JAMESTOWN, N.D. — North Dakota newcomer Monica Villalobos was reunited with two of her dogs at the National Buffalo Museum on Wednesday, July 24, after the animals were stolen during the family's move to Watford City.
Villalobos was moving from Texas with her husband and child but could not fit all three of her dogs in the car, so she found a company on the internet called Citizen Shipper willing to transport two of her pets across the country.
Much like Uber, a ride-sharing application, Citizen Shipper contracts individual drivers for assignments. Villalobos requested a driver for her dogs and began the trip to North Dakota to meet her husband at their new home.
The driver kept consistent contact with Villalobos, even sending occasional pictures of the dogs to show they were safe. But after the weekend of July 4, all communication ceased.
"They stopped answering calls and texts," Villalobos said. "I called the corporate office and they basically said they weren't responsible for what happens with the drivers."
Several days passed without any contact. Finally, Villalobos' husband received a phone call from a state trooper in Pennsylvania.
Villalobos said the driver was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle, and her two dogs were in the back seat.
"He took the tags off the dogs," Villalobos said. "After stealing my dogs and getting arrested, he actually gave the cops my husband's phone number."
Villalobos confirmed the dogs were hers by validating the microchip identification numbers. She contacted an animal rescue clinic in Pennsylvania and was eventually given Kym Anderson's phone number.
Anderson, of Ann Arbor, Mich., works for a long list of animal rescue organizations, including Bark Nation and Pitness Protection Program. She heard Villalobos' story and volunteered to reunite the owner with her two dogs.
Villalobos decided to meet in Jamestown, at the National Buffalo Museum, because of one of the dogs' names.
"James. His name is James," she said. "It just made sense to meet here because of that."
Anderson sat outside the museum with James and the other dog, Bagel, and waited. After several minutes, the emotional reunion began.
"The rescue world is all interconnected," Anderson said. "It was against all the odds of getting these dogs back to the rightful owner."
After several hugs and several tears, Anderson and Villalobos went their separate ways. Anderson heading east, back to Michigan, and Villalobos going west, back to Watford City, with James and Bagel in the back seat.