‘I was over the moon with joy’: Owner reunited with golden retriever after dognapping; suspect arrested

Denise Reppenhagen and her dogs, JJ and Finn (right).
(Courtesy of Denise Reppenhagen)

Finn, an 18-month-old golden retriever, was back home Sunday after being taken from his home in Encinitas on Oct. 9


An Encinitas woman and her beloved golden retriever were reunited Sunday, Oct. 30, three weeks after a delivery driver who dropped off an Amazon package at her house allegedly stole the dog, officials said.

Sheriff’s officials said the driver, a 36-year-old woman, was arrested and booked into jail Saturday, Oct. 29.

Finn, an 18-month-old golden retriever, vanished from his home on Hollyridge Drive on Oct. 9. Denise Reppenhagen said her pup disappeared after her daughter came home, walked in through the garage and closed the garage door without realizing Finn was outside.

Reppenhagen initially thought her dog was lost.

She searched for Finn, contacted neighbors and animal shelters, passed out flyers and posted about her missing pet on social media.

Last Monday, Oct. 24, Reppenhagen got a call from a tipster who told her a friend witnessed an Amazon delivery driver take Finn with her. When Reppenhagen checked her Amazon order history, she realized she got a package delivered the morning Finn disappeared.

When she checked the photo she was sent confirming the delivery, she saw her dog in the background.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, a neighbor reviewed surveillance camera video recorded the day Finn vanished. The footage shows a woman delivering packages in the neighborhood, including at Reppenhagen’s home.

The video also shows the woman walking to her car with Finn and driving away with him, sheriff’s Lt. Christopher Lawrence confirmed.

“My heart sank,” Reppenhagen said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

She said she worried about whether Finn was safe.

Reppenhagen reported the dognapping to the Sheriff’s Department and contacted several local TV stations, which reported on the case and aired the surveillance video.

The footage generated a tip from someone who recognized the woman in the video and called Reppenhagen, who relayed the information to the Sheriff’s Department.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, detectives served a search warrant at the woman’s home in San Diego. Lawrence said the woman admitted she took Finn.

However, the dog wasn’t at the home, Lawrence said.

The woman said she tried to give the dog to a friend and then to her mother, but neither of them wanted him, so Finn ended up in an animal shelter in El Centro, Lawrence said.

The woman was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, according to jail records.

Lawrence said the motive for the crime was unclear.

After the arrest, the search for Finn continued. He was no longer at the animal shelter, which had turned him over to a Labrador rescue group in San Diego.

Detectives and Reppenhagen learned Finn was staying with a foster family while awaiting adoption. Detectives arranged for the family to bring the dog to a pet store in San Diego on Sunday, Oct. 30.

Hours after the reunion, Reppenhagen said she couldn’t believe Finn was back home.

“It was a moment I really did not know if it was going to happen,” she said. “I was over the moon with joy.”

Reppenhagen took to the social networking site NextDoor to express gratitude to the Sheriff’s Department and thank her neighbors for their support.

“I lost hope many times. And then, one of you would call or text or email and lift me back up,” she said.

She said Finn was in good health and “settling in beautifully.”

Lawrence thanked the public and news media for their help.

In a statement to NBC 7 San Diego, Amazon previously said the driver was suspended pending an investigation.

Reppenhagen said she was told the driver works for Amazon Flex, a program in which independent drivers or contractors deliver Amazon orders using their personal vehicles.