It’s always hard when a pet gets lost or goes missing.
But when Gloria Johnson’s beloved dog was taken right from her porch in Staten Island July 27th, it was especially devastating—because her dog was already deceased.
Gloria had put her companion of 15 years to sleep just days before, and she had his body cremated.
The ashes were delivered to her home, and a package thief stole the box with the dog’s remains.
When Gloria informed the animal hospital that she never received the ashes, they told her that they had in fact been delivered to her home.
Suspicious, she checked her neighbor’s security footage, which revealed a man on a bike, stealing the package from her porch in the middle of the day.
Gloria was crushed, but she still held out hope that the thief would realize the contents had no value and have the heart to return them, or that her neighbors would have information.
“The last three weeks all I’ve been doing is asking people, going to different stores and knocking on doors,” she told ABC 7. “I’ve been looking in people’s garbage cans.”
But as days passed, she accepted the reality that her pet’s remains were gone for good—and even worse, that they might have been thrown out unceremoniously.
“Knowing that I might never get him back is just hard,” she told CBS 2. “It’s just not fair.”
“I can’t emotionally handle that he is either in the garbage or in a landfill.”
It was another crushing blow after what had been a heartbreaking few months for Gloria.
Gloria’s husband of 45 years had died just two months earlier, after a long battle with lung cancer. She says Dakotah was always her support, before and after her husband’s death.
“When my husband was sick for that year and a half, that dog was right there with my husband,” she told CBS. “He lay with my husband and everything, so he was a very good dog, a very emotional stabilizer.”
And then Dakotah was all the companionship she had left.
“It’s not a dog, it’s my baby,” she told CBS New York. “We lived together, ate together, slept together.”
Gloria had a special spot on the fireplace prepared for Dakotah’s ashes— a crystal urn, right next to her husband’s.
Gloria decided to put signs up around the neighborhood, desperately hoping that someone might recognize the thief—or that he might have a conscience and return it himself.
“I think he is a low life,” Gloria told ABC 7. “Because once he opened the package and realized he didn’t get diamonds and jewels, he should have just thrown it back over the fence because it means something to me, it was my companion.”
While angry, Gloria had no interest in pressing charges or confronting the man—just getting the remains back safely.
“Just return him to me and not dump him somewhere without dignity. He deserves that much.”
And then, a miracle.
On Tuesday morning, a neighbor informed Gloria that she had found a package attached to their fence.
It was what she had hoped from the beginning—the thief quietly returned the ashes to her.
Her plan worked. “I am ecstatic,” she said in tears to NY1. “I am just so happy.”
Amazingly, the package thief even attached an apology letter. In it, he blames his actions on being off his medication, but he is sincerely sorry for the sorrow he caused—and writes that he, too, loves dogs.
Gloria forgives the man—she’s just relieved to have Dakotah back.
“He apologized, and I’m fine with it. I got my dog back, that’s all I wanted,” Gloria told CBS. “Now he’s got a place to rest where he’s loved, so I’m happy–very, very happy.”
What’s even more incredible: the date the ashes were returned happened to be Dakotah’s birthday.
“Losing him was devastating, but having him back now, I feel much more calm,” she told NY1. “There was no closure, so I think just having him back, now I feel more comfortable.”