How Prince the pup was rescued with a lot of help from strangers on social media
10-hour chase of alleged dog thief took Katie Pirie across the city and back
Katie Pirie believes it was "the power of social media" that helped her track her stolen dog Prince through the city and back into her arms.
"The community came together," she told CBC Toronto in a phone interview while cuddling the nine-year-old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix — something she had been doing since the moment they were reunited on Monday night.
"It's just insane the amount of people that are reaching out — I cannot keep up with all the messages," Pirie said.
"The power of social media was the biggest thing," she added.
Both Pirie and Prince are recovering after an intense 10-hour saga that had Pirie tracking down her stolen dog from Queen and Portland streets, where he was taken, to York University and back downtown again.
On Monday, the Toronto-based hair stylist had taken Prince for his daily walk and ended up at a store on Queen Street West. She explained she often sneaks Prince into stores even if it gets her into trouble as she's normally "a rule breaker" when it comes to her dog.
"But that day I followed the rules," she told CBC Toronto.
'It all happened so fast'
She tied the dog up outside and kept a sharp eye on him while she was in the store. But Pirie said someone walked in and blocked her view for a little less than a minute and that was all the time it took for someone to steal Prince.
"It all happened so fast and he was gone," she said.
Pirie remembers panicking when she realized what happened, and a few people passing by noticed and offered to help. Within the hour she had police on the case and a friendly stranger printed off flyers to hand out on the street.
Toronto police confirm they they are searching for a man who is described as black, five-feet-six inches to five-feet-nine inches tall with a thin build and black hair in cornrows.
But it was her decision to ask friends "with a big following on social media" to post a picture of Prince that helped her get enough attention to help track down the little white pooch.
"Within the hour everybody I knew was posting and sharing it," she said. "Friends and strangers that were posting all over Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter, I don't even use all these social media platforms."
He 'catches everybody's attention'
That's when the tips started pouring in. Through messages and phone calls Pirie was able to track Prince and his captor.
She believes one reason there were so many reliable sightings was because "he's such a cute dog, he honestly catches everybody's attention," she said.
"Within a couple of hours I had multiple descriptions of the male that had the dog," she added.
At first, the trail stayed close to downtown, from a TTC stop at Queen and Bathurst streets to St. George Station on the subway line. But at one point someone messaged saying they had seen the dog at York University being fed a Boston creme donut.
"Whoever took him was spoiling him with desserts that he should not be eating," Pirie quipped.
In each case, the descriptions of Prince and the suspect were consistent, which is why Pirie believed this was, in fact, her dog.
By 10 p.m. Pirie found herself at the Eaton Centre after an employee who had seen the dog in her store had reached out. She had searched various stores, handing out flyers to shoppers, but there was no sign of the dog or his abductor.
The mall would be closing soon and Pirie was losing hope of catching up with Prince. She was sitting on the floor charging her phone and crying when she said she got a phone call from someone "claiming they ended up with the dog."
She drove with a friend to a designated spot in the Regent Park area where she said a "very sweet girl" handed over a slightly shocked Prince.
"I was just so happy. He's my life," she said.
"I've never loved anything so much. He's the biggest part of who I am."
The case is now "in the cops' hands," Pirie said.
The experience has taught her how powerful social media really is, she added.
"To all the people that reached out, I'm beyond thankful."