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Walmart nightmare: Thieves steal shopper's car with dog in it

ST. PETERSBURG — With the window rolled down and a comfy seat in his owner's car, Riley probably settled down as his owner popped into the store to buy some milk.

What happened in the next 15 minutes is unknown, but the next 48 hours were a blur of frantic searching by Aviva Bowman after she walked out and saw her car and Riley the dog were missing.

The story has a happy ending, including an effort to help pay vet bills, but those intervening days would prove to be full of twists and turns involving her dog and her car.

On Tuesday, Bowman had left Riley inside her car at the Walmart on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg. She left the windows down, Bowman said, and took him along because Riley loves the ride.

Bowman popped into the store for milk and returned about 15 minutes later to find her car — and her dog — missing. A friend saw Riley around the Walmart not long after he left, but the dog ran and wasn't seen afterward.

Bowman, 42, who is a brand manager for a Clearwater marketing firm, began a campaign of Facebook posts and frantic searches. She appeared on a local news station to plead for his safe return and plastered neighborhoods with his picture.

And she returned, again and again, to the spot where her friend thought he saw the dog.

"I kept going back 10 or 15 times," Bowman said.

On Thursday, St. Petersburg police recovered Bowman's car behind a vacant house on 20th Avenue S, but Riley wasn't inside. The back window had been shot out. St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said police believe the car was involved in two separate shooting incidents on the night it was stolen.

Riley, 6 1/2 years old, was picked up by Pinellas County Animal Services Thursday morning — wandering, wounded, in the same area around 39th Street S where Bowman's friend saw him two nights before and where she'd frantically searched.

Bowman tracked him down and took him to Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Care Center in Largo.

"He was in pretty rough shape," patient advocate Krystal Durlewanger said.

Riley was treated for 2-day-old wounds, a dislocated hip and other cuts. Veterinarians think he was struck by a car.

A friend, Sheri-lyn Traylor, started an online gofundme.com page for Riley to offset Bowman's medical costs. By Friday, the page had raised more than $1,000 toward a $3,000 goal. Bowman said she's been overwhelmed by support.

Riley is heavily drugged, and Bowman said he'll stay at the veterinary facility in Largo overnight so pain medication can help him stay comfortable. Always skittish around people he didn't know, Bowman said he's more afraid than ever after his ordeal. He wears a sling and won't be able to walk on his hip for at least a week, but Bowman said she's still amazed he's made it this far. "I can't even explain the relief."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Claire Wiseman can be reached at cwiseman@tampabay.com or (727)-893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.

Riley gets one of his wounds cleaned by veterinary technician Stephanie Zeddies while recovering Friday at Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Care Center in Largo.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Riley gets one of his wounds cleaned by veterinary technician Stephanie Zeddies while recovering Friday at Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Care Center in Largo.

Walmart nightmare: Thieves steal shopper's car with dog in it 12/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 6, 2013 11:00pm]
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