By Marcus Uhe
Andrea Samardzic and her family celebrated the arrival of the New Year with more reason than most after the return of their stolen dog, Mila, on New Years Eve.
The American Staffordshire Terrier (Staffie) went missing outside Ms Samardzic’s Dandenong North home on Saturday 18 December after sneaking through the front gate whilst Andrea’s Father was reversing a truck into the driveway.
It meant that the family, who had raised the dog from the age of just three weeks old after she was neglected by her mother, spent Christmas without their beloved four-legged friend.
“We felt guilty celebrating anything because it was like a family member was not there,” Ms Samardzic said. “We were literally in tears the entire 13 days.”
“Every worst possibility comes to mind, especially because of her breed, being an American staffie, and because she’s a female.”
CCTV footage from the Samardzic’s home shows that the dog followed a couple down the street after waiting outside the property to be allowed back in, as the family had not noticed that she had escaped.
Attempts to confront the alleged thieves on multiple occasions were met with hostility by the accused, prompting the Samardzic family to contact the police once again, where a stolen dog report was filed.
After close to two weeks of uncertainty and suspected sightings by friends and family in the community, a combined effort by members of Greater Dandenong Council, the RSPCA and the Dandenong Police Station resulted in Ms Samardzic receiving the news she had almost thought would never come.
Within 24 hours of filing the report, Mila was back in the arms of her overwhelmed family.
The dog was brought to the Dandenong Police Station by an associate of the alleged thief.
After scanning Mila for a microchip she was returned to the Samardzic’s who were overcome with emotion.
“The bond between my Dad and her was especially strong, and he struggled the most,” Ms Samardzic said. “He was in tears every day until we found her.”
“When we got to the police station, he fell down to his knees and started crying. He was so thankful to the police officers and without them we don’t know where she would have gone or what they could have done with her.”
A 41-year-old male was arrested after an investigation into the theft.
Since being reunited with her grateful owners, Mila has been living like a Queen.
“She’s had peanut butter for breakfast, she’s had her favourite fruit and vegies to eat,” Ms Samardzic said.
“She’s been sleeping on the couch the entire time, she’s been getting cuddles, we went to the beach with her yesterday and she’s been loving life.”
Ms Samardzic expressed extreme gratitude to the police force and all involved for the prompt return of the family’s dog.
“I know that usually the police deal with humans rather than animals but the fact that they took the theft of an animal quite seriously and sorted it out really quickly for us, it was the greatest Christmas gift.
“We were all saying for Christmas that all we wanted was our dog back.
“Thank you to everyone but especially everyone at the Dandenong Police Station.”