Stolen dog golden retriever Encinitas
Finn and his owner, Denise Reppenhagen, share a nuzzle during their reunion. Photo credit: Screen shot, @JackieCreaTV via Twitter

A stolen golden retriever was reunited with the dog’s owner Sunday after sheriff’s detectives tracked down and arrested the alleged thief.

On Oct. 9, Denise Reppenhagen’s golden retriever, Finn, went missing from her home on Hollyridge Drive in Encinitas after a family member left the garage door open, said Lt. Christopher Lawrence of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Since then, Reppenhagen has searched the area, contacted neighbors and animal shelters, and distributed flyers in the hopes of locating Finn.

On Oct. 26, one of Reppenhagen’s neighbors reviewed surveillance video from a home security camera taken on Oct. 9, the lieutenant said. The footage showed a woman believed to be an Amazon driver delivering packages, including at Reppenhagen’s home.

The video allegedly showed the woman loading Finn into her car and driving away.

Sheriff’s detectives were contacted by someone who recognized the suspect after watching the story on local media.

On Saturday, detectives served a search warrant at a home in San Diego. Dena Vindiola, 36, allegedly admitted to stealing Finn, but the dog was not at her home.

Detectives found out she worked for a third party delivery service that contracts for Amazon deliveries. Vindiola told deputies she tried to give the dog to a friend and then to her mother, but neither wanted the golden retriever. Finn was later turned in to an animal shelter in El Centro, Lawrence said.

The authorities arrested Vindiola and booked her into the Vista Detention Facility. She faces one potential felony charge of grand theft, dog, and two misdemeanor charges. Bail was set at $20,000. She will be arraigned Wednesday, according to jail records.

Detectives contacted the animal shelter in El Centro and learned Finn was staying with a foster family while awaiting adoption.

On Sunday, detectives coordinated with Reppenhagen and the foster family to meet at a Petco store in San Diego for Finns’ return.

“We’re happy to report the reunion was a success,” Lawrence said.

City News Service


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Ellen Bullock