WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A 7-year-old girl got her Christmas wish Tuesday when her "best friend" — a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who had been dog-napped the day before — was returned by a good Samaritan.
Marley, a 2 1/2-year-old golden-coated pooch, was safely back in the arms of his loving owner Mia Bendrat by 4 p.m. Tuesday, after a whirlwind rescue that left the dognapper in handcuffs.
"Mia was ecstatic as soon as we found him — it was amazing," said Mia's mother Angie Estrada. "He ran to Mia and he went belly up! She was petting him and he was licking her face and it was so sweet. It was such a great relief."
Police arrested Brad Bacon, 29, in Washington Heights on felony charges of grand larceny after he allegedly sold the stolen pooch to a woman for $200 in Union Square. He was arraigned and released without bail and is due back in court in March.
Bacon recently pleaded guilty to fraudulent accosting, a misdemeanor, and spent 10 days in jail after being arrested for a Dec. 2 street swindle, according to court records.
Marley's saga began at about 10 a.m. Christmas Eve, when Mia and her family tied Marley up outside La Rosa Fine Foods on Broadway between 176th and 177th streets while they went inside to shop for ingredients for Christmas dinner.
When they left the store minutes later, Marley was missing — and surveillance video reviewed by Estrada immediately afterward showed a passerby picking up the petit pup.
After waiting anxiously by the phone for news of Marley, they got a call from a veterinarian at 2 p.m. Christmas Day, the family said.
The family said their Christmas angel was a woman who grew suspicious when she saw a man selling the dog in Union Square and offered him $200 for the pooch.
The woman immediately brought the pup to the vet, who checked to see whether the dog had a micro-chip, the family said. The number wound up matching Marley's ID, the family said.
"I cried," Estrada said when she got a call from the vet. "I screamed and I cried and I told everybody the vet has our dog, we have to go get him."
Estrada couldn't thank the woman who rescued her daughter's dog enough.
"She's a lovely lady," Estrada said.