Dallas resident Alyssa Sanderford, 34, is just 5’3″, but friends, family and most of all, the Reams — whose beloved stolen dog she was instrumental in recovering — think she’s mini but mighty!
Wiley’s owners, Angela Ream and her husband, Sterling Ream, both 32, were heartbroken when their dog, Wiley, a chocolate Lab mix, disappeared from the Dog Dock outside the Trader Joe’s just five blocks from their home. Angela in particular, who felt responsible for the loss.
“The thing that I kept thinking was, ‘This is my fault. I’m the one who brought her here.’” Ream told the Dallas Observer. “It’s not like she got out of the back yard or ran away. I did this. She’s not going to fight someone who takes her. She’s too kind. That was the worst thing, facing the possibility of losing my baby girl combined with the fact that this is no one’s fault but mine.”
The couple had acquired Wiley three years earlier while driving on a friend’s East Texas ranch in her husband’s pickup, spying a skinny, sad-looking creature in the rear-view mirror, chasing them, then hopping up into the truck bed. Sterling said said, “Angela, I think a coyote just jumped in my truck.”
From then on, Wiley — now plump and pampered — was a fixture at their sides.
She and her husband spent 24 hours walking the neighborhood after the dog disappeared, hanging fliers and knocking on doors. They also posted on social media, which is where Sanderford — who didn’t know the Reams — saw the post when a mutual friend of theirs shared it.
It was a photo of Wiley wearing a bright orange collar that stuck in her head.
“I have a Jeep,” she told the Dallas Observer, “and I have two dogs myself. I’ll run into Whole Foods just for a second and run out. The thought has crossed my mind that they might be taken but never really, so seeing that on Facebook made me feel really sad.”
The next morning Sanderford was driving when she spotted a dog that looked a lot like Wiley, and it was wearing a bright orange collar. By her side, holding the leash, was a neatly dressed man in blue jeans with his black hair in a ponytail, probably in his late 20s, about 5-foot-9, 160 to 170 pounds, she guesses.
Sanderford looped around and got out of the Jeep. “I grabbed my keys and my phone. I left my purse and everything in the car,” she says with a rueful laugh. Her dogs were not with her.
After carefully observing the dog to make sure it was Wiley, she confronted the stranger.
“I probably didn’t do the smartest thing. I just walked up to him and said, ‘That dog’s stolen. You need to give it back.’ He was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘You took that dog last night at Trader Joe’s. Give me the leash.’
“I tried to reach for it. He got pretty angry. I grabbed the leash, and he jerked it out of my hands.”
At that point, it was game-on for Sanderford, who admits that she does not like to lose arguments. “I’m really bad about that,” she says, laughing. “Totally. It comes from being right.”
A half-hour foot chase through the residential neighborhood ensued. Sanderford, who trains for triathlons, kept up with the swift-running man, though she had to take off her flip-flops and run barefoot, carrying the shoes along with her keys and phone.
Along the way, Sanderford recruited other citizens to help — two men who were working at a Goodwill drop-off site and a couple in an SUV who let her hop in and joined the chase. Both eventually dropped out, though, leaving Sanderford on her own again, running barefoot. As she ran, she called police.
At some point, one of the Goodwill good Samaritans re-joined, this time in his own vehicle. He sped ahead and by the time Sanderford caught up, he had taken Wiley from the alleged thief. Sanderford then found Angela Ream’s number and called it; Ream raced to the scene.
Police later said it would be difficult to charge the man as there were no witnesses to the theft. The man told
police he was homeless and found the dog.
Wiley was ecstatic to see Ream. Also, thirsty. Once home, she took a good, long drink, then slept for most of the next 24 hours.
When Wiley spotted Ream, she bounded to her side, licked her face ecstatically and then flopped to her side for a quick nap. Once back home, Wiley drank water thirstily for a long time, then went to sleep for most of a day and night.
Ream is still shocked by the way things unfolded.
“I don’t even know this girl, and she risked so much to bring our dog home to us. It’s an unbelievable story. It sounds a little silly, but it restores your faith in humanity. For the one bad guy who had her, there were so many people who reached out and cared.”