A Rancho Peñasquitos couple unloading their truck after a day at the beach had their truck stolen from under them, then they spent the next day on social media tracking their prized four-legged, four-wheeled possessions.
“This is my family. This is my child. This is my life,” Lissette Gonzalez said of her 3-year-old corgi-pug mix, Nova.
Gonzalez and his partner parked outside their Cuca Street apartment to unpack their beach gear. The trip to the beach was a celebration of Gonzalez’s birthday. Nova was lying in the front seat of the moving truck.
“I was kind of oblivious at the time. Not thinking that such a good night would turn into such a nightmare,” Gonzalez said.
The nightmare began when a stranger jumped into the driver’s seat.
Doorbell footage captured the suspect glancing at the moving vehicle and taking a casual 40-second walk around the truck before jumping off and speeding away.
“I ran down the stairs yelling at my neighbors to give me their car keys,” Gonzalez said.
“I saw how frantic she was, and if somebody’s going to steal a car, I don’t know if they have a gun or if they’re going to hurt her,” neighbor Dawn Gruschow said.
Gruschow eventually returned her keys and Gonzalez gave chase, but she couldn’t catch up.
His truck was gone, as were the kayaks and gear in the back, but more importantly, so was Nova.
For the first four hours, Nova stayed with the thieves inside the stolen truck. They went to a Walmart, a TJ Max, a Speedway gas station, a Jack in the Box, and an ATM.
Gonzalez said she traced the purchases to her stolen credit card. Eventually they met at a Shell station in Chula Vista where they dropped off Nova. She wandered the streets there for another 24 hours.
Gonzalez was distraught and feeling hopeless, so she, her sister, and Gruschow posted on social media.
“I started posting on my TikTok and on my Facebook page,” Gruschow said. “You hear some of these crazy stories and they go viral and it’s like a million people see it, so why not have something like this that’s going to be helpful.”
Within 24 hours, Gonzalez’s gray Toyota was found abandoned on Palm Avenue in Otay Mesa.
Someone posted a picture of it on an off-road group chat. A friend of hers saw it and shared it with her.
“I’m shocked. I feel it’s ‘we‘ the people who made this possible,” she said.
Shortly after, Nova was found in the backyard of a Chula Vista family. They saw one of the dog alert posts on Facebook.
“They are completely life saving,” Gonzalez said. “They found our dog, rescued her, and we found her safe and sound. It was like a chain reaction. Good people with good hearts started reporting and reposting, and with the good faith of humanity, that’s how my dog came home.”
Meanwhile, the truck thief was leaving bread crumbs. Gonzalez said the suspect picked up a female passenger. Credit card receipts show they went to Rancho Peñasquitos, San Marcos, Poway, Chula Vista, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and finally locked themselves in a Motel 6 in the Midway district where Gonzalez says that they were eventually caught.
“I’m strong enough and I’ve been through a lot. It will only make me stronger, more vigilant and wiser,” Gonzalez said.
It was an expensive lesson, however. Gonzalez estimates it will take at least $3,000 to cover his losses. Nova, however, would have been impossible to put a price tag on.
Gonzalez says the suspects live nearby, and at some point in the search for Nova, unbeknownst to them, handed a flyer with her face and description to the truck thief.
Although they solved the problem on their own, they say they filed the appropriate police reports.