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Family Dog Rescue Recovers Stolen Pups

On Wed., Aug. 28, three burglars broke into Family Dog Rescue in San Franciscio’s Bayview neighorhood and took three shelter puppies (and electronics). This account of the break-in and aftermath is from Isla Jule, interim executive director of Familye Dog Rescue. The puppies, a pit bull and two huskies, were recovered. Two people were arrested and authorities were looking for a third suspect.

8:15 a.m. Against the backdrop of seven yelping foster puppies all eager for breakfast, I moved around my garage in a walking meditation. Startled at the sight of Family Dog Rescue founder Angela Padilla, phone in hand in the doorway, the voice of a woman on the phone crackled just above Martha Quinn on I (heart) 80s. 

Angela, visibly upset, spoke loud enough for me to hear. “The shelter was broken into.”

“What?” I asked, thinking I’d misheard her.

“The shelter was broken into. The husky puppies were stolen!”

Sobered, my meditative state crashed. Within 25 minutes, I’d fed the puppies, showered, and left the house. 

Arriving at the shelter the worst was confirmed. Lara and Levi, two Husky puppies from our Mexico Program along with Huey, a pit bull puppy who required medical attention, had been stolen. Our response was quick. We made a report with the San Francisco Police Department. We posted flyers across all social media channels. San Francisco Animal Care & Control notified all local news outlets. 

12 p.m. My phone came alive. Camera crews were headed to the shelter. Was I willing to be interviewed?

2:30 p.m. Jean Elle of NBC arrived with her cameraman. Tips poured in. A woman on BART reported that she’d seen one of the husky puppies and pit bull puppy, in Oakland. “What should I do?” She asked. “Call the police.”

More reporters and cameramen arrived. I was interviewed. My original to-do list for the day had been destroyed. A new one emerged. The locksmith changed the locks as we scanned footage on the security cameras. “There they are!” In grainy black and white, three young men broke into the shelter at 11:30 p.m. Using the flashlight on their phones, they scanned the kennels in search of one thing: puppies. By 11:55 p.m., the men had departed, each with a puppy and some of our electronics.

We were told the TV news stories would lead us to the dogs.

3:30 p.m. The tips poured in. I was interviewed by KTVU.

5:30 p.m. A good Samaritan contacted us. She saw our puppies offered for sale on Instagram. Asking price $800 each. Suddenly the mood shifted. The timeline for recovering the dogs was now immediate. Social media made a huge difference.

7 p.m. A buy/bust operation was in the works coordinated by Angela, SFPD, and Hayward Police Department. I headed to Hayward. Should the puppies be recovered, I would need to identify them. I felt a little ill to my stomach. What if these aren’t our dogs? Not far behind were broadcast vehicles for  photoABC, NBC, and CBS. Under the glare of fluorescent lights, we huddled in a Safeway parking lot. Armed bodyguards showed up for each TV crew. Each reporter worked on his or her story. The atmosphere bristled with anticipation. 

9 p.m. No word. The S FPD and Hayward PD worked behind the scenes to set up the sting operation.

10 p.m. Still no word. My stomach was in knots.

10:15 p.m. Nothing. I was annoyed with myself. I should’ve found the time to eat. I contemplated all the changes needed to make the shelter more secure.

10:20 p.m. Alerted that the police were looking for me at Safeway, I wondered where they were. Turned out I was at the wrong Safeway. A short drive, and few minutes later, I pulled to a stop next to the five patrol cars, three news crews on my heels. After a commotion and brief communication with the seargent in charge, I’m asked to wait. Two suspects have been taken into custody. A silver car sits parked not far away. Inside, two husky puppies. The butterflies in my stomach multiplied, exponentially. The thought that they might be someone else’s stolen dogs crossed my mind. Not for the first time.

10:45 p.m. I looked into the windows of the small sedan. A smile filled my heart and spread across my face. Sure enough, it’s Lara and Levi, husky pups with distinctive markings, curled up in the back seat. After donning large blue gloves so as not to contaminate the crime scene, I reached into the car. The puppies think it’s a game. After a brief tussle with each dog, I placed them into my car.

11 p.m. I wait as the news crews go live. My phone lit up. “You’re on the news!” “OMG! You’re on TV.” “Dude. I just saw you on the news.” 

Aug. 29, 2019 was easily the longest, weirdest day I’ve ever lived. Grateful to have located the husky puppies less than 24 hours after they were stolen; my concern remained with Huey. He was the 2-month-old pit bull who had mange that required medical treatment, and it was anyone’s guess where he was. 

Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m. A tip accompanied by a photo came in. I made a beeline to East Oakland where a woman had found a small pit bull puppy under the truck in her driveway. When I arrived there was Huey! He seemed OK but needed to get to the vet. My next stop was Starbucks in Berkeley for wifi and Huey’s first puppicino. We were recognized. Everyone was all smiles. Aside from being adorable, Huey was safe! The two-block walk took over 15 minutes as I stopped and chatted with everyone who wanted to meet the Huey. 

Since the break, in we’ve met with security experts and taken the necessary steps to harden our shelter perimeter. We don’t want any of our dogs to re-live this terrible experience.

Ilsa Jule currently serves as the interim executive director at Family Dog Rescue, In 2018, after working 19 years in publishing, she moved from New York City to the Bay Area. Previously she has volunteered at Just Food and the Liz Christy Community Garden. From 2005 to 2007 she was acting chair of the board of directors of the Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit in New York City that offers housing to homeless LGBTQ youth.


Ilsa Jule cuddles Huey.

Baby Huey photo courtesy Family Dog Rescue

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Main article photo by: Husky photos by Ilsa Jule