The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 20, 2013

Lab nabbed in Ashtabula Harbor

Reeni has been missing since July 13

ASHTABULA — The search is on for a Labrador retriever who went missing July 13 from an Ashtabula Harbor neighborhood, but this is no ordinary disappearance.

An elderly woman in a four-door Jeep Wrangler pulled up to the corner, loaded the dog in her vehicle and drove off with the canine, according the victim’s home security camera.

The dog is a 14-year-old yellow lab named Reeni. Her owner, Patty Wiitanen of Ashtabula, said she saw the woman pluck Reeni from the sidewalk on West Ninth Street and drive off with her.

Soon after, the woman calls Wiitanen (the dog’s collar bears her name, address, Wiitanen’s phone number and the dog license) and tells her she has her dog. She asks about Reeni’s physical state because the dog is very thin.

“A couple years ago she got the disorder vestibular; it’s like vertigo,” Wiitanen said. “Sometimes she doesn’t eat. She’s very skinny, has a huge cyst on her side, has arthritis in her back and hips ... we’ve had her since she was a puppy. She used to be a porky, normal lab. Unfortunately, she does look sickly, but I have taken her to the vet since the get-go and she is very well taken care of. She’s always been an indoor dog and only goes outside to go to the bathroom.”

Wiitanen believes the woman may have meant well. The woman said she called the police and admitted that the police told her to give the dog back or take it to the Animal Protective League, Wiitanen said.

“She told me she would bring my dog back,” Wiitanen said, noting the woman never provided a name or phone number and her number came up as “unknown” on her phone. “She never brought her back and I have no idea where she’s at.”

Wiitanen made a police report with the Ashtabula Police Department. She also has called the Animal Protective League, Humane Society, and city and county dog wardens, to no avail.

“I’m worried about my dog and the only thing I know is that this woman lives in Kingsville (from police) and drives a Jeep,” she said. “I am working with the security company on finding a plate number of the vehicle.”

Wiitanen begins to cry as she talked about her fear that Reeni will die without her loving family around her.

“I see this as cruel to animals and a heartless act (to keep Reeni away from her family),” she said. “Please bring her back.”

Anyone with information about Reeni should call the police at 440-992-7172 or the Wiitanens at 440-344-3029.

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