HARLEM — Bella the dog made it back home safe and sound after being dognapped earlier this week, but police were still hunting Friday for the two men who allegedly snatched the 5-year-old pooch from her post outside of Pathmark on 145th Street.
Bella, a Rottweiler, was stolen on Tuesday and was returned to her worried owner, Liz Burnett, on Thursday after being found wandering a Harlem street, Burnett said.
"It was God's work, bringing her back to me," said Burnett, 53, who launched a neighborhood-wide search effort.
On Friday police were using surveillance footage from the supermarket to try to crack what one detective from the 32nd Precinct described as a very rare crime.
"I've been on the squad for 15 years, and I've been a detective for four," the detective said. "I wouldn't even pet a dog on the street, let alone snatch one. I've never seen a case like this before."
Burnett had tied her three beloved pooches — a golden doodle, a pit bull and Bella — outside the Pathmark about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday while she went grocery shopping. Eight minutes later, Burnett heard an announcement over the intercom urging anyone who had tied up a dog outside to report to the front desk immediately.
"I rushed over to the desk, and when I got there, a woman explained that two men had just untied and stolen Bella," Burnett said. "I couldn't see or hear, I was so upset."
The employee flagged down a police car and volunteered to stay with the other two dogs while Burnett and the officer scanned the neighborhood. But according to Burnett, it quickly became clear that Bella's captors had slipped through her fingers.
"I would have talked to Satan himself to get that dog back," Burnett said. "I stayed out, and I didn't go home, until I got my Bella back."
Luckily, it only took two days.
Burnett hypothesized that once the dognappers realized her Rottweiler was spayed and unable to breed, they released her onto the street.
A stranger picked Bella up on Wednesday and brought her to the 32nd Precinct stationhouse in Harlem where Luther Keys, a transit officer, offered to take the dog instead of sending her to the pound.
Keys called a dog-loving friend named Edith, who then called Jane Battles, who claimed Bella, according to Burnett.
The next day, Battles took the dog to the vet to have her scanned for a microchip. In the meantime, a friend of Burnett's, who had been handing out fliers, passed one to a transit officer who recognized Bella from the station house and connected her with Battles.
"I wasn't my first time rescuing an animal," Battles said. "If there's anything I can do to help an animal, I'll do it."