Owner never gave up 5 years after Calgary pug’s abduction

Justine Holmlund and her pug Tyson (Justine Holmlund)

Even years after he was abducted from outside a Calgary Safeway, Justine Holmlund refused to give up hope that her beloved pug Tyson would be found.

When he first went missing in October 2010 she pounded the pavement for days, calling his name and papering the area with missing posters offering $3,000 for his return.

For Holmlund, Tyson was more than just a pet.

“I lost my 3 ½ month old son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2008, my dog was a huge emotional link as he was great with my son, helped me cope and was just highly intuitive towards me emotionally. When Tyson was stolen I was pregnant and I went into preterm labour a month and a half early only two days after his abduction. I know the stress of that played a key factor in [my daughter] being born early,” she said.

Earlier this week, Holmlund was reunited with Tyson after nearly five long years, thanks to the help of a Calgary-area pet detective and animal lover.

In the years since Tyson was stolen Holmlund and her family have resettled in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“Even up until a week before I was contacted I still would go onto the Calgary newly impounded dogs list and respond to any pug ad on Kijiji and Craigslist at least a few times every week,” said Holmlund, adding that she paid every vet in the city to keep his information current.

Then in late August Holmlund’s mother Penny, Tyson’s registered owner, received a message on Facebook. In it Giovanna Carabella asked her if she had ever owned a small tan pug.

Giovanna Carabella, owner of the Treasures for Trooper Foundation, is well-known for her love of animals. A pug rescuer and a certified private investigator, she founded her non-profit in 2013 after the death of her own beloved pug, Trooper. Treasures for Trooper has a thrift store in Crossfield, Alta., whose profits help fund life-saving surgeries for pets.

“We help low-income families with animal emergencies,” Carabella told Yahoo Canada News. “We’ve helped 48 animals live since we opened.”

On Aug. 20, a man who Carabella said wishes to remain anonymous dropped Tyson off at her storefront. After he spent the day with her at the store, Carabella took the dog — which she described as “a wonderful little pup” — to her vet to check for a microchip.

None was found but the vet did locate a tattoo on the dog’s ear that led them to a clinic in Canmore. The clinic provided Holmlund’s mother’s name and number but when Carabella tried it, it had been disconnected.

Undeterred, Carabella soon tracked down Holmlund’s mother in Thunder Bay. She left Facebook messages for her and her spouse and hoped that someone would get in touch.

But just a couple of days before that, on the first day she had Tyson, Carabella says a woman called her after being referred by another animal rescue organization.

“The lady phoned and said that’s our dog and I said can you give me a description, tell me what he’s like. She told me everything and it totally matched the dog, so I thought it was her dog. I phoned the bylaw officers and said this lady is saying it’s her dog but it’s not the right name.”

Carabella was advised to do what she was most comfortable with, and after meeting with the woman and having had no response from the Holmlunds, she returned him to who she assumed was his owner.

A few days later she got a call from an Ontario number. It was Holmlund’s mother Penny.

Penny explained that the dog was in fact her daughter Justine’s and it had been stolen from outside a Calgary Safeway when her daughter popped in to take money out of an ATM. In her search for Tyson after he was taken, Justine had been allowed to see security footage from the grocery store that clearly showed two women and a man unleashing Tyson and walking away with him.

“I phoned the RCMP and Const. Graham went in with a search warrant to remove the dog from the house that I took it to,” explained Carabella. She added that she did not believe the woman she gave the dog to was involved in the theft, and what information she did have she could not reveal while the RCMP investigates.

When contacted, no one from the Airdrie RCMP detachment was available for comment.

Once removed from that home, Tyson ended up back at Carabella’s place and plans were made for Holmlund to fly out to Calgary so she and her pug could be reunited.

On Monday evening, Carabella and Tyson were on hand at the Calgary airport to greet Holmlund as she arrived to reclaim her dog.

“I was standing at the end of the escalators and while she was coming down she was calling ‘Tyson, Tyson, Tyson!’” said Carabella tearily. “She got down on her knees with him and he was kissing her and she was kissing him and that was the end of the story. It was so adorable.”

As for Holmlund, she does not think Tyson has changed much since he lived with her last.

“He has a very intuitive personality and has always picked up on my emotions and had a good connection with me. When I had him before he was only three years old so he had a lot more energy. Now at over eight years old he’s certainly calmer. Some things have remained the same: his little under bite, the way he nuzzles into me when he goes to sleep and the way when I’m upset he looks at me with his big concerned eyes.”

Holmlund said she’s excited to incorporate him into her home, which includes her four-year-old daughter and a young female pug.

“I’ve had friends ask me if it will be too much and will I give up one of the pugs, but I don’t even consider that to be an option. They are my family so if it appears that my life is full, I can say with 100 per cent certainty that my heart is even fuller.”