Cynthia Medina had a sinking feeling when she discovered the backyard gate of her Galt home was ajar after she got home from work Friday evening.
Her family's beloved Chihuahua, Chico, was gone.
Little did she know, though she was soon to discover, that the 3.5-pound pooch would be involved in an odd game of "hot potato."
The next few days would be an emotional rollercoaster as every time she thought she was getting closer, she would be pointed in another direction and her hopes would be shaken.
Medina contacted people who had seen Chico. She posted fliers. And she wondered and worried through the entire experience.
Finally, late Wednesday night, her persistence paid off.
It all started last Friday. Medina frantically knocked on doors and asked neighbors if they had seen Chico.
She finally approached a woman who lives a couple blocks away who had found the dog not far from Medina's Emerald Park home and had taken it home.
"I got so excited when they knew what I was talking about until I realized that they didn't have Chico," Medina said.
Not able to keep the dog, the woman told Medina that she had offered it to several construction workers who happened to be working nearby, and one of them agreed to take the dog. With the woman's help, Medina was able to identify the man who had taken Chico home after work.
Chico had changed hands.
But that isn't all.
The construction worker explained to Medina that he had to give up the pooch because his uncle, with whom he lives, told him that he would not be allowed to keep the dog. He told Medina that he stopped at the Mazatlan Cafe on School Street for a quick bite on Saturday. Another man at the restaurant, noticing the likable dog, asked about Chico. The worker explained that he couldn't keep it, so offered it to the man who accepted the dog.
Chico had changed hands again.
"An employee at the restaurant said they had overheard a conversation about a small dog that day," Medina said, but nobody could offer more specifics about the man.
After tracking down this hot potato act, Medina hit a wall. All she knew was that the man who may have Chico is a roughly 30-year-old Mexican-American who drives a brown Isuzu Trooper, or a similar vehicle.
However, that all changed Wednesday night. The man who had accepted the dog at the Mazatlan saw the flier posted at the restaurant Wednesday. He called Medina and the two arranged to meet at a central location so he could give Chico back to Medina. After two arrangements were botched because the man, a mechanic who lives in Lodi, failed to show up, the two finally connected at 11 p.m. in the parking lot of a local gas station.
The hour was getting late, but Medina was determined to bring the well-traveled pooch home to her family.
"Chico jumped right into my arms," she said. "He was scared and about a pound lighter and smelled like diesel, but he'll be all right."
Her quest was over. Chico was in need of food and a bath, but he was also safe and sound.
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