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FOUND: Smiley's saga continues as dog in secretive custody

Smiley was found April 1 at a South Whidbey dog park. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Smiley was found April 1 at a South Whidbey dog park.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Smiley, the pilfered pooch, has been found.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office received a tip that the dog stolen from the Whidbey Island Animals' Improvement Foundation late February, after being the center of a protracted legal battle over euthanasia, had been seen at a South Whidbey dog park, April 1 at about 1:30 p.m.

It wasn't an April Fools Day joke.

A deputy drove to the dog park to investigate the tip, according to a prepared statement release by Sheriff's Office. He found a woman handling a dog that resembled Smiley and took the canine into custody for identification.

The dog was positively identified as Smiley, Sheriff Mark Brown said. The woman was questioned at the dog park and released.

Investigators are being secretive about the unusual case, which made headlines in Seattle and was featured on TV news reports. Brown said the dog is being held in a secret location and he wouldn't comment on the animal's health.

A press release states that an investigation into the woman's possession of, and possible involvement in the dog's heist continues, but investigators won't name her or even give out her age or where she lives.

Smiley's saga began after two disgruntled former volunteers, Bob Baker and Barbara Moran of Freeland, sued WAIF in an effort to stop the shelter from euthanizing the dog. WAIF officials felt the dog was unadoptable because of his aggressive behavior following nearly two years at the shelter.

The four-month-long legal battle ended late February when Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill ruled against the Freeland couple. Within 24 hours of Churchill's ruling, someone snuck into WAIF and stole Smiley from a locked kennel.

Detectives investigated the dognapping as a commercial burglary, which is a felony offense.

Bob Baker was reached by phone Thursday morning, but declined to comment.

WAIF Executive Director Stephen Paysse said Smiley is the still the shelter's property.

"Upon completion of the investigation ... he will be returned to WAIF," he said.

Paysse doesn't know many details about the investigation, just that the dog is being held at an undisclosed location because he is considered evidence in the case.

"Who from? I don't know. How they got the tip? I don't know," he said.

But what he does know is that WAIF was burglarized.

"It was a criminal event," he said. "The dog was stolen from us."

When and if Smiley is returned to WAIF, Paysse does not know exactly what the shelter will do with the dog.

"I don't know. I assume that is what will happen," he said when asked if WAIF plans to euthanize Smiley.

"Everyone lost the nexus, if you will, towards the end. What is best for the dog? Maybe his behavior was his way of saying, 'Let me go.'"

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