Owners grateful for strangers who helped them find bulldogs stolen at gunpoint

Bulldogs Scotch and Stogie were taken in downtown Atlanta on Sunday. They were reunited with their owners Tuesday and Wednesday.

Credit: Matthew Livingston

Credit: Matthew Livingston

Bulldogs Scotch and Stogie were taken in downtown Atlanta on Sunday. They were reunited with their owners Tuesday and Wednesday.

Matthew Livingston had been living every pet owner’s nightmare. His two beloved bulldogs, who had been on a walk with a dog sitter in downtown Atlanta, were stolen at gunpoint Sunday while he was out of town.

One of the dogs, Stogie, was found Tuesday, but the horror wasn’t over until the following day when he was reunited with Scotch.

“I’m ecstatic! A good Samaritan found (Scotch). ... Our family is back together again, and I couldn’t be happier,” Livingston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday evening.

The arduous quest to recover the dogs left Livingston and his partner, Brandon Odom, exhausted and eventually exhilarated. They had no idea what they would experience during the four-day ordeal.

They had been vacationing in London when they got a message Sunday from their dog sitter letting them know about the frightening incident. It happened in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood just after 8:30 p.m. along the same walking route Livingston and Odom often took.

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Three masked men approached the sitter, drew guns and demanded the dogs, according to Atlanta police. At least one shot was fired as the suspects ran away.

Livingston and Odom searched for their four-legged companions day and night since the moment they returned to the U.S. They took time off from work, put up fliers and spread the word on social media and in the news. They even offered a $5,000 reward.

At some point, the dogs’ collars and leashes were found discarded about eight miles away at Collier Park in northwest Atlanta, just north of I-20. It was on the other side of the interstate that Stogie was found Tuesday evening near Fairburn and Hemphill School roads in the Adamsville neighborhood, Livingston said.

Dallas Zuniga found Stogie while out on a walk in his neighborhood.

“He was super friendly,” Zuniga said. “He was coming up to me and kind of whimpering and wanting to play, and he just kind of followed me ... I was like, ‘OK, this little guy needs some help.’”

So he picked him up, put him in his car and took him home. That’s when Zuniga checked social media and saw the news about the stolen bulldogs.

“It was really easy to find who he belonged to,” Zuniga said, adding that Livingston was at his house within 10 minutes.

“For the rest of the day, we went around looking for Scotch,” he said.

Scotch had actually been found the same day as Stogie in the same area by another good Samaritan, but that person was unable to look for his owners until he got off work the following day, Livingston said. That man, who didn’t want his name revealed, left Scotch in his house until then so the dog wouldn’t spend the night in the frigid temperatures.

Scotch and Stogie, who were stolen at gunpoint Sunday, appeared tired after their four-day ordeal.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Not knowing he’d been found, Livingston and Odom continued their search. On Wednesday, the couple received several phone calls from people claiming to have Scotch and threatening to sell him if they didn’t pay out the reward.

“When this gentleman called, we were actually — it was dark out, and we had been walking around all day and in the cold, and we were both pretty broken and didn’t think we were gonna find him,” Livingston said Thursday morning, his voice cracking with emotion. “We had just been through so many phone calls of people saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve got him. We need money.’ And it really restored our faith in humanity.”

Neither person who found the dogs wanted anything in return, Livingston said, adding that seeing the kindness of strangers coming together to help them search has overwhelmed the couple with gratitude.

“All of the people that came out that we’ve never even met before, that simply came out because they have dogs and they’re dog lovers ... I’m floored,” he said. “It’s such a crazy, crazy, difficult time across the world right now, so to think that our struggle and our plight has been able to bring so many people out and together and have a happy ending, it’s just a small speck in a world of terrible things. It’s a nice light.”