The reward has grown to $2,500 for the safe return of Austin, the 11-pound Jack Russell terrier mix who has been missing since the car in which he was riding was stolen from a Kroger gas station on Moreland Avenue.
Tabitha Robinson, who was dog sitting Austin, said she was pumping gas at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 when someone jumped in her car and took off with the dog inside.
The dog belonged to her best friend, Lauren Carroll.
The reward was $1,500 on Sunday morning, but Robinson said a friend pledged an additional $1,000.
Usually, Robinson locks her doors when pumping gas. That day, however, when she got out of her 2014 black Ford Explorer, Austin tried to follow her. She put him back inside and forgot to lock the doors. The next thing she knew she heard the vehicle crank up and saw it speeding away.
She didn’t get a good look at the thief but said he was a younger man with a small build.
Robinson thinks the thief may have put Austin out of the vehicle.
“He’s a needy little dog and always jumping on your lap. He’s not aggressive at all,” but probably bothersome to the car thief.
Friends - and strangers - have volunteered in the search and donated money to the reward fund.
His owner, who rescued Austin, seven years ago “is a wreck,” Robinson said. “She’s sick today and been stressed out all week. She’s not eating like she should.”
Robinson said police had spotted the Explorer at least twice in the area of the U.S. United States Penitentiary on McDonough Boulevard and given chase but had to back off because the driver was going too fast through residential areas. A stranger also spotted the car and took a photo, which Robinson later confirmed was her vehicle.
Austin is microchipped. His owner asks anyone who finds him to take him to a vet or animal shelter so she can be contacted.
Robinson said if spotted, people should not approach him aggressively but call his name softly and bend down low.
“I don’t care about my truck,” she said. “No questions asked. I just want them to turn the dog in. That’s all.”