Kenny Erickson and his girlfriend Ashley Preston are dog lovers, and when they heard someone was giving away a dog south of town, they went to see it. All they knew about it was it was a gray pit bull, stolen from Florence.
After meeting the dog, a friendly blue nose pit bull, they were so excited they couldn’t wait — to call the cops. The dog they were being asked to adopt was the very one stolen from their yard more than two months earlier.
It was all they could do to remain calm. “It was very, very hard,” Ashley recalled.
Kenny said, “The only thing I could think was ‘Let’s stay calm, do this right and let the lady talk.’ ... It took every bit of self-control on both our parts.”
Their dog “Lexi” meanwhile knew nothing about what role she was supposed to be playing, and bounced off the walls with joy to be in the company of her owners again.
The woman showing the dog noted, “She took to you so well,” Ashley recalled. Otherwise, the woman didn’t seem to catch on that she might be showing the dog to its rightful owners. The woman admitted as much later when a deputy questioned her about it, Ashley said.
A sheriff’s deputy cited Janice Wolfe, 46, of N. Andi Lane for possession of stolen property. She also faces a theft charge in Florence Municipal Court.
The dog was taken May 6 from the couple’s home on Keating Street. Ashley said the dog is very friendly, and it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to come up to someone approaching the yard. The dog weighed about 30 pounds at the time. Ashley found a tuft of hair stuck in the fence, apparently where the dog had been grabbed by the collar and pulled over the top.
The couple printed color flyers and asked everyone they saw if they might have any information on their dog. Kenny estimates he passed out 150 flyers through the drive-through window at The Bottle Shop where he works.
Kenny said it was gratifying to see how willing other people were to help spread the word and check out leads. “It made me feel good to live in a community like that.” The search even extended up to the Valley, where people were keeping an eye out and sharing things they heard.
Finally, someone passed along word that a woman off Bartlett Road, several miles south of town off Arizona 79, was trying to give away a dog.
The couple said they went to the house and the woman admitted to them the dog was stolen. She said the dog was her nephew’s, but the nephew was incarcerated and she needed to find the dog a home.
The couple wanted the dog, but the woman wanted to write to her nephew first and ask if it was OK to give the dog away. But Kenny and Ashley were through waiting, and shortly after leaving they called the police.
After weeks of trying, hoping and waiting, their dog is home. But Kenny said the story isn’t over yet.
“I’m going to pursue charges,” he said. “I want people to know if they steal a dog, people will keep looking and you’ll get caught.” For those who think taking a dog is no big deal, “We don’t want that to be the thought process anymore,” he said. “... You will be caught and you will be in trouble.”
One other thing about the search for Lexi, “It also let me know how many people own pit bulls in this town,” Kenny said. Unfortunately, he heard firsthand how common pit bull thefts are becoming.
The breed’s reputation is undeserved, the couple said. “The pit bull breed is a people-pleaser,” Kenny said.
“They’re so great with kids,” Ashley added.
“They used to be known as the ‘nanny dog,’” Kenny said.
”To me, pit bulls are great dogs,” Ashley said.
The couple said they’re having to retrain Lexi to resume the good habits she was being taught before she was stolen.
“The good thing is they’re smart dogs and they like to please their owners,” Kenny said.
The couple adopted Lexi as a puppy when Ashley was seven months pregnant with the couple’s son Tristyn. “I wanted a dog to grow up around my son,” Ashley said.
When at last they brought Lexi home on July 18, she ran all over the house looking for Tristyn. When she found him, she couldn’t stop licking him.