Laika, the geriatric Husky whose abduction late last month prompted an immediate and visceral response from cops, readers and even a dog-loving state assemblyman, is back home — and you can partly thank The Brooklyn Paper!
Last seen in grainy surveillance camera footage being taken away from a Fort Greene deli on July 24 by a man in a wheelchair, Laika was discovered by her owner Natalie Barratt around the time that the wheelchair-bound man confessed to the crime in the comments section of our online report last Friday.
“I am very very sorry for my misunderstanding of the dog,” the man, Giuseppe Leonardo, posted on our Web site, adding that he believed that the dog had been abandoned.
“A man told me that the dog had been outside for hours alone, so me and my wife, being loving pet owners, saw to take her in thinking she was left there alone because of her age and health.”
But after reading the subsequent news coverage of Laika’s theft, the man knew that he had done wrong.
Meanwhile, acting on a tip called into a local news station — which picked up the story after The Brooklyn Paper’s intense coverage — Barratt headed to East New York.
Barratt picks up the story there, as reported on her Gone Laika Gone blog:
“Twenty minutes later, we are standing on Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway in the dark. I spoke to a girl with a small dog coming out of the deli.
“‘We think the dog was taken by a man in a wheelchair,’ I said.
“‘Oh yes!” she says. ‘They live right there!’ She pointed across the street to a run-down tenement under the bridge on Atlantic.”
Barratt hurried over only to find an empty apartment.
But one member of her search party suggested calling out the dog’s name (which she shares, by the way, with the first Russian space dog).
“I bend down. ‘Laika! Laika!’ From behind the door, I suddenly hear whimpering, banging, scratching and snuffling. Incredibly, it really was Laika.”
Later in an interview, Barratt said that she and her husband waited for the tenants to come home. When the residents returned, the dog-owners thanked them for taking care of Laika and politely asked for the pet to be returned.
The dog looked healthy, Barratt said, “but looked sad.”
Still, having the dog back — even under these mysterious circumstances — amounted to a happy ending.
But days earlier, such a conclusion looked unlikely. In the horror that followed the July 24 theft, cops worked the case, volunteers fanned out, and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), who loves his dog so much that he has a framed picture of his pup McDonald next to another office photo of Lentol kissing the Pope’s ring, started drafting a bill to make dognapping, catnapping or other pet-napping its own classification of crime.
In the end, the man who confessed to the crime blamed himself alone.
“I am sincerely sorry for my mistake and take full responsibility,” he wrote on our Web site about the dog that he had already renamed “Blue Eyes.”