A Vancouver man is being hailed as a hero for his role in reuniting a wheelchair-bound East Vancouver man with his furry companion.
Michael Lorimer’s Chihuahua Mishah was stolen from in front of the Church’s Chicken at Hastings and Nanaimo when he went into the building to use the washroom last Thursday.
She was found Thursday night by Garrett Rusen, who spotted the pup while walking his own dogs in Gastown — and went above and beyond to make sure she made her way home.
“So I started to follow him because I was going to say something, and when I got up to him, I saw it was the dog from the picture.”
That picture had been widely circulated on social media, part of a campaign by a group of people — some, like Kyrin Lit who knew Lorimer from his spot panhandling on Hastings Street, others associated with animal rescue groups, and even a local postering company.
“I care about my dog. I love my dog. As soon as she was gone, I made the right contacts, I got it out there right away,” Lorimer said.
Susan Patterson with the Thank Dog I Am Out Rescue Society was one of the groups involved and said the outpouring of public support made the rescue possible.
“We had such a response of amazing social media that when the dog was identified by Garrett, who is our hero in all of this … he realized it was Mishah,” she said.
WATCH: East Vancouver panhandler’s dog stolen
Pursuit and rescue
Rusen admits he took a risk stepping in to save Mishah, by following the suspect for more than an hour.
“We ended up in a dark alleyway by Water Street, just by the train tracks where he started to become very violent with the dog,” Rusen said.
“He actually at one point picked it up and thew it against the wall, so I called the police.”
Rusen said he’d considered intervening, but police told him not to — out of concern the man could hurt him.
Instead, he stayed on the phone with officers who arrived on scene and arrested the suspect.
“The police were right in telling me not to do anything because he turned out to be a bad guy,” he said.
“I don’t think he was all there. He was rambling, he was shouting, he didn’t even notice my existence.”
Police confirmed that they’d responded to a call about Mishah at Abbott and Water Street, and that they arrested a 33-year-old Vancouver man on an outstanding, unrelated warrant.
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Reunion and recovery
Patterson said it’s the kind of happy ending she dreams of, particularly when she considered the alternatives.
“Your mind goes to dog fighting rings, your mind goes to what was the person thinking,” she said.
“Like perhaps the person thought Mike was homeless and they could give it a better home and we would never see it again.”
On Friday, Lorimer took Mishah to the vet to have her looked at after her ordeal, and was told she’s going to be okay.
He said he’s grateful that Rusen — and the community at large — stepped up to help reconnect him with his closest friend.
“I want to thank all the people that came together and helped me out in a time of need,” he said.
Rusen said he plans to give Lorimer some time to settle in with Mishah, but that he has plans to visit to check in and drop off some supplies.
“I think it’s amazing. Especially for Mike being disabled and a person who’s in need, that was his whole life,” Rusen said.
“Being a dog owner myself I would be mortified if my dog was lost, and the amount of effort that people put in to help Mike find his dog it sort of gives you that hope that there’s still good people out there.”