French bulldog, snatched from Los Angeles area, found in Philadelphia

For days, Rachel Avery could barely eat or sleep, staying by the door each night in case someone returned her French bulldog, recently snatched from her porch in West Hollywood.

Then, on Friday, she received a call: law enforcement told her they had the number of a man suspected of taking the brown dog named Jag.

Avery, 44, contacted the man – who confirmed he had the young dog – and arranged to meet him that evening in Philadelphia, where he lives.

When Avery saw Jag at the airport, she fell to her knees. A video of their reunion shows her hugging the pup at baggage claim as he growls and squirms in delight.

“I’ve missed you so much! I love you so much!” she exclaims.

VIDEO | 00:24

Woman finds dog at Philadelphia airport

The dog was taken from outside owner Rachel Avery’s West Hollywood home in Philadelphia and tracked down to her.

“I just couldn’t believe the miracle that happened,” Avery said Tuesday after returning to Los Angeles with Jag.

Jag slipped from his collar around 5:18 p.m. on January 9 as Avery’s friend watched him and fled home via Sunset Boulevard and Harper Avenue, she said.

As the dog ran, Avery said, three men in a black luxury SUV spotted him and began shouting that he was their dog, asking for help in pursuit.

Passers-by pointed to the dog’s whereabouts – on Avery’s porch on Avenue De Longpre – and the men grabbed him, said Avery, who was running around the neighborhood looking for Jag after her friend said he escaped.

Because the men were in a rental car, authorities were able to obtain the renter’s contact information, Det. Juan Bonilla of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Bonilla texted the number, assuring the recipient the fee would be waived if the dog was returned – a condition Avery had included on an award flyer.

A man called Bonilla and said he had not stolen the dog but had picked it up out of concern because it was running down the street with no owner in sight.

Bonilla gave the man’s number to Avery, who was adamant about flying across the country to retrieve his dog, he said.

“I told her…it would be of her own volition,” Bonilla said, “and also to make sure she meets the gentleman at the airport — where there are law enforcement and other people around.”

Avery flew to Philadelphia with the friend who was walking Jag when he escaped, and they alerted security when they arrived.

Fearing reprisal, Avery declined to name the man but said he appeared to be in his 20s. She believes the men with him when Jag was taken were his relatives, from what he told her.

She said he looked “very remorseful” when he saw how happy the dog was to see her.

When they reunited, Jag had been off his medication for five days. He was itchy and had diarrhea and a runny nose. Now he sleeps a lot and “super glued to me,” said Avery, a clinical psychology student.

Avery won’t pursue the lawsuits, but wouldn’t say if she paid the $5,000 reward she offered.

She said her efforts to get Jag back cost around $7,500 and she had started a GoFundMe campaign to get the money back.

Jag is one of many French Bulldogs taken from their owners in recent months in the Los Angeles area. Past incidents have involved violent thefts targeting dogs, which can fetch a high price on the black market.

A pair of Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were kidnapped in February in Hollywood after her dog walker was shot in the chest. His assistant recovered from his injuries, the dogs were returned, and five people were arrested in connection with the crimes.

About three weeks ago, West Hollywood interior designer Robert Marinelli was dragged about 200 yards by a car driving away with his 8-year-old French bulldog, Luca. Marinelli was left bloodied and shaken, his phone smashed.

Earlier in December, a woman was robbed at gunpoint from her French bulldog not far from where Gaga’s dog walker was attacked, authorities said.

Thieves often sell the dogs quickly, in plain view, on Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, the Venice Beach boardwalk and other locations, said Los Angeles Police Department officer Tim Talman.

Marek Utikao, 43, said he was walking his dog with a friend on January 9 on De Longpre when he saw the black SUV turning into the street after Jag, who was running.

A delivery driver asked one of the men in the SUV if he was looking for a dog, Utikao said, and the man said yes. Thinking the man was Jag’s owner, the driver and Utikao pointed him in the direction of the dog, Utikao said.

Two men chased the dog, then grabbed it from a porch and quickly brought it back to the SUV, Utikao said.

As the men walked back to the car, Utikao’s friend turned to him and said, “You know that was a French bulldog, right?” a nod to recent flights.

“Don’t say that,” he told his friend. “I didn’t think of that.”

Less than a minute later, they spotted another man running down a nearby street shouting that he had lost his dog.

The incident shook Utikao and his friend, who did not want to be identified. He said he was afraid to go out alone with his dog, a mix of poodle and bichon frize known as a poochon.

Avery was taking pre-flight precautions – walking Jag only in the dog park and around other people. She carried mass.

Now she goes further. Due to the attention the case brought, she arranged for Jag to stay out of the Los Angeles area for at least six months. He will be equipped with a GPS device and will walk only with his “big sister” – a 120-pound Rottweiler.

Avery said she was happy to be reunited with Jag, whom she called “the sweetest, sweetest, funniest boy”.

“He’s like a cuddle buddy,” she said. “He’s also super stubborn, that’s why he ran away. Because as soon as he came out, he didn’t want to be with this guy” – his friend who was looking at him – “he wanted to be with his mother.”

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