Saved by social media: Car stolen with dog inside leads to social media hunt & discovery on I-275

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Jason Miller got the scare of his life recently when his car was stolen with his puppy, Gunner, inside.

“It’s just a horrible experience to lose your dog like that and not know, and really, I never thought we’d get him back,” Miller told 8 On Your Side on Monday.

Courtesy WFLA.com

His puppy is, indeed, one lucky pooch – all thanks to the kindness of strangers. Miller says he’s beyond grateful for the young couple who recently moved here from Virginia.

They turned out to be Gunner’s guardian angels.

It all started last Tuesday at a Hampton Inn in downtown St. Petersburg, located along Beach Drive. Miller says he stopped at the hotel valet and briefly ran to the front desk. Less than 30 seconds later, a stranger jumped in the car and took off with Gunner inside.

Miller immediately got on Facebook, posting pictures of his puppy, pleading for help.

Courtesy WFLA.com

“I’ve never used social media like that before. and, just to put it out there, hey can you guys please share this, and it just took off really quick, that’s how we got him back,” Miller said.

Gunner was rescued that Tuesday night by two dog lovers – Lindsey Stiefvater and Kevin Minner, a couple who has a couple of dogs.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say we’re heroes,” Lindsey explained. “I would just hope people would do this any time they saw a dog. We love dogs, we see them as like our children.”

Courtesy WFLA.com

Lindsey and Kevin were on their way home from a friend’s house when they happened to notice sweet Gunner on the side of Interstate 275. The German short-haired pointer was scared, suffering, and stuck in a storm drain.

“He was just frightened and you could tell that and I was trying to be self-conscious about how close I was getting so I didn’t spook him. He looked very, very sad,” said Lindsey.

Courtesy Lindsey Stiefvater

The couple came to the rescue quickly, saving Gunner’s life just in time.

They, too, posted on social media that they found the frightened fella, and that’s when the magic happened.

“It took off within 30 seconds, we had a 100 people hit us up and send us the original post with his number on it. Well, call the guy,” said Kevin.

And, with that call to Jason Miller, a new friendship was formed.

Courtesy WFLA.com

Miller was soon reunited with Gunner after four frantic hours.

“There’s good people you know, it’s really cool they actually did that because if they didn’t stop, Gunner would probably be dead,” said Miller. “They saved his life.”

Lindsey says 2020 has been a difficult, depressing year, and this moment, she feels, was a moment of pure joy and happiness.

“The rescue of Gunner has probably been the highlight of our year, and just made our hearts happy again,” she said.

As for Gunner, he got a lot of special treats that night and lots of belly rubs.

Courtesy WFLA.com

Miller’s car was found days later. “it was trashed,” he said. “But, that’s not important. Gunner is home. That’s what counts.”

St. Petersburg police are still searching for the suspect in this case.

As for the valet service at Hampton Inn, 8 On Your Side received the following statement from a public relations spokesperson at Hilton Corporate.

“I have confirmed that the Hampton Inn at 80 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg is independently owned and operated. That means as a franchise property, it carries a Hilton brand, but is not a Hilton owned or managed hotel. As I do not have insight into the facts of the case and cannot speak for ownership or management, I will endeavor to find a PR representative who can address your questions.”

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