Norfolk family reunited with their dog that they say was stolen

NORFOLK, Va. - A family is whole again after finding out their missing English bulldog has been found and will be returned to them, thanks to a story News 3 aired.

"We're so grateful for your station," said Lauren Church to News 3's Kim Cung.

Lauren and Will Church said their four-month-old puppy, Meaty, was stolen from their home. The family believes Meaty was last seen on surveillance video with the alleged thief at a Dollar General in the area.

After a News 3 story aired with the surveillance video showing the woman and Meaty, Lauren got a call. A News 3 viewer saw the story and is friends with a family who had Meaty.

Meaty the dog

"I got the call around 11 and he said, 'Hey, I think I have your dog here. I bought him from a woman and he looks just like the dog in the story,'" said Church.

She couldn't believe it and set up a time to meet with the family to reunite with Meaty Monday. Meaty has a heart condition that requires medication, so Church's first concern is making sure he is okay and healthy.

"We're really really grateful that we get a happy ending. So grateful for you guys for getting the story out and Dollar General providing the footage that they did," said Church.

For the past few days, Meaty had been with a family who didn't know he was stolen. Josiah, who is eight years old, had grown attached to Meaty and was sad to see him go. But Lauren and Will have a plan for him.

"Josiah gets to adopt a puppy from a local shelter. We're going to pay for the adoption fee," said Lauren.

Now that the Churches have their happy ending, they have a message for lost or stolen pet owners.

"Right away, file a report with your local animal control. The first 48 hours are really important, so put up flyers, canvas the area, talk to your neighbors. Don't give up hope. It seems awful and the world's going to end sometimes, but there are happy endings, you just have to keep on it," said Lauren.

The Churches also credit the community with really coming together to spread the word about Meaty, noting a local business gave them free flyers to pass out and put up. Meaty is now back on his medication and doing well.

Norfolk Police are continuing to investigate how and who stole Meaty and hope to press charges.