Longmont puppy reunites with owners after Valentine's Day theft

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— A Longmont was reunited with its owners late Sunday afternoon, nearly three days after she and the pickup she was inside were stolen from outside her owner’s business.

“She’s in my bed right now,” said Sunday evening of his 5-month-old black Labrador, .

Cheyenne was on the front seat of Knutson’s pickup blue 1997 Chevrolet K1500 pickup, outside his business, Diagonal Tire and Alignment, when the truck was stolen at about 6:10 p.m. Thursday.

police located the pickup and arrested the suspected truck thief and dognapper early Saturday morning, but Cheyenne wasn’t inside, Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said.

On Sunday afternoon, though, authorities

Cheyenne, a 5-month-old black Lab, gives a lick to her owner Steve Knutson as looks on Sunday night when the three return to Longmont. Cheyenne was stolen Thursday night, with Knutson s pickup truck. ( Paul Aiken )

notified the dog’s owners, Knutson and Marcie Cullen, that the puppy, identified through an implanted microchip, had been found and was in .

Westminster Police investigator Cheri Spottke said Sunday that a Westminster resident was getting gas on Saturday near Colfax and Kalamath in Denver when a man approached him and gave him the dog, saying he couldn’t take care of it.

The Good Samaritan “just was in the right place at the right time,” Spottke said.

He took the puppy home in Westminster and, after talking to his father, called Westminster Animal Management, she said.

But Knutson said Sunday evening that the man who is accused of stealing his truck turned the dog over to the Westminster man — after he asked for and got $ 5 for gas — on Friday night.

“My truck left here, went to Denver and went to ,” Knutson said, noting that the truck’s “check engine” light was on for the entire trip.

But he didn’t care.

“I can fix my truck. I got my dog back,” Knutson said.

And he has made friends with the Good Samaritan, who cared for Cheyenne while Westminster authorities investigated who owned her, he said.

“If I want to go on vacation, this guy will take care of her,” Knutson said.

Loveland resident Mark Cittadino, 41, who was arrested in Fort Collins, is being held on the Larimer County Jail on suspicion of aggravated motor vehicle , theft and criminal mischief.

Knutson and Cullen have had the dog, the runt of a litter born Sept. 14 in Cheyenne, since she was nine weeks old.

On Saturday morning, Knutson went to to retrieve his pickup, he said Sunday. Police reportedly pulled Cittadino over on South College Avenue about 2 a.m. Saturday because the pickup’s tail lights were out after a fuse blew, he said.

Knutson found a fake bill of sale on the truck’s floor that suggested that the suspect had bought the pickup and the puppy for $ 120. A passenger-side cab window had been broken.

Cullen spent Friday putting up missing-puppy posters around Longmont. Meanwhile, Knutson drove to service stations within a 10-mile radius of his Longmont business because the truck had only about two gallons

Cheyenne, a black Labrador puppy that was laying on the front seat when a truck was stolen from Longmont. (Courtesy photo)

of gas in the tank, but that he’d found no broken glass or other indications where the suspect may have refilled the pickup.

At about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Knutson got a call that the dog was in Westminster. They drove to that city’s police station to retrieve their puppy.

Longmont police said Knutson told them he’d been working on a vehicle at his shop at 815 First Ave. on Thursday evening and had parked his truck in an enclosed fenced area with the keys in the ignition. Knutson later came out of the shop and found it missing, police said.

A surveillance video showed a man walk onto the property and steal the vehicle, police said.The video showed a man wearing a stocking cap, a scarf, a dark jacket and dark pants walking casually up the driveway and into the parking lot, walking around the front of the truck to the driver’s side door, getting into the truck, backing it out onto First Avenue and driving it westbound on First.

Knutson said Sunday that on the video, it appeared that Cheyenne tried to get out but the man pushed her back inside the truck before driving off.

police told the Longmont police that Cittadino was wanted on warrants and would be held without bond until appearing in court, which won’t happen until Monday afternoon, at the earliest.

Westminster’s Spottke said the Good Samaritan’s identity is confidential while her department investigates. She added, however, that the incident illustrates the importance of getting microchipped.

“This story is a good example of being able to reunite a family with their pet, which may not have happened without a microchip,” Spottke said.

Longmont detectives, meanwhile, are continuing their own investigation. Satur asked that anyone with information about the theft of the dog and the truck call Longmont police at 303-651-8501.

Reporter Victoria Camron contributed to this story.

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