Stolen SD dog reunited with owner after alleged thief is arrested


ENCINITAS, Calif. – A stolen golden retriever was reunited with the dog’s owner Sunday after sheriff’s detectives tracked down and arrested the alleged thief on suspicion of grand theft and other charges.

Denise Reppenhagen’s golden retriever, Finn, went missing Oct. 9 from her home on Hollyridge Drive in Encinitas after the garage door was left open by a family member, said Lt. Christopher Lawrence of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

For weeks, Reppenhagen scoured the neighborhood, contacting neighbors and animal shelters and handing out flyers in hopes of finding Finn.

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On Oct. 26, one of Reppenhagen’s neighbors reviewed surveillance video from a home security camera recorded Oct. 9, the lieutenant said. The video shows a woman believed to be an Amazon driver delivering packages in the neighborhood, including Reppenhagen’s home. The video also allegedly shows the woman loading Finn into her car and driving away.

Sheriff’s detectives were contacted by someone who recognized the suspect after seeing a story on local media.

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On Saturday, detectives served a search warrant at a home in San Diego. Dena Vindiola allegedly admitted to stealing Finn, but the dog was not with her. Detectives discovered she worked for a third-party delivery service that contracts for Amazon’s deliveries. Vindiola told deputies that she tried to give the dog to a friend and then to her mother, but neither wanted the golden retriever. Finn was later turned over to an animal shelter in El Centro, Lawrence said.

Vindiola was arrested and booked into Vista Prison. He faces one potential felony charge of grand theft, battery and two misdemeanor charges. Bail was set at $20,000. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, according to jail records. Detectives contacted the El Centro Animal Shelter and learned that Finn had been staying with a foster family while awaiting adoption.

On Sunday, detectives arranged with Reppenhagen and the foster family to meet at a Petco store in San Diego to retrieve Finn.

“We are happy to report that the reunion was a success,” Lawrence said.

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