Her puppy was stolen from her Winnipeg yard — then her community stepped up to find him
'There is truly power in coming together,' Zita Somakoko says after being reunited with 10-week-old Xerxes
A Winnipeg family and their puppy are back together — and catching up on sleep — following a restless few days after the dog was stolen from their backyard.
Zita Somakoko says it all culminated in an emotional reunion Tuesday afternoon when a group of officers at the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters brought out 10-week-old Xerxes, who was wagging his tail in excitement to see her again.
"And when I screamed his name, he just jumped on me. My puppy just peed on himself. All of these officers were just crying. I look up, and they all have tears in their eyes," Somakoko said.
She said it all started Friday when she went inside her North Kildonan home to get some water for the cane corso puppy while they were playing in the yard. Somakoko said she was only gone for a minute or two — but when she came back out, Xerxes was gone.
At first, she thought he might have escaped. But when she checked the footage from her house's security camera, she said she saw someone first try to lure Xerxes out of the yard, then pick him up and walk away.
For Somakoko, the loss was devastating — especially because her sons had gotten her the puppy as a birthday gift last month to help her cope with losing her dad earlier this year.
"As I told the police on Friday, I cannot lose this dog. There is no way I can survive losing this dog. I cannot afford another loss now. I need this dog back," she said.
Somakoko said she and her sons drove around into the early hours of Saturday morning looking for their puppy.
She also called police and posted about the lost dog on social media.
And soon, advice and tips about sightings started flooding in from across the city.
Help from community
The family followed up on each one, making for a "roller-coaster ride" of a weekend as they hoped each time would be the one when they'd find their beloved puppy, Somakoko said.
"We started, every single day and night, going around looking all over the city," she said. "There's no corner of this place we didn't go."
On Monday, they caught a break when Charity Kirwin spotted the dog in downtown Winnipeg.
Kirwin said she remembered seeing Somakoko's post about the stolen puppy when she recognized the dog with two people outside a store late that afternoon.
She said she confronted the pair, who got aggressive and took off before she could stop them — but not before she took their picture and sent it to Somakoko, who shared it with police.
"It's the right thing to do. You see a puppy that wants to go back home, they are missing him. And [he's] just a little guy. He's got, you know, his family to be with," Kirwin said, thinking of her own dog, Maizy.
"I have my own rescue who's just — if she were to, God forbid, anything happen, I'd be just as devastated."
Somakoko said having that picture brought out even more people to help her family try to track down Xerxes.
"My children and I were all over the city, looking — and their friends, everybody's looking, neighbours joined … I mean, strangers, everybody," she said.
"All of Winnipeg rose up for this, you know? Which is so, so overwhelming. And I'm so proud of the city I live in. I'm so proud of the community I'm in. There is truly power in coming together."
By Tuesday afternoon, Somakoko got the call from police she'd been waiting for telling her to come down to the station.
And while she still doesn't have all the details of exactly where and how police tracked down Xerxes, Somakoko said the experience has left her with an important reminder.
"There's more good than bad in this world. Xerxes coming back to us is that proof," she said.
An officer with the Winnipeg Police Service duty office said a file had been opened on the stolen dog, but had not been updated to indicate the dog had been found as of Tuesday evening.
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- An earlier version of this story incorrectly gave the dog's age as 10 months, rather than 10 weeks.Aug 17, 2022 4:53 PM CT