Betty Barriga of Seymour was starting to give up hope that she would find her missing poodle Delilah. It was approaching the one week mark since her dog, a therapy dog at an area hospital, was stolen from her car at the Westfield mall. Barriga knew that the more time that went by, the slimmer her chances would be of finding Delilah.
A day before that one week mark, she got the call she’d been waiting for: Someone called to say they had her dog.
Barriga, a part-time swimming instructor, turned 56 on Sept. 19, and it was the day after that she was reunited with Delilah.
“A lady called and said she found my dog in New Haven,” Barriga said.
The caller told Barriga that her own mother had lost her dog, a white poodle, and upon seeing Delilah, she thought it might have been her mother’s dog. So she told Barriga she took the dog home, only to learn later from relatives that the poodle appeared to be the one missing from the Milford mall.
The caller, who lives in the Westville area, told Barriga that she looked for posters of the missing dog and then went on-line to read articles about the dognapping to get Barriga’s phone number. She called Friday evening.
“We met in downtown Milford, and the three of us were crying — me, my mother and my dog. It was quite a scene,” Barriga said.
Delilah, a five-year-old white poodle, was taken from Barriga’s car Saturday, Sept. 14.
Barriga said she had left Delilah in her car, which was parked in a shaded garage near Macy’s at about 6 p.m. It was a cool evening, and she left the dog in the car with the windows partially rolled down, a bowl of water and some food.
When she returned at about 7 p.m., she found her dog was missing.
“It was a last-minute decision to bring Delilah,” Barriga said several days later, choking back tears.
In addition to food and water, Barriga even packed her dog’s sweater in case it was chilly later. She and her mother planned to bring Delilah for a walk on the West Haven boardwalk after the mall.
Barriga said the car doors were locked, so she guesses someone reached in and unlocked a door. Also missing was Delilah’s dog bed, which Barriga had in the car.
Police told her that mall security cameras did not record the area where she was parked.
Barriga’s mother is visiting her, and her mother had given her Delilah as a gift five years ago. Since then, the dog has been Barriga’s regular companion, accompanying her to various community meetings and events. Barriga even signed Delilah up to be a therapy dog at Griffin Hospital, where she has helped cheer patients.
People were very compassionate as she traveled to New Haven, West Haven and Milford in the past week, tacking up the more than 100 posters she’d made.
“They offered to take fliers and put them up for me, or take them to the places they worked,” Barriga said. “People had a lot of sympathy.”
She knows that some people also criticized her for leaving her dog in the car. She criticizes herself, too, and said several times that she didn’t plan to bring Delilah that day and wishes she hadn’t. Delilah snuck out of the house as she and her mother were leaving for the mall, and they decided to bring her along.
“It was a really hard week,” Barriga said. “I felt really guilty, because I really didn’t want to take her to begin with.
“But it was a good way to end the week,” she added.
The little poodle appeared to be shaking when Barriga spotted her at their reunion Friday. But as soon as she saw Barriga, she started barking happily, almost crying because she was so excited, Barriga said.
Barriga said she intends to have an identification chip implanted in Delilah, as one police officer said, and she doesn’t plan to take her dog on any more shopping trips.
She doesn’t harbor any anger against whoever took her dog: She’s just glad her dog is back.
Milford police, who had alerted the media last week after Delilah went missing, sent a release Saturday letting everyone know the dog was home and safe.
Police Spokesman Jeff Nielsen said he thought the story of how the dog was found was a bit strange, but no charges will be filed in the case.