Photo gallery: San Bernardino Man Reunites With Dog
SAN BERNARDINO - It's a story that has generated hundreds of dollars in donations, a job offer and even a marriage proposal. And also a few barks.
Dave Thomas, 36, of San Bernardino was separated from his dog, Buzz, last week when he was arrested in the city. The male pit bull mix, whose full name is Buzz Lightyear, was placed in the animal shelter in San Bernardino, and Thomas, who had only $6 in his pocket, couldn't afford the estimated $400 to free his dog.
"It made me crazy," Thomas said.
So when a frequent shelter visitor saw him crying next to his dog's cage, the woman decided to do something about it.
Maria Sanchez, a Riverside resident, says she visits the shelter daily on her lunch break to take pictures and raise awareness about dogs needing to be adopted. She posted pictures of Thomas with his dog on Facebook, asking for people to help.
"It went viral," Sanchez said. "It's just crazy."
But Sanchez also faced another problem: She had no way of reaching Thomas, and he didn't leave any information with the shelter.
That's when dog lovers from around the county stepped up again, with more than 3,500 people sharing a post on Facebook asking if anyone recognized the man and others trading emails or phone calls.
Robin Barker, an Oregon resident with family in San Bernardino, said she was emailed by a Washington resident.
"I had people driving around San Bernardino looking for him," Barker said, saying the story resonated early on with many people who incorrectly thought Thomas was homeless. "Whether he's homeless or whatever, this is all he has in the world, and he obviously loves this dog. Animals have such a sad plight in this world to begin with, and if we can just reunite one man with his dog, that would be great.
Eventually, reporters who tracked down Thomas connected her with him.
By Tuesday morning, Sanchez said donations had grown to more than $2,000.
Despite Thomas' hopes to get his dog back Tuesday, he'll have to wait a little bit longer.
Sanchez said shelter officials won't release Buzz until he is neutered by a veterinarian. Thomas is hoping to retrieve his dog this afternoon.
Police said they followed protocol in having animal control officers take the dog to the shelter because Thomas and a woman he was with were both arrested and no one was available to take the animal.
Police Lt. Paul Williams said Thomas was suspected of possessing drugs for sale. Thomas claims he was arrested because he failed to show up to court for speeding tickets.
"He wasn't arrested for speeding tickets," Williams said. "He was arrested for a felony crime."
Thomas said he had marijuana when he was arrested, but he showed reporters paperwork on Tuesday indicating he's a medical marijuana patient.
Despite the arrest, Thomas said he was overwhelmed by the support.
"It's just incredible," he said. "I believe it's for my dog and not me."
Staff writer Ryan Hagen contributed to this report.
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