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Dogs found safe after ‘carjackers’ steal dog day care van

Rob Sayre can’t explain exactly what his dog, Jadyn, a Beagle-Labrador mix, means to him — but he tried anyway.

“I’m a single guy, no kids. She’s like my roommate. She’s my friend and she’s my family,” said Sayre, 40, who was reunited with his pup Thursday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after a dogsitter’s minivan that Jadyn and six other canines were traveling in was stolen in the River West neighborhood.

The van was found abandoned near 21st and Wabash — dogs still inside — by a Good Samaritan who notified authorities. On Wednesday, two  gunmen took the van, which was left running and unattended in the 800 block of West Superior, police said. Though the driver wasn’t in the van when it was taken, the robbers did point a gun at someone who tried to stop them, police said.

Tad Tomita and wife Heather Ballard, owners of Mochi, a three-year-old miniature schnauzer, were among the delighted owners reunited with their pets Thursday.

“I was just thrilled,” Tomita said after bringing his dog home. “I was so relieved and happy to be together. Right now she’s just taking a nap in the sun in her favorite chair.”

Sayre, who lives in Bucktown, rushed to the scene after a reporter heard the news on a police scanner and called him for reaction. He found Jadyn warming up in the back of a police car. “She was hungry and cold and confused, but in good health,” said Sayre, who immediately paid a visit to a veterinarian who gave the nearly eight-year-old dog a clean bill of health.

Jadyn | Provided

Jadyn was one of seven dogs inside a van stolen Wednesday. | Provided

“I have spanned every gamut of human emotion in the last 24 hours,” said Sayre, an executive with an Oak Brook-based textile manufacture. “I am quite thankful to the person who found her. I need to get her contact info and I’m going to cut her a reward check.”

He said $2,000 to $3,000 would be a good way to show his appreciation.

The recipient of that check will be 69-year-old Daisy Bowers, who saw the head of a dog staring at her from from the window of the minivan that was parked across the street from her hair salon Thursday morning. She became concerned about 30 minutes later when she noticed that the dogs were still in the minivan — and that no owner was anywhere in sight.

“I could see the dog moving his head, looking . . . as if to say ‘somebody, come get me,’ ” said Bowers, who dialed 911.

Bowers added that she hadn’t seen news coverage of the highjacking.

“I’m glad to know they’re in good shape, healthy and well-loved — apparently the owners are just jumping with joy. . . It makes me feel good,” Bowers said.

The news was reported nationally and spread quickly through social media. Sayre said he received well wishes via Twitter from people all over the the country.

“I went from pure despair to pure elation this morning,” he said.

“Last night I drove around and looked for the dog, and friends and family called every taxi company in the city to get a description of the van out to all their drivers, and I was putting up fliers this morning,” he said. “I haven’t eaten or slept,” he said.

Joseph Giannini, owner of the dogsitting service that owned the van, Urban Out Sitters, said the incident was “probably the most devastating thing I’ve had to deal with” in 15 years of business.

He said a driver he employed was getting ready to take the dogs home when one of the armed men approached and told him to get out of the van — a story that doesn’t precisely match the version of the offense police gave later Thursday.

Giannini did not immediately return messages asking him to respond to the police account.

Contributing: Jordan Owen