for a Missoula woman and her dog.
Erika Spaulding, a University of Montana nursing student, went in for a quick afternoon coffee at City Brew on Broadway at about 4:10. Trusting Missoula, as she always had, to be the “city of soul,” she left the car running so her dog, Onyx, could benefit from the air conditioning. She ran into friends and chatted in the coffee shop for about a half hour and then brought one out to say hi to Onyx.
All she found was an empty parking spot.
“I said to my friend, ‘I think I have an emergency.” Her Jeep was gone, and with it, Onyx.
“My dog was probably asleep in the back seat, just listening to Bruno Mars,” Erika says. She guessed the thief had not known the dog was there, and Onyx “probably just leaned over the seat and licked him on the cheek.”
This special canine is a Certified Therapy Animal, serving primarily in the Memory Care Unit through Partners in Home Care in Missoula, and even has his own Instagram page that is followed by people across the globe.
Erika posted the loss on Facebook, saying, “My worst nightmare just happened and someone stole my 2016 silver Jeep Compass...with my Labrador “onyx” in the passengers seat [sic].” She asked people to share the post and gave her phone number. “I just want my best friend back.”
The post was shared over 6,000 times in the first four hours, Erika says.
Sometime shortly before midnight, she received a call that Onyx may have been found looking into cars
at a Ronan gas station. She immediately headed north toward Ronan, and pulled over as what looked like her Jeep went by at a high speed, headed south, pursued by “at least ten flashing sirens.”
“I didn’t care about the car,” she says. “I just wanted my dog.” I don’t have kids — this dog has been the love of my life since day one.”
The driver of the Jeep was apprehended at Gray Wolf Peak Casino south of Arlee around midnight (see related story).
Erika is overjoyed to be reunited with Onyx. She posted a big thank you to all who had reposted and given support, saying, “Both he and my Jeep have been through unmeasurable amounts of chaos today...all I can be is grateful to have my best pal back. There are bad people in the world - but today i learned there are so many GOOD people.”
Erika said she offered a reward to the woman who found him in Ronan.
“She didn’t want it. She said that tomorrow was her birthday and this was the best birthday gift she could have received. She was crying.”