2021 | News

Silver Spring man reunited with his dog hours after it was stolen, along with his car

‘The worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,’ owner says

Neil McCarthy was reunited with his dog Waldo, pictured here, on Tuesday, hours after his car was stolen with the dog inside.

Photo from Neil McCarthy

A Silver Spring man was reunited on Tuesday with his small dog, Waldo, hours after his car was stolen — with the dog inside.

Neil McCarthy said he was worried sick about Waldo, a 6-year-old miniature dachshund.

“I’m 59 years old. This is my baby,” McCarthy said in an interview Tuesday evening, after he had been reunited with Waldo. “I live by myself and I’m a retired attorney …. This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman, told Bethesda Beat Tuesday afternoon that officers got a call at 9:15 a.m. about a vehicle stolen at the Safeway grocery store at 909 Thayer Ave. in downtown Silver Spring.

McCarthy told Bethesda Beat Tuesday night that he often goes to the Safeway and leaves Waldo in the car, which he does anytime dogs aren’t allowed inside a business. Normally, he locks his car door.

“Today, it was a little cold, so I didn’t lock it with the valet key. I left it running,” he said.

McCarthy said he parked close to the front door of the store and went inside briefly to get coffee.

“So, I was in there maybe five minutes, and I came back out, and my car was gone, with Waldo in it,” he said.

A similar theft happened at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda on Jan. 5. A woman left her small dog, Joey, in an SUV — locked, but running — while she made a quick stop inside the mall.

A Germantown man was charged with stealing the vehicle and the dog, which were recovered the next day.

Police say the man dropped the dog at Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center, claiming it was a stray. An employee who recognized the dog in an online post saying it was stolen called the police.

Surveillance camera captures theft

The reality that Waldo was gone made McCarthy “distraught, to put it mildly,” he said. He called the police and went back inside Safeway.

“I had become friends with the manager at the store. And she took me up to look at the security cameras that were rolling,” he said.

McCarthy said when he watched the surveillance footage, he saw what appeared to be an SUV park next to his car, and later pull behind his car. Someone quickly got out of the SUV, got into McCarthy’s car and drove off, he said.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said.

McCarthy said after the police showed up to investigate, he went home.

Then, he got a call at 1:38 p.m. from a man who told him he had Waldo, who had been walking along New York Avenue in Washington, D.C.

“That’s crazy, because New York Avenue’s a busy, busy street,” he said.

McCarthy said the man told him he was at a gas station, to which McCarthy replied that he would offer a $1,000 reward if he could get to McCarthy’s home in Silver Spring. The man said he would need a ride.

McCarthy said the man called a second time to tell him that he was going to leave Waldo at the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C.

After McCarthy went to the Rescue Alliance to pick up Waldo, the man called again to ask if he had the dog. McCarthy said he again offered the $1,000 reward, but the man “didn’t seem interested.”

Six and a half hours after the car and Waldo were stolen, McCarthy was reunited with his companion. He didn’t have his car back as of Tuesday night, but said finding Waldo was most important.

McCarthy, a retired patent attorney, said that after Waldo went missing, a Facebook group devoted to finding lost animals put out a message asking for tips about Waldo. He said has received an “outpouring of support” from his neighborhood.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com